Climate forum seeks to save a resistant world

World leaders will descend on New York for the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September as millions of activists prepare for a global climate strike on 20 September and the media partnership Covering Climate Now launches its large-scale collaboration to increase coverage and focus public attention on this emergency.

“Renewable energy offers new job opportunities and is crucial to creating more sustainable and inclusive communities,” said New Jersey Democrat Lisa McCormick, who is an optimist confident about the prospect of action. “We only have a decade to get serious, as a bombshell report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found last year.”

Realists are expressing doubt that humanity is willing to accept the responsibility for fixing a problem that is entirely man-made.

“At a time when civilization is accelerating toward disaster, climate silence continues to reign across the bulk of the US news media,” wrote Covering Climate Now co-founders Mark Hertsgaard of the Nation and Kyle Pope, editor in chief of Columbia Journalism Review. “Especially on television, where most Americans still get their news, the brutal demands of ratings and money work against adequate coverage of the biggest story of our time.”

Public attention is insufficient to address the problem, but even actors who say they know the matter is urgent propose solutions doomed to fall short because effective measures demand courage.

“Communities across the country are suffering from historic flooding, raging wildfires, increasingly severe storms, extreme heat, and persistent droughts,” said Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat who is the House Energy and Commerce chairman. “The climate crisis is here, and it requires serious federal leadership that’s up for the challenge.”

“Pallone and Democratic leaders are right that this is a crisis,” said Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash. “But by setting a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 here in the United States, they’re not acting like it.”

Pallone is one of many Democratic leaders who, like Republicans, are being paid by the fossil fuel industry to stand against the plan for the United States to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Pallone, who was instrumental in killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution to create a Select Committee on the Green New Deal, has taken in hundreds of thousands of dollars from polluting industries.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who famously called the Green New Deal the “green dream or whatever” — and her top lieutenants reportedly collected $790,000 from fossil fuel interests such as oil, gas and electric utilities during the past two years.

Pallone announced on July 23 a watered-down rival climate measure that will legislate a 100 percent decarbonization of the economy by 2050, a time span a mere 20 years too late to avoid climate catastrophe.

Pallone received $178,000 from energy and natural resources interests during the last election cycle, when he defeated Democrat Javahn Walker in the primary with 86 percent of the vote and won the general election with almost 64 percent over Republican Rich Pezzullo.

Next year, Pallone expects a primary challenge from lawyer Russ Cirincione, Walker and possibly other progressives hoping to emulate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 victory over a top establishment leader.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change, but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society.

To boost ambition to meet the climate challenge and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General António Guterres will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September.

The summit will showcase a leap in collective national political ambition and it will demonstrate massive movements in the real economy in support of the agenda.

Together, these developments will send strong market and political signals and inject momentum in the “race to the top” among countries, companies, cities and civil society that is needed to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sunrise Movement has been called an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America but their effort is taking on an entrenched establishment that has been girded by massive amounts of money unleashed by courts and a Congress that seems unconcerned about corruption or the climate crisis.

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