The United Nations’ report on climate change, released in early October, served as a wake-up call to people around the world about the perils of climate change — even to veteran climate activists who already knew a major shift in environmental and economic policy was needed, but perhaps not at the pace emphasized in the report.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned there are only a dozen years for world leaders to address global warming, or else face significantly worse droughts, floods, extreme heat, and increased poverty. And since the release of the report, citizens around the world have ratcheted up their efforts to convince governments to take the unprecedented actions needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
On Saturday, thousands of people shut down the five main bridges of central London in the name of fighting climate change and the ongoing failure of global leaders to address the intensifying threats.
The action in London was the culmination of a week’s worth of action, organized in part by Extinction Rebellion, a movement formed to force U.K. government officials to make fighting climate change an urgent priority.
Today was INCREDIBLE. Thousands of people gathered to occupy five bridges across London. We stood in solidarity to demand action on climate change. Check out @extinctionrebellion to find out more. https://t.co/ixg8S31mCx pic.twitter.com/l3uzWg1Xz6
— Finnegan Harries (@FinnHarries) November 17, 2018
Of the thousands of people who filled the bridges during Saturday’s demonstration, about 80 people were arrested, BBC News reported.
“Time is running out for us,” Maria Rosa, a biologist, who took part in Saturday’s demonstration in London, told EcoWatch. “The government needs to wake up and realize that we need to change or else everything is going to go down the toilet. And because economic [factors] are more important for the government, we need to start acting, we need to show that we care about our future and our planet.”
A similar call to action is occurring in the United States as climate activists work to awaken lawmakers to the urgency of the problem.
Environmental groups have been working for years to get policymakers to take the drastic steps needed to curb emissions. But in the wake of the midterm elections, a group of young people have been at the forefront of making sure legislators understand that following a business-as-usual approach to policy-making is not a viable solution.
Among the people pushing for urgent climate action are a young crop of incoming House members. Together with activists, the new generation of lawmakers wants a “Green New Deal,” which would allow for the creation of sustainable jobs while rapidly easing away from fossil fuels.
Others on Capitol Hill, however, are not buying into the need for drastic and immediate change. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has indicated he agrees with the deal’s “basic outlines” but will not back a resolution by Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that calls for a committee to push through the Green New Deal.
After its volunteers worked on campaigns across the country to get Democrats elected in the midterms, the Sunrise Movement — a youth-led environmental group pushing for climate action — has now turned its attention to holding politicians accountable. The group two protests in Democratic offices last week, urging lawmakers to support legislation that has a better chance of helping to avert catastrophic climate change.
But Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), co-founder of the House Climate Solutions Caucus who lost his reelection bid, blasted the Sunrise Movement’s efforts to convince Democratic lawmakers to get more serious about climate change.
Curbelo called the demonstrations “truly deplorable,” E&E News reported Monday.
“It’s the politics of intimidation,” Curbelo said. “I don’t think those groups contribute very much. The solution to this is bipartisan compromise.”
During his nearly three years as co-head of the Climate Solutions Caucus, Curbelo — who had a poor record on environmental issues during his two terms in Congress — failed to bring Republicans and Democrats together on any meaningful climate legislation.
In response to Curbelo calling their actions “deplorable,” the Sunrise Movement tweeted Monday that the Florida congressman “thinks not wanting to die in the raging inferno of climate change makes us ‘deplorable.'”
.@carloslcurbelo thinks not wanting to die in the raging inferno of climate change makes us “deplorable”
This from the guy who:
❌Sold off the Arctic for oil drilling
❌Took 1000s of $ from Big Oil
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) November 19, 2018
Almost every major social change in U.S. history came from groups — that entrenched interests viewed with disdain — pushing for progressive change. From the abolitionists to the suffragette movement to the civil rights movement, U.S. history is filled with periods in which the dominant interests used laws and violence to prevent positive change from occurring.
And now progressive activists are pushing a party that’s long said it cares about climate change to step up its efforts.
“It’s obvious that Republicans have been bought out by Big Oil. That doesn’t mean we can’t still push the Democratic Party to be better on climate,” Varshini Prakash, founder of the Sunrise Movement, said in response to criticism of her group’s methods.
“We’re a part of a larger conversation about who the Democratic Party should be for and what it should do in the upcoming years,” Prakash told ThinkProgress. “We think that it should be a party that actually puts forward the big, bold solutions that are going to solve the existential crises of our lives — not just climate, but health care, income, and people’s ability to exist in the world in peace and without violence.”