Now that the Super Bowl is over and we can hopefully forget about deflategate, the next big TV event is the Oscars on Feb. 22. This year we're using the "Oscar buzz" to help highlight the great work that celebrities are doing to fight climate change.
There are millions of people all over the world taking action to fight climate change, but an endorsement from a celeb never hurts. Since the UN just confirmed 2014 the hottest year on record and with the Paris climate talks in December, these celebrities are sure to continue to demand climate action now.
Daryl Hannah is a longtime climate activist, putting her body on the line and getting arrested five times during protests for mountaintop removal, fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline. Her website, dhlovelife.com, helps share solutions on how to live more harmoniously with the planet and all other living things. Hannah works closely with indigenous peoples—those who have already been negatively impacted by Alberta tar sands extraction and those who will be if the Keystone XL pipeline is approved.
Mark Ruffalo has been an outspoken advocate against fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, and in favor of a 100 percent renewable energy future. In September, he participated in the People's Climate March and promoted 11-year-old Itzcuauhtli who took a 45-day vow of silence demanding climate action. In September, Ruffalo appeared on The Climate Reality Project's 24 Hours of Reality.
Leonardo DiCaprio is the UN Messenger of Peace and with good reason. He has been advocating for action on climate change for years. Before wanting to be an actor, DiCaprio says he dreamt of being a marine biologist. In October, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donated $2 million to toward marine conservation and ocean protection projects. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called DiCaprio "a new voice for climate advocacy." DiCaprio was a featured speaker at the UN Climate Summit in New York City in September. Watch here as he delivers a powerful speech at this year's Our Ocean conference.
Along with Farm Aid and Harvest for Hope concerts last year, Neil Young also took a strong stance against GMOs in 2014. When Starbucks teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont over its GMO labeling law, Young publicly announced his boycott of Starbucks. Watch Neil Young sing a duet with Stephen Colbert of his song, "Who's Going to Stand Up?"
Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival just wrapped up last weekend, and the famed actor and director took the opportunity to sit down with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! to talk about pressing environmental issues. He stressed that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground, Keystone XL is a bad decision and renewable energy is the future.
Last fall, the old Texan crooner joined Neil Young in headlining a sold-out concert, Harvest for Hope, in Nebraska to protest the Keystone XL pipeline. The pair are not new to benefit concerts. Willie Nelson and Young have spearheaded Farm Aid Concerts since 1985 with proceeds going to small farmers. Nelson also voiced his opposition to mountaintop removal in 2014 with a video in which he sings "America the Beautiful" over the horrific images of mountaintop mining.
Jason Mraz joined artists such as Michael Franti, Maroon 5, Linkin Park and Guster to voice his opposition to illegal logging. The artists partnered with the Environmental Investigation Agency and REVERB to urge consumers of musical instruments to find out where their wood comes from. Mraz has been active in the environmental movement for years. Last September, he participated in The Climate Reality Project's 24 Hours of Reality to promote taking action on climate change.
That's right, Elaine from Seinfeld is an environmental activist. When she's not acting as the funniest vice president ever on Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is an advocate for the planet. She has been an outspoken opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline and appeared in a video which urged President Obama to reject the proposal. She has donated millions to various environmental organizations and worked to get Proposition O passed, thus allocating $500 million for cleaning up Los Angeles’ water supply.
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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