Masses Around Globe Demand Action on Climate Crisis

Tens of thousands take to the streets of San Francisco on Saturday to protest inaction on climate change. (Screen shot / YouTube)

Environmental activists protested Saturday in 90 countries and 800 cities across the globe and the United States against inaction on the climate crisis in the runup to a major climate conference in San Francisco. Wednesday’s conference was organized by California Gov. Jerry Brown in the wake of President Trump’s violation of the Paris Climate Accord. The events were organized by and allies among non-governmental organizations.

Many of the rallies or demonstrations explicitly rejected the president’s high-carbon policies.

Global carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise since the Paris accord, to 32.5 gigatons last year, though the rate of growth has slowed because of all the wind farms and solar panels people have installed around the world. Humans burning coal, gas and petroleum release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a potent greenhouse gas that is heating the earth but also having other dire effects.

The U.S. rallies culminated in some 30,000 protesting in San Francisco, which is threatened by sea level rise. A prominent part was played in SF by native peoples, whether on the North American mainland or from Pacific islands, including Hawaii. Islands are in particular peril from the climate crisis, since sea-level rise will sweep away their beaches and low-lying lands.

West Coast demonstrators wanted to put pressure on Brown and California, which despite a relatively progressive record, still allows hydraulic fracturing throughout the state.

In Paris, as many as 50,000 demonstrators came out Saturday afternoon, for, as they said, the sake of the human species. Even in a smaller city, Lyons, there were 10,000. Organizers said that throughout the country, 115,000 protesters came out.

In France, the event took on a special urgency in the wake of the resignation in August of the Minister for Ecological Transition, Nicolas Hulot, a prominent environmentalist. President Emmanuel Macron gives pretty speeches about the climate crisis, but his government has few achievements to its credit, and Hulot began to feel that he was by serving on the cabinet engaged in a sort of greenwashing, with this presence making the Macron government look better than it is. Some of the organizers of Saturday’s demonstrators in Paris were keen to hold the rally in part to support Hulot and put pressure on Macron to do something practical.

France actually has a relatively small carbon footprint, given that it is one of the biggest economies in the world. Much of its electricity comes from an aging array of nuclear plants, which are now being retired. France’s carbon dioxide emissions will skyrocket unless the government makes a push to support wind and solar power.


Juan Cole / Informed Comment
Juan Cole
Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and the proprietor of the Informed Comment e-zine. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in…
Juan Cole

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