For growing numbers of Americans, tracking the exploding Trump-Russia scandal has become a necessity, like slowing for a major multi-vehicle pileup. Rachel Maddow delivers bombshell reports almost every weeknight, each plotline adding more gasoline to the conflagration that is consuming our political system. As Senator John McCain has offered: “There’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.”Read more
"Donald Trump and his band of Banana Republicans are turning our country into a banana republic."
– Swami Beyondananda
Is the honeymoon over yet?
Perhaps a better question is, what kind of honeymoon follows a shotgun wedding? For the past two months, I have explored how the failure of neoliberalism helped fuel the perfect storm that put Donald Trump in the White House, and how given the choice between status quo and disruptive change, the body politic chose the latter.
OK, so here we are. Now what?Read more
For those who know we are in a real climate emergency, Donald J. Trump’s presidential victory comes as a devastating shock and blow, as he intends to eviscerate climate protection and ramp up fossil fuel extraction. The world needs to be cutting carbon drastically now, yet the United States is accelerating towards the brick wall of climate chaos. Is there any plausible climate emergency response worth considering in this deepening crisis?Read more
This petition will go to the MacArthur Foundation and to other philanthropies.
Dear President Stasch and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,
Since your philanthropy has decided this year to have a consequent impact on the biggest problems facing all of us, you have opened the opportunity to respond to the most critical and complex challenge we must face: the climate crisis. Climate stabilization is absolutely necessary for sustaining a viable future for our civilization.
I am writing to explain the opportunity the MacArthur Foundation now has to produce an effective response for climate stabilization.
Mounting evidence indicates that we actually face a climate emergency, not represented in the IPCC Reports, IPCC Budgets, or the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Climate change is already dangerous at just 1°C of warming — major impacts are emerging now (such as polar ice melt and extreme weather) that are far worse than anticipated. Although the Paris Agreement appears to adequately address the crisis, its measures fall alarmingly short: voluntary pledges only slow the increase in warming, bringing us 3.5°C warming this century. It allows carbon pollution to continue for decades, vastly inconsistent with its 1.5-2°C goal. Moreover, it relies on unproven, farfetched technologies to suck carbon from the atmosphere after far exceeding emissions’ limits.
Contrast this with a recent study, “The Sky’s Limit” from Oil Change International, which finds that the potential carbon emissions from the world’s current fossil fuel operations would take us beyond 2°C of warming. Put simply: to destroy civilization, we just need to keep doing what we are doing; to salvage a livable future, we must act boldly and soon.
Yet our political leaders and the American public do not understand what measures we must take to respond effectively. We don’t know how fast we must decarbonize our energy systems, nor by what means and mechanisms. The misinformation, distortion, and superficial explanations from our nation’s political system and journalists have obscured reality. Even while the US must lead the world, we are stalling and caught in political gridlock.
But we do have an opportunity to shift the impasse: the 2016 Democratic Platform calls for a Climate Summit, wherein the dramatic scope, scale, and urgency of the crisis can be explained and validated. It cannot be overemphasized: public and political understanding is essential for effective climate stabilization. At this time, nothing short of a Summit will suffice.
However, it is unlikely our new president could effectively fund, stage, or broadcast the Climate Summit. Nor is it likely she could lead the nation to climate stability following the Summit. That is because: (1) she does not have the political capital, (2) she would be perceived as politically biased where your Foundation would be considered objective and credible, (3) sufficient public funding would be difficult to obtain, (4) with the new administration as sponsor and lead, results would not be accepted by the public.
There is nowhere else to turn, but to philanthropy. The MacArthur Foundation could be the funding agent for the Climate Summit. Its allocation of $100 million for 100&Change, not limited to non-profit agencies, makes that plausible. The neutral MacArthur Foundation’s staging and results could be confidently promulgated publicly.
To send your own letter to the MacArthur Foundation, write to:
Ms. Julia Stasch, President
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
140 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60603-5285
So I am asking for your help, to fund an effective Climate Summit that leads the way to effective responses that actually stabilize our climate. And it is necessary that the Summit occur early in the next administration; in time to guarantee a viable future for our children. Because how we act now and in these next few years will determine that future for all of us. If the climate is not stabilized, then all the other good work of Philanthropy would go for naught on a rapidly warming planet. Everything we care about is at stake; please help lead us to a viable, clean, and healthy future.
Please share these letters we are sending with your staff and Board of Directors.
Today we already live in the middle of a genuine climate emergency. Yet is this perceived, understood, or discussed anywhere? Despite the overwhelming case, little is being done to eliminate the fossil fuel Goliath and stabilize our climate.
