The ‘Forward on Climate’ protest drew some 40,000 demonstrators to Washington, DC, on Sunday. Although the press tended to cast it as mainly a rally against the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would allow export of Canadian oil produced from tar sands via the Gulf of Mexico, the rally was against policies that accelerate climate change in general.
The mover behind the rally is Bill McKibben, creator of 350.org, the campaign to get the atmosphere back to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide, since it is the most that is probably sustainable. We are now over 390 and going to 450, which will create an unbearably hot world, extreme sea level rises, and environmental instability. (The last time you got a 9 degrees F. / 5 degrees C. increase, millions of years ago, it produced 1200-year-long storms alternating with epochal droughts.)
The rally was intended to pressure President Obama to live up to his oral commitments in the State of the Union Address to making public policy that slows and reverses climate change.
Equally important, I believe, is for Obama to use the presidency as a bully pulpit to explain the dangers of climate change to people. He did some of that during Hurricane Sandy. But some appearances at places already devastated by the changes caused by our high-carbon civilization would be all to the good. His EPA is quietly closing coal plants over mercury pollution, but why not publicly campaign against mercury, and do an appearance with Richard Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX, who was crippled by eating fish. Likewise, pushing back against the idea that projects like Keystone would lower the price of gasoline or create jobs requires more than just denial. Showing the way the drought on the Mississippi River has actually put people out of work is equally important (severe weather is a climate-change effect).
Aljazeera English has a video report: