Many thousands of people around the world held rallies and marches Friday to demand climate action, as world leaders and non-government parties from 200 countries convened in Madrid for the United Nations conference on climate change.
The Miami chapter of “Fridays For Future,” an international youth movement for climate action, was among the American cities where events were held in unison with rallies and protests around the world.
In Madrid, teen-age activist Greta Thunberg led a Fridays For Future march after traveling for three weeks to reach the conference by means of the greenest transportation she could find.
“The change we need is not going to come from people in power,” Thunberg told the crowd in Madrid, as reported by BBC News. “The change is going to come from the people, the masses, demanding change.”
International news outlets such as the Spanish daily newspaper El País, the UK’s Guardian and BBC News estimated 35,000 people marched in Madrid to underscore the urgency for action — climate activists estimated there were hundreds of thousands — while scores of rallies were reported elsewhere around the world.
Social media aggregated at #FridaysForFuture reported large rallies and marches for climate action were happening around the world on Friday. Photos of events were tagged to Thunberg’s Facebook page from Santiago, Stockholm, Dublin, Santa Cruz, Toronto, Nairobi, Miami, Philadelphia, Boston, Des Moines, and more. A climate protest in Washington, D.C., blocked traffic Friday morning.
Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swede, is traveling the world via green transport to speak pointedly to world leaders who have failed to prevent global warming. She said in a televised press conference that green transportation, to cite one issue, is not nearly as available as it must become to slash greenhouse gases that cause global warming and climate change.
American universities with young representatives at the climate conference include the University of Miami, Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, and Colorado State.
According to hundreds of climate scientists in the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, gas emissions are on track to heat the planet well over 1.5 degrees Celsius, considered the threshold beyond which cataclysmic changes will occur. The warming is at 1.1 degrees already.
Despite decades of scientific warnings, greenhouse gas emissions have not been curtailed but continue to increase. The WMO reported that gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached a new high last year and that temperatures on land and at sea have set new heat records for successive years.
President Donald Trump sent no White House officials to the climate conference, where 25,000 representatives are assembled, according to conference reports. Trump has withdrawn the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate action, and he has rolled back Obama-era measures to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, saying they are too costly. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued this statement about it.
A diplomatic delegation led by a deputy assistant secretary of state was dispatched to the climate conference but it has posted no news since announcing itself on Nov. 30. A spokesman there told the Florida Phoenix by email that a statement is forthcoming.
“We will publish the U.S. national statement after our head of delegation reads it [to the conferees],” said James Dewey, representing Marcia Bernicat, deputy assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.
The Phoenix twice asked the spokesman Friday and Saturday to identify the members of the official U.S. delegation, but he did not do so.
Saying the United States needed to make a much bigger impression at the climate conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi convened an independent delegation of 15 elected members of Congress, including chairs of major committees in the House and Senate. Castor was a ranking delegate, being chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Her committee is working to reinstate the U.S. to the pledges it made in the 2015 Paris Agreement under President Obama.
The delegation attended the conference for three days last week and held a webcast press conference in Washington on Friday.
Delegate Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, said at that event that nothing could be as costly to Americans as making the climate unliveable. She said young people, including young Americans assembled at the conference without the support of the U.S. government, are working hard to develop solutions to problems they didn’t create.
“The people that made the difference were the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] — the young kids, the environmentalists, who are desperate to win, to do something that’s going to make a difference,” Dingell said, describing her key impressions of the climate conference.
“We have to stay at the forefront of innovation and technology. We’re not going to let China or India or any other country get ahead of it,” Dingell said. “It’s a competitive issue. It’s a jobs issue. And it’s for our future generations.”
The WMO and the UN are calling for emergency action to level-off the rate of emissions by next year and to add virtually no new carbon emissions, the greatest of the long-lived greenhouse gases, by 2050.
The conference continues this week in Madrid. World leaders are expected to announce their specific plans for drastically reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.