Dozens of Greenpeace activists took a stand for climate action this morning, starting in Italy, where they occupied four coal-fired power plants.
In the United States, several more climbers made a bold statement from the face of Mount Rushmore with a sign as long as Lincoln's face reading:
"Americans honor leaders, not politicians. Stop global warming."
The message from both sides of the Atlantic to the public and to the presidents, prime ministers and other heads of state meeting today for the Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila, Italy, was clear: The world needs decisive leadership to stop climate change.
Climate activists have reason to pour on the pressure. The world's most-polluting nations had talked about a goal of halving emissions by 2050, but those numbers are nowhere in the lateset draft G8 statement because of opposition from China and India, Reuters reports.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made his position clear in a statement before the meeting: "What we are witnessing today is the consequence of over two centuries of industrial activity and high-consumption lifestyles in the developed world. They have to bear this historical responsibility."
Outside Venice, 15 Greenpeace activists climbed a 160-meter-tall power plant stack and cranes to hang banners reading: "G8 - Take Climate Leadership" and "Energy Revolution = Clean Jobs".
"There is no more time to waste," British activist Ben Stewart said from the top of the smokestack. "The G8 leaders must stop putting the interests of big coal and other climate-polluting industries ahead of the planet and take strong, decisive leadership on climate change."
Greenpeace is calling on the G8 leaders to agree to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius, ensure that global emissions peak by 2015, commit to cutting emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, invest $106 billion in adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, and establish a fund to stop deforestation in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Indonesia by 2015.
The emissions goal, based on the recommendations of the IPCC, is far higher than what the U.S. Congress and President Obama are proposing, which is one reason Greenpeace came out against the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) bill that squeaked through the U.S. House last month.
In the U.S., Greenpeace climbers began rappelling down Abraham Lincoln's forehead this morning at Mount Rushmore with their banner in a statement meant to challenge President Obama to greatness on global warming.
"If the rest of the G8 descends to President Obama's stated goal of returning emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, then our children will inherit a world of droughts, famines and the climate catastrophe that scientists are warning us about," Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford said from L'Aquila.
"The G8 heads of state must break the deadlock in the climate negotiations and stop blaming developing countries for their own inadequate climate policies."
UPDATE: Eleven protesters were arrested at Mount Rushmore on charges of illegal climbing and trespassing. In Italy, the coal plant protesters were still going as night fell. One wrote on Twitter: "Goodnight from the top of Italy's worst coal power plant, Brindisi, occupied for 20 hours so far."
(Photos courtesy of Greenpeace)