Paris Accord Protesters: 'We Need to Go to an Emergency War Footing Right Now'

Meet the activists calling for a declaration of an international emergency and a “WWII-scale mobilization” to stop climate change.

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Apr 25 2016, 6:58pm

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

You would have been hard pressed to find any naysayers inside the UN during the signing of the Paris climate accord last Friday in New York City. But if you had stepped just outside the UN doors, you would have had to pick your way through the bodies of the dozens of dissenters playing dead on the sidewalk to protest the ineffectual climate agreement.

"We were concerned there was going to be a lot of 'brightsiding' [unwarranted or naive positivity] around the Paris climate agreement," said Ezra Silk, deputy director of The Climate Mobilization, which protested the signing of the climate accord. "It's widely recognized that this agreement is not even close to what is needed... It doesn't really convey a sense of urgency [so] we wanted to sort of inject some reality into the discussion."

Climate Mobilization is a grassroots campaign calling for "World War II-scale mobilization" efforts to restore a safe climate. Like the UN Secretary General, who called the climate crisis a "race against time," the Climate Mobilization movement is also concerned with time—yet unlike Ban Ki-moon, Silk doesn't think we have anywhere near 80-odd years to put effective climate policy into place.

"We need to go on to an emergency war footing like right now ," said Silk. "The climate is already dangerous, we're already in an emergency. It is understood within the climate movement that this is the kind of approach that is needed. It's just considered politically unrealistic. Our goal is to change the political possibility."

"This is an existential emergency."

As detailed in a 50-page mobilization manifesto, the campaign is calling for a widespread social and industrial restructuring that will allow for a rapid transition to a sustainable way of life. As defined by the campaign, a mobilization is "a specific economic approach…characterized by large-scale deficit spending, sweeping command-and-control regulations, increased taxation in order to control inflation and re-direct private sector activity, and strong government controls over the distribution of raw materials and basic goods."

As a start, the Climate Mobilization movement is calling for an emergency transition to net zero greenhouse gases in the US by 2025 and globally by 2030. Yet even net zero global emissions is insufficient, says Silk. Beyond this, there is a need to work on reversing the process of climate change rather than simply maintaining the current global temperatures, which are already dangerously high. While Silk acknowledges that many have dismissed this timeline as pie in the sky, the demands aren't necessarily as crazy as they sound.

Recently, a study put out by a major energy think tank in the UK outlined how it was feasible to completely overhaul our national energy regimes within a decade, a timeline which former Vice President Al Gore has been demanding for years. A number of other climate change leaders have also issued calls for "wartime-like mobilization" in an open letter to Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao, and in various other venues.

"This is an existential emergency," said Silk. "There is a serious lack of leadership across society, including within the environmental movement. Ordinary people need to start seeing this as their responsibility because the leadership is just not happening right now. This is a matter of life and death, and it will become exponentially more so in the coming years."