With government gridlocked and business even adding more sand to the gears, policy responses are ridiculously inadequate. Can Philanthropy be the David to the fossil fuel’s Goliath? Where else can we find the influence and resources that could fulfill a David role and support a coordinated, broad-based people’s campaign? Who else could create the “slingshot heard round-the-world” to down the behemoth?Read more
To send your own letter to the MacArthur Foundation, write to:
Ms. Julia Stasch, President
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
140 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60603-5285
Dear President Stasch and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,
It is with great hope and expectation that I noted that you have moved the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in the direction of tackling big problems and working to have a transformative impact on the biggest ones we all face. While you mention climate change in your announcements of 100&Change, I would like to ask you personally to fund solutions to the climate crisis. The reasons are many.
First, we exist in a global warming emergency now, and we are doing far too little to stabilize climate in the US or world-wide.
Next, if we do not stabilize climate then all of the other crises we face are made much worse. One of our best known climate scientists, Katharine Hayhoe said it best: “We can pour all of our money, all of our effort and everything we have into a bucket of humanitarian efforts, but it will not be enough. Because the bucket has a hole in it. That hole is climate change. And it is getting bigger.” See the three-minute film here.
Third, climate change threatens us all with extinction, and extinction of our living systems upon which we depend utterly. Civilization is at stake “right now” as are many of the other creatures that share our beautiful home with us.
Finally, climate must be stabilized within a context of justice, equity, and fairness for all of us and for the rest of life. And justice, equity, and fairness have no future, indeed no hope without a stable climate and a sustainable humanity.
There has never been a crisis like this climate crisis. Everything is at stake because of it. The climate crisis needs the focus of 100&Change and all of the resources that can be brought to bear from other Philanthropies that will partner with you.
Please help us all, and help us all now.
We must phase out fossil fuels as quickly as humanly possible for a livable climate.
ExxonMobile Refinery, Torrance, CA. Photo: Michael Light.
WE MUST PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS NOW!
Few people, even in the global warming movement, understand the scope, scale, and urgency with which we must now operate to protect our livable planet. A pervasive pluralistic ignorance keeps people from admitting we are in a crisis. We now need a compelling multi-faceted Mobilization Campaign to inform and activate a critical mass of Americans, so we can: (1) achieve US leadership in an Emergency Climate Mobilization, (2) price carbon-based fuels and eliminate their subsidies, (3) incentivize for renewable energy, and (4) keep fossil fuels in the ground.
The gravity of our situation is clear and convincing. Our task ahead is clear: we either phase-out fossil fuels now or we end civilization and humanity. Here is the tough reality: we have an emergency and we must mobilize now. All hands on deck!
We must build a large Climate Emergency Coalition to demand an immediate emergency mobilization as an over-riding US priority. The aim is Zero Net Carbon within a decade in the United States, feasible with a WW2 type mobilization.
The Paris Agreement won't save us
It is important to realize that the Paris Climate Agreement itself makes the case for emergency response. The Agreement merely gives the impression that the crisis is being addressed. It is good that the nations agreed on a major target (1.5-2°C)—but the deal allows them to pollute for decades, leaving us on course of 3.5°C warming, threatening humanity and most life. There is no requirement to upgrade commitments before 2030.
So what gives? The Agreement is counting on miracles and magic to save us. Really. Rather than requiring dramatic reductions starting now, the Agreement assumes that unproven technologies (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) will down the road “suck carbon” from the atmosphere. Pollute now, clean up decades later. The idea: grow lots of trees and biomass to absorb carbon (every year, an area 1-3 times the size of India), burn it in special power plants that capture the carbon emissions, compress the CO2 and pipe it long distances to then bury it. Kevin Anderson describes the absurdity of these proposals.
Bottom line: Paris’s target can only be possibly met with an immediate carbon phase-out, with reality-based carbon drawdown methods of regenerative land practices, while understanding current drawdown limitations.
Carbon dioxide stays in our atmosphere for centuries, so it is a cumulative problem.
Chart: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
THE EMERGENCY CASE:
- First, warming from CO2 emissions is irreversible on any human timescale—it takes centuries for CO2 to be re-absorbed back into the earth. So CO2 is a cumulative problem. Each decade we keep emitting carbon at this rate adds another 0.25°C / 0.5°F, increasing our risk of runaway heating.
- We are already committed to further inevitable warming even if we quit all fossil fuels today. Two reasons: (1) Particulate pollution (another pollutant from fossil fuels) actually masks some warming—so when we DO eventually quit fossil fuels, an estimated 0.5°C more warming is coming. (2) Further warming will come from the oceans, called “thermal inertia,” when they finally give their absorbed heat to the atmosphere, adding an estimated 0.6°C. Added to the 1°C existing warming, we are already past Paris’s target.
