8 Reasons to Be Hopeful About Our Climate Future
2015 may be on track to become the warmest year on record, but the people’s climate movement has been heating up just as fast. At the end of this year, world leaders will gather in Paris for a major international climate conference—and people around are taking action to show these leaders it’s time for serious change.
With more than 2,000 events on six continents, the 2014 People's Climate March marked the largest rally for climate action in history. Photo credit: Light Brigading / Creative Commons
Here are just some of the ways the people’s climate movement has been showing its game face and winning victories over the past 12 months.
1. Where It All Began: The Largest Climate Protest the World Has Ever Seen
Last September, 400,000 people gathered in New York City and around the globe for the first ever People’s Climate March. While the march was certainly not the beginning of the climate movement, it