On September 21, thousands of people from around the country will gather in New York City for the People’s Climate March, just prior to the UN Climate Summit convened by UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon. The Secretary-General invited Heads of State, along with business and civil society leaders to the summit, which is scheduled to begin on September 23 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The People’s Climate March in New York is being organized by a broad-based coalition of environmental, social justice, indigenous, labor and faith-based organizations. Organizers are predicting that a hundred thousand people, and possibly more, will participate from around the country. Local communities, many of which have experienced severe drought, intense super-storms, and damage to the quality of water, land and air in their communities caused by carbon emissions and fracking, plan to make their presence known and call on the nations gathered at the Climate Summit to drastically reduce their carbon emissions.
Last May, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group made up of 1,250 eminent scientists and endorsed by 146 governments, issued its fifth assessment on climate change. According to the report, “It’s at least 95% likely that human activities, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels, are the main cause of warming since the 1950s.” Columban Sean McDonagh concurs, adding “that the warming of the world’s climate system is unequivocal. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and sea ice have diminished, sea levels have risen and the concentration of greenhouse gases has increased.”
Columbans in the Philippines know about climate change from the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan nearly a year ago. Columban Shay Cullen returned to the site of the destruction and reported: “The sights, sounds, and smells that assailed me as I was walking through the devastated chaos and destruction of Tacloban City last year, soon after the most powerful storm ever to hit land, made me realize that this was the future. This utter devastation wrecked by a vengeful nature on her tormentors was going to be repeated across the globe. Climate change is upon us.”
What can be done? According to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, we must drastically reduce the use of all types of fossil fuels like oil, tar sands and natural gas as soon as possible. The number one way to cut emissions quickly and reduce global warming is to stop burning dirty coal as soon as possible. We must find ways to make cheap, renewable energy widely available in order to ensure all communities have the right to develop cleanly. At the same time, we must reduce deforestation and improve soil conservation to allow natural ecosystems that absorb CO2 to take some of the excess carbon out of the atmosphere.
Columbans in many regions across the world have long been advocates for environmental justice, and the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach will be in New York at the March to represent them. In December, the Columban JPIC coordinator from Peru, as well as Columbans from Chile and other regions will join civil society groups in a similar effort to call on the nations of the world to vastly reduce their carbon emissions and mobilize for a green economy. Heads of governments will be gathered in Lima at the 20th session of the conference of parties (COP20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to address these concerns.
Time is short. We are rapidly approaching a “tipping point,” a period of fast, extreme change that is difficult or impossible to reverse once it starts. Which is why so many are organizing and planning to travel to New York City September 21 to participate in what promises to be the largest climate march in history.
Faith in Action:
Ask Congress to Implement Protections for God’s Creation