Warming is already dangerous at 1°C increase above preindustrial levels, as described in David Spratt's report “Recount: It’s Time to do the Math Again.”
The 2016 off-the-charts temperature spike even alarms climate scientists. Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research responded: "We are in a kind of climate emergency now."
Chart: Stephan Rahmstorf
Warming is in overdrive. Like a broken record, global heat records are being repeatedly shattered, month after month, year after year. January 2016, then February were the hottest months ever. 2015 was the hottest year, as was 2014. 2016 is on track beat 2015. The current El Nino weather pattern only partially explains this temperature surge.
Sea level rise will swamp coastal cities. New research on sea level rise portends complete catastrophe if we do not slash fossil fuels now. James Hansen has warned that without “emergency cooperation among nations,” Greenland and Antarctica could melt ten times faster than formerly known, “resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.” Irreversible ice-melt thresholds are being crossed now. It looks likely that we face 3-6 feet of sea-level rise this century, so we will have to move inland. This interactive map, shows the effects on Miami, from 1-10 feet.
Oceanic threats await marine life. If we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, the oceans will collapse. Recent research clearly shows that even if we could magically pull CO2 out of thin air in the future, it would still acidify our oceans, poisoning marine life (explained here and here). Ocean warming is causing two major threats to marine ecosystems: (1) coral bleaching (a major bleaching event is going on now), and (2) deoxygenation. Only dramatic emission reductions starting now will save the oceans. No ocean life, no us—it’s that simple.
Methane “natural gas” use is a catastrophic bridge to climate tipping points. Its greenhouse gas impact is far stronger than previously realized: over 100-times more potent than CO2 when first released. In our climate emergency, what happens in the next decade that matters most. New research shows massive methane leakage across the US in recent years (coinciding with the fracking boom). So this methane increase matters a lot. All fossil fuels must be kept in the ground, methane included.
Clouds provide far less cooling than assumed. New research shows that clouds contain more water and less ice than previously thought. Watery clouds reflect less solar light than icy clouds, heating the planet more. This discovery suggests that temperatures will rise faster from greenhouse gas pollution than previously forecast.
- Large impacts pose high risk. Michael E. Mann’s “'Fat Tail' of Climate Change Risk" article makes it obvious that the risk of runaway greenhouse warming is so high that any able person would be motivated to help with an Emergency Climate Mobilization.
The over-determined conclusion one would have to draw from these best-expert sources would be that YES!, we must dedicate ourselves to completely phase out fossil fuels in the US within ten years, and realize that the route toward such a radical transformation of our culture is an Emergency Climate Mobilization.
For a more in-depth examination of the emergency case, see David Spratt’s “Climate Reality Check” report.
No Carbon Budget Left
The stated function of carbon budgets are to provide an amount of "burnable" carbon, while maintaining a likelihood of staying under the 2°C heat ceiling.
Yet the carbon budget concept is a dangerous illusion:
- Major impacts are becoming apparent at just 1°C warming.
- There is an unacceptable risk that feedbacks will be triggered before 2°C.
- Budgets assume unacceptably high risks of failure.
For more details: No Remaining Carbon Budget: Zero Carbon In a Decade Is a Must!
Image: Jos Hagelaars, adapted by Breakthrough - David Spratt / further adapted by Climate Emergency Coalition
For climate stabilization well under 2°C, we must start now to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by about 10 percent each year, until fossil fuel phase-out is complete in a decade, and globally in fifteen years, quickly transitioning from fossil fuels to low carbon energy.
The time for energy democracy has come: wherever possible communities should collectively control the conversion to clean energy.
Photo: Black Rock Solar / Rainshadow Charter School.
To achieve this, several essential actions are now needed:
- Price carbon pollution and remove fossil fuel subsidies. To drive broad-based emissions reductions, we must account for the true societal costs of fossil fuels.
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground. Oppose their exploration, development, new infrastructure, and export through collective action. There is no remaining carbon budget.
- Incentivize renewable energy. Create policies that support their development, production, and roll-out as quickly as possible.
- Assist developing nations with clean energy so that they “leap-frog” fossil fuel development.
- Reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. Invest globally in reforestation, biochar, land/soil restoration, and agroecology.
- The US must lead. The US must embrace the 1.5-2°C limit, and lead the global low carbon mobilization. Fossil fuel reductions must begin now in industrialized nations, and within a few years in developing nations.
Enacting effective policies to facilitate this transition within a decade will, in effect, catalyze a wartime-speed mobilization effort. The first step is to get the emergency situation into the cultural conversation, so the emergency is perceived, declared, and acted upon with an Emergency Climate Mobilization. This is aim of the Climate Emergency Coalition.
RESPONDING IN EMERGENCY MODE
Importantly, humans can and do rise above fear and respond. The climate movement has mistakenly believed that people would panic, become paralyzed, or fall into resignation if they understood the looming climate threat. The widespread notion that people panic in emergencies is not corroborated by evidence, research, or human behavior.
Research shows that we behave cooperatively and rapidly—even with extraordinary teamwork and collaboration—when trained or given accurate information about disasters and constructive response options. Emergency mode is characterized by an extreme focus of attention and resources on working productively to respond to the emergency.
So awakening citizens to the danger and providing responses that deal with the scope, scale and urgency of the crisis is necessary. If that is done effectively, we can expect constructive cooperation and mobilization to avert climate catastrophe.
Knowing what to do and preparing facilitates “eustress” (a positive form of stress) in emergencies. The seemingly impossible can be accomplished in extreme situations when emotion, purpose, and enthusiasm are combined.
Some emergencies last years, and we are in such a “long emergency” now. Examples have included: wars, the Great Depression, nations under occupation, and collapsing empires. In long emergencies, a combination of purpose, pacing, and persistence is needed. Human societies have often exhibited heroic persistence in very long emergencies, even when situations were very dire.
Humans evolved in tribes, and group success was vital to the survival of each individual. Very importantly, it’s within our nature to work together in groups.
MOBILIZING FOR RAPID TRANSITION
The type of emergency response needed in our situation is called mobilization. We refer to it as an Emergency Climate Mobilization.
What is mobilization? Mobilization is a coming together as a people with a common cause—a rapid emergency restructuring of a modern industrial economy. It involves all citizens and impacts all areas of society. It’s nothing less than a comprehensive social and industrial metamorphosis.
Mobilization summons a sense of collective destiny and moral purpose. Importantly, it is not an indiscriminate use of government power. Rather, it is a specific economic approach that directs the collective force of industry away from petro-consumerism towards a complete fossil fuel phase-out and transformation to a zero carbon society.
We are calling for a society-wide Emergency Climate Mobilization aiming to achieve zero carbon emissions in the US within a decade and globally in fifteen years. We see this as the fastest possible phase-out of fossil fuels in a “long emergency” mobilization mode, in which we can achieve far more than what is now commonly thought as possible.
 As Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester notes, this fundamentally rewrites the chronology of climate change from long-term gradual to urgent and radical, "Reframing Climate Change: How recent emission trends & the latest science change the debate." David Roberts notes the “brutal logic” of climate change .
 Emissions reductions must occur sooner in developed nations, given our historical contribution to the problem and our capacity to innovate and remediate.
We as a country and as a planet face a fundamental threat. … Until we start with that conversation, it's very hard for me to see how we ultimately lead to the national policies that are going to be required, much less the international policies that are also going to be required.
Director, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
This outline proposal shows how a modest sum—$500,000 for a one-year demonstration—can prove the necessity for a national “emergency climate mobilization” and build a Climate Emergency Coalition with partnering organizations. Following demonstration, the US can be quickly galvanized into a consensus on Emergency Climate Mobilization within the timeframe required to stabilize the climate, while including a justice and equity framework.
To respond effectively to the climate crisis, we need an all-hands-on-deck Climate Mobilization to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed. Because of the nature of the looming climate crisis, the fate of civilization and of our living systems hinges on a Climate Mobilization response. The over-determined data shows that there is actually no remaining carbon budget, therefore we must phase-out fossil fuels now!
Informing, Engaging, and Galvanizing Americans
Relating for Real Change
It is through our web of associations and relationships that we best develop understanding and emotional response—by arriving at a social interpretation of the data. Sociologist Robert Brulle, Drexel University, says that engaging people face-to-face is "the only way to achieve real, lasting change [for the climate]." We are relational creatures, and we get involved when people that we know and respect are involved. Explaining climate change must be personal and interactive—virtual or social media are insufficient for organizing citizens and expanding the movement.
Photo: Julie Nerbonne, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, climate conversation event.
A consensus on US Climate Mobilization must come quickly. If achieved within a couple of years, the US can achieve the target of Net Zero Carbon within a decade. To achieve the degree of transformation required—even including the conservative Congress—we only need 3-4% of the population joining the call for mobilization with us. That means recruiting enough mobilizers through an Education and Advocacy Campaign that provides personal, face-to-face dialogue, and moral conversations. There are already tens of thousands of faith social halls and civic auditoriums ready to host this cultural conversation. The initiative galvanizes those most concerned about the climate threat, thus building a decisive Climate Coalition with partner organizations. Change of this magnitude can only happen through organizing while raising and deepening public awareness.
Citizens need to understand how quickly and effectively we must respond to avert climate chaos. They must appreciate the details of the encroaching climate crisis, the necessity of an all-out mobilization, the advantages of a carbon price and its affordability, climate justice issues, and why US leadership is crucial. We explain the scope, scale and urgency of the crisis; in addition we explain why the Coalition is the necessary response to uniquely meet these daunting challenges.
The curriculum is riveting and inspiring. It is designed to catalyze action and precipitate appropriate responses.
First Phase of the Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign
The First Phase of the Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign will employ the existing southwest network of Interfaith Power and Light to coordinate the necessary personal conversations and education at their disposal through the thousands of venues available: congregation social halls, civic auditoriums, and public meeting places across those states. The states include Utah (convening), Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and Tennessee.
The $500,000 budget includes salaries for a Project Coordinator and six State Coordinators, consulting fees, and curriculum development (includes the guidance of leading scientists).
The Demonstration will quickly lead to the adoption of the full CEC Campaign nationwide to achieve consensus on mobilization within a two-year period.
 We are already committed to an inevitable heat increase "in the pipeline"—due to the lag in ocean heating—even if we cut all emissions today. So today’s greenhouse gases levels are already very dangerous.
 Robert Brulle, From Environmental Campaigns to Advancing the Public Dialogue: Environmental Communication for Civic Engagement, Environmental Communications, March 17, 2010, pp. 82-98.
 A response to a request for proposal can provide extensive detail and justification.
See the petition and notable signers below
We, the citizens of our nation and of our Earth, are endowed with certain rights, powers, and obligations, which demand we act both individually and collectively to protect and preserve the ongoing evolution of life on Earth, including our future generations.
Based upon a preponderance of scientific evidence we recognize our global climate is rapidly warming and becoming increasingly unstable due to human-caused carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. If we do not change course before global warming tipping points are crossed, this destabilization of our climate will continue to cause ever-increasing suffering and potentially irreversible devastation for both current and future generations. If left unresolved, it could cause the extinction, or near extinction, of the human species.
We further recognize that rapidly escalating global warming and its consequent climate destabilization is the greatest currently active threat to the security of all nations, comparable in scope of impact to global nuclear war. Escalating average global temperature rises will lead to destabilization affecting first millions, then billions of people forced to deal with ongoing climate catastrophes, food and other resource depletion, and mass migrations.
Nearly all of the major problems our world faces today worsen and multiply due to escalating global warming. All of the ecological, economic and political problems listed below will cross-intensify and therefore worsen as average global temperatures rises.
- Food and resource depletion
- Severe droughts, floods, and wildfires
- Rising sea levels
- Water pollution and water table loss
- Desertification and deforestation
- Ocean fish stock depletions
- Growing economic inequity, poverty, and instability
- Political instability and injustice
- War and regional conflicts
- Increasing potential of pandemics and other health crises
Despite 30 years of education, study, and discussion about the possible irreversible effects of human-caused carbon and methane pollution of our atmosphere, global warming temperatures have escalated to levels that may have already passed or be close to passing global warming tipping points with impacts that are irreversible. We must immediately reverse the continued rise of average global temperature by decreasing human-caused production of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.
Failure to resolve global warming for ourselves and future generations is simply not a survivable option.
As global citizens of every nation on Earth, we ask you, our national leaders, to initiate the necessary steps to formally declare a national and international global warming State of Emergency, calling for the immediate allocation of the needed research, resources, personnel, and interventions to quickly resolve this State of Emergency and sustainably protect, preserve, and advance the continued evolution of humanity and life on Earth.
By signing this petition, I pledge to act together with others as one human family to acknowledge and resolve the escalating global warming-caused climate destabilization crisis.
When we reach the required number of petition signatures for each area, we will submit the petition with all signatures to: (1) the incoming President and the members of both houses of US Congress, and (2) governing bodies of other nations (if you provide your nationality).
NOTABLE PETITION SIGNERS*
Vinit Allen, Founder & Executive Director, Sustainable World Coalition
Steve Bhaerman, Co-author of "Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here" and political satirist
Philip Bogdonoff, Director, Washington DC Chapter of Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Russell Brockhurst, Project Team Leader, Caterpillar of Australia, Ltd
Karen Cisler, Secretary-Treasurer, PSR-TN [TN Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility]; member, Air Quality Board, State of TN Department of Environmental Conservation
Cliff Cockerham, PhD, Chair, TN Chapter of the Sierra Club; President, PSR-TN; Climate Mobilization Volunteer International Organizer in the Americas
Siobhan Colombo, Faculty of Science & Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
John Cooksey, Writer/Director/Producer, "How to Boil a Frog"
Raymond Cummings, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Villanova University
Kathy Dervin, Senior Consultant, Center for Climate Change & Health
Rev. Michael Dowd, Pro-Future Evangelist
Hans Ehrbar, PhD, Professor of Economics - retired, University of Utah
Duane Elgin, Author of "Voluntary Simplicity"
Dave Ewoldt, Co-founder & Senior Analyst, Coalitions for Mutual Endeavor
Peter Fiekowsky, Founder, The Healthy Climate Project; Lead Volunteer & Founder, CCL's 100-Year Planning Group
Len Finegold, PhD, Professor of Biophysics - retired, Drexel University
Dr. Katherine Forrest, MD, MPH, Co-Founder & former President, The Commonweal Institute; Board Member of The Peninsular Democratic Coalition [PDC] and founding member of PDC's Climate Action Group
Len Frenkel, Author, "Will We Survive Climate Change?: One Last Chance"
Valerie Gardner, Founder & Executive Director, Climate Coalition
Russell Greene, President, PDA-People Demanding Action & is the leading climate activist of Progressive Democrats of America who is credited with securing the Climate Mobilization plank in the 2016 Democratic Presidential platform, saying: "There is no time left for gradualism. That window has passed. This is a climate emergency — the moment to make a stand for the future. For each other. For our children."
Heidi Harmon, Co-Organizer, "Up to Us Caravan" to the DNC
Dr. Mary Headrick, MD, Board Member, PSR-TN
Harold Hedelman, Director of Engagement - Business Climate Leaders at Citizens' Climate Lobby
Bill Henderson, Freelance Climate Journalist
Michael Hoexter, PhD, Research Scholar, Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity and Campaign Volunteer for Bernie Sanders 2016
Allen Johnson, PhD, Professor of Geology - retired, University of West Chester
John Jorgensen, Biologist-turned Activist/Marcher, Great March for Climate Action
George Paul Kemp, PhD, Associate Research Professor, Center for Coastal, Energy and Environmental Resources, Louisiana State University; Co-founder & former Executive Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Rev. Earl Koteen, Environmental Justice Minister and Board Member, Unitarian Universalist Earth Ministry
Felix Kramer, Founder, Beyond Cassandra and the of Congressional Climate Project
Cynthia Lukas, Producer, "Heaven on Earth Creations'" and upcoming film "Ghandi's Gift"
Chloe Maxmin, Co-founder, Divest Harvard
Bruce Melton, PE, Executive Director, Climate Change Now Initiative
Debbie Mytels, Associate Director, Acterra: Action for a Sustainable Earth
Jim Newell, PhD, lobbyist & government relations professional & CEO, ELS, Inc and CEC Lead Volunteer for Government Relations
Terry Patten, Founder, Bay Area Integral
Vanessa Rule, Co-founder, Mothers Out Front - Mobilizing for a Livable Climate
Adam Sacks, Executive Director, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Paul Severance, Chair, Elders Climate Action
Ezra Silk, Co-Founder and Director of Policy and Strategy, The Climate Mobilization
Mariana Garcia Solana, Executive Director, The Friends of the Maya Foundation and Climate Mobilization Volunteer Lead Organizer for Mexico
Susan Soleil, Executive Director, Utah Interfaith Power & Light
Kristina Turechek, Adjunct Faculty, SUNY College at Oneonta
Brian von Herzen, PhD, Executive Director, The Climate Foundation
Cassandra Wardle, Conservation Researcher, School of the Environment, Griffith University, Australia
Tom Weis, President, Climate Crisis Solutions
"I heartily support the Climate Emergency Coalition and its work to shift philanthropy to organizations and initiatives fighting the threats to humanity brought by climate change."
- Paul R. Ehrlich
People who have worked with us on earlier breakthrough initiatives beginning in 2014:
Turner Anderson, Project Engineer at Siemens Energy, Inc.**
Duncan Callaway, PhD, Associate Professor of Energy & Resources, Division of Electrical Engineering/EECS, University of California - Berkeley**
William Christopfel, PhD, Director of Scientific Affairs, Bell Pharmaceuticals**
Simon Dalby, PhD, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies and CIGI Chair in the Political Economy of Climate Change, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada**
Robert Dello-Russo, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Anthropology & Director, Office of Contract Archaeology, University of New Mexico**
William DeMott, PhD, Professor of Biology, Purdue University**
Paul R. Ehrlich, PhD, Bing Professor of Population Studies and President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University
Daniela Gioseffi, Editor & Publisher of Eco-Poetry.org & PoetsUSA.com; American Book Award-winning author of 16 books of poetry and prose***
Sebastian Groh, PhD, CEO at ME SOLshare Ltd; Assistant Professor at North South University, Bangaldesh**
John Harte, PhD, jointly appointed Professor in the Energy & Resources Group and the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the College of Natural Resources, University of California - Berkeley**
Donald Hnatowich, PhD, Professor of Radiology - retired, University of Massachusetts Medical School; Presenter, Climate Reality**
Andy Hoffmann, PhD, Office of Sustainability working group, University of Utah**
Daniel Kammen, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Energy, Energy and Resources Group, University of California - Berkeley**
Rik Leemans, PhD, Professor of Environmental Systems Analysis Wageningen University, The Netherlands**
Michael Mann, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology & Director of the Earth System Science Center Penn State University**
Trae Menard, Director of Forest Conservation, Hawaii Chapter - The Nature Conservancy**
Sergio Pacca, PhD, Research Fellow, University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems; Associate Professor of Energy & Sustainability, Sao Paolo University, Brasil**
Robert Strom, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Lunar and Planetary Lab. and Dept. of Planetary Science, University of Redlands**
Anders Wijkman, PhD, elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for outstanding services to the environment; Co-President, Club of Rome**
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, PhD, Fellow, Energy and Resources Group, University of California - Berkeley; Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society, Austria**
* Institutional affiliation listed for identification purposes only
** Signers of preliminary sign on letters leading up to the emergency petition.
We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
—POPE FRANCIS, Laudato Si (#49)
Some of most vexing and unresolved aspects of the climate crisis involve issues of justice and equity. No climate strategy has a moral center without including the call for Justice. The Association for the Tree of Life and the Climate Emergency Coalition agree with Pope Francis’s call for justice, both for the underprivileged and for our Earth itself, highlighting climate chaos as an environmental, economic, equity, and moral crisis. His demand for the rich and powerful to care for the earth fits well with how we ask philanthropies to fund the march to climate mobilization. We also endorse the Fair Shares approach to applying equity.
Climate justice is complex—here we explain the necessity of climate assistance for poor nations, why an effective response must start with the United States, and the importance of citizen action to accomplish this.
The Paris Agreement and Justice
We fully support the Principles of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, as they demand that the more wealthy nations help with funding, technology, and personnel to support nations who cannot afford low carbon energy otherwise.
From Article 3.1: The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind, on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.
In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted by nearly all nations as the foundational agreement for equitable international climate negotiations. However in the quarter century since, weak and stalled international climate talks have continually postponed effective responses, nearly closing the window of time available to avert the worst aspects of looming climate catastrophe.
While the UN 2015 Paris Climate Agreement provides a significant “what” (a 1.5-2°C target in response to demands by certain nations vulnerable to sea level rise), its “how” and “by when” do not provide any pathway to accomplish the target. The bottom-up approach, with nations’ pledges (INDCs – Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) resulted in highly unequal levels of commitment and effort, far too little assistance for poor nations’ climate mitigation and adaptation, and a dangerous course towards 3.5°C this century, far above the 1.5-2°C goal. The Agreement’s five-year schedule to review pledges also makes staying within the target highly unlikely.
So given Paris’s varied shortcomings, how can the world possibly move forward cooperatively and fairly in meeting the true scope, scale, and urgency of the climate crisis?
Differing on Differentiation
Cumulative CO2 Emissions 1850-2011
(% of World Total)
Combined, the US and EU were responsible for 52% of cumulative CO2 emissions from 1850-2011. India, with a much larger population, was responsible for only 3%.
Image: World Resources Institute
One of the most contentious divisions between wealthy and poor nations involves “differentiation”—how to fairly assign responsibility among nations for curbing emissions. Fairness requires two major considerations, in accordance with the UNFCCC principles:
- Historical responsibility: Since CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, nations that industrialized and burned fossil fuels earliest bear the most responsibility (see box). They are accountable for far more of the overall burden of climate stabilization. Poor nations have contributed little to the CO2 problem, yet they are most vulnerable to climate impacts.
- Capacity: Some nations have much more capacity to act than others. National income beyond what is needed for basic living standards would be a good measure of response capacity.
Wealthy nations have such large historical emissions, that equity cannot be achieved just through their own emissions reductions. They must also offset their historical emissions with assistance for developing nations for both climate mitigation and adaptation. The mitigation that poorer nations will need to implement, with international support, accounts for a substantial portion of the global reductions required.
Climate Justice as Necessary
Percentage of CO2 Emissions by World Population
In a recent report, “Extreme Carbon Inequality,” Oxfam finds that the world’s richest 10% emit half of all fossil fuel pollution, while the poorest 50% contribute a mere 10%. The richest 1% may emit 175 times more per person than the poorest 10%.
The imbalances of wealth and consumption between the wealthiest of humanity and the poorest are simply unconscionable. The majority of citizens within developed nations enjoy abundant “luxury emissions,” while many in developing nations lack even “survival emissions” for basic necessities. Consider that 1.3 billion people globally have no electricity and 1.2 billion have unreliable electricity—a third of the world’s population. That portion of humanity both desires and deserves the right to lift itself from destitution. Additionally, poor nations are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. They want to fight it and prepare for it. For these reasons, they need help from wealthy nations.
Crucially, if wealthy nations do not provide massive assistance to impoverished nations (financing, technology, and capacity building), then they will continue to take the cheaper, dirty fossil fuel development pathway. In that case, no matter how quickly rich countries cut their own greenhouse gas pollution, the Earth and her human community will face climate chaos and ecological ruination.
As Africa leapfrogged past landlines straight to mobile phones, developed nations must help the poor nations to leap over and beyond fossil fuel economies. In what little carbon budget remains, we must include developing nations’ need to alleviate poverty.
Replacing Kerosene Lanterns
“In February 2014, in rural Kenya, we toured the front lines of oil eradication in African lighting, with a SolarAid field team. We saw that it is not difficult at all to replace a whole sector of fossil fuel use at the bottom end of the energy ladder.”
—Jeremy Leggett, “Winning the Carbon War”
In 2009 the world established the Green Climate Fund at Copenhagen, within the framework of the UNFCCC, as a mechanism to assist developing nations with mitigation and adaptation. The goal by 2020 is $100 billion per year, an amount that is far too little. Even attaining that funding is in doubt. For an updated status of financing, see: Status of Pledges and Contributions to the Green Climate Fund.
In spite of this, from the widest perspective justice is not a “nice thing to do, the right thing to do, or even the morally correct thing to do.” Beyond helping the poor, equity and justice must be understood as necessary for our collective survival. Each of us must be included on the “survival boat.”
A Way Forward
The shortfall of developed nations’ commitments amply demonstrates that equity is not something that each nation can decide for itself. It must be defined in a robust, rigorous, transparent, and scientific manner anchored in the core principles of the UNFCCC—an agreement that would produce a dramatic reduction of emissions, even while allowing the developing world to expand energy use to relieve poverty. The Fair Shares approach provides such a mechanism. An equitable system such as Fair Shares should be employed to determine all nations' responsibilities for carbon reduction.
Fair Shares also addresses the vast wealth disparities within countries. Nations such as China and India have growing numbers of wealthy citizens with high levels of carbon consumption.
What Does This Mean For “US”?
What does all this mean for “us,” the United States? The US is key to turning the situation around. The United States must lead the world's transition; as no other nation can—given our unequaled wealth, our role as the largest historic carbon polluter, and our capacity to remedy the situation.
To sum it all up: wealthy nations—especially the US—must pay up big time to assist developing nations reduce emissions, while at the same time drastically cutting our own. The reality is that it will demand enormous financial help, human resources, and technological transfers to developing nations. At the same time, we must see this as an urgent priority. We seem to manage hundreds of billions of dollars for military fighter planes, even though climate change is our biggest national security threat. A good response would be to end fossil fuel subsidies—$700 billion annually in the US—and apply that money towards climate assistance and our own climate stabilization efforts.
In spite of our role as the largest historic perpetrator, Americans are mostly unaware of the crisis, and of our continuing fossil fuels excesses. We are 5% of the population but emit 15% of the world's CO2—one of the highest rates per capita. In our ignorance, we continue in our historic consumption patterns, and we continue to foster fossil fuel dependency. Therefore, we continue to burn up what little carbon budget remains.
However, we cannot expect the US to lead without informing Americans about the necessity of climate justice for the survival of us all. A Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign across the US, with personal face-to-face dialogue and moral conversations in our “communities of meaning,” can inform and galvanize citizens on this crucial issue. We must grow a substantial people’s movement, a Climate Emergency Coalition that demands justice and equity as part and parcel for protecting a livable climate.
Climate Equity Reference Project – basis for the Fair Shares approach.
Extreme Carbon Inequality, Oxfam, December 2, 2015
Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs – a new analysis from a diverse mix of civil society organizations seeking to ascertain the fairness of the Paris Agreement. Association for the Tree of Life and Climate Mobilization Coalition are both signatories.
The Core Convention-Based Equity Indicators – Climate Action Network, September 2013
What Is Equity in the Context of Climate Negotiations? – Edward Cameron and Wendi Bevins, World Resources Institute, December 14, 2012