As world leaders gather at the United Nations in New York next Tuesday to discuss how to increase global action to confront global warming, tens of thousands will take to the streets demanding they act. Most leaders have been woefully behind the curve. Now they need to listen and pay attention to citizens, who in growing numbers are calling for action.
The People’s Climate March will take place two days before, bringing together thousands of social and environmental groups, schools, businesses, unions and faith groups. Solidarity events will take place around the world, including in London and Rio de Janeiro.
This is not yesterday’s environmental movement: climate change is emerging as an issue that connects us all. This is the ideal moment for the people to tell world leaders how crucial it is that they urgently address climate change.
Up until now, the slow burn of climate risk and long-term but terrifying predictions by scientists have failed to mobilize citizens and leaders. Governments preoccupied by short-term election cycles and economic crises continue to pander to businesses they fear might be angered by efforts to tackle climate change, including fossil fuel companies. This has kept climate change near the bottom of the political agenda. Meanwhile, citizens justifiably focused on their immediate daily concerns have expressed scant interest in images of polar bears and burning rain forests.
However, this is changing. The devastating effects of the ongoing drought in California and its impact on the state’s economy, and the tragic impacts of Hurricane Sandy are waking up citizens and politicians. Movements, experts and even the Obama administration are focusing on the threat that climate change poses to our communities, such as public health and economic issues like soaring asthma rates and impacts of drought and flooding on farming.
Literally everything is at stake — our communities, our economy, all the progress made over decades of fighting poverty and inequality. And the possibilities for economic prosperity and local resilience are great if we weatherize homes and businesses, incentivize non-auto transit options and electric transportation, and develop a “green infrastructure” in our transition to “cool” cities.
The People’s Climate March can set a new precedent for bringing together diverse citizens’ groups. Over 100,000 marchers are expected to gather in New York. Politicians need to accept that global warming is no longer a green issue but one which threatens both our everyday lives and those of our children and grandchildren.
For too long, leaders have ignored the seriousness of climate risks. We are already well behind schedule to keep the world’s temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit), the level estimated to send us into “dangerous climate change.” Lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to desist from listening to fossil fuel company lobbyists and accept that climate change is here and requires urgent attention and courageous leadership.
There is still time to take transformative action to turn back the tide. The People’s Climate March can serve as a wake-up call. Knowing that climate change is becoming a mainstream and urgent concern of citizens should force politicians to act rather than risk being labeled a dinosaur. As the old bumper sticker read, “If the people lead, eventually the leaders will follow.” This cannot be left to fringe groups — everyone needs to do what they can to show that climate change is now a mainstream issue in the United States.
This article was originally published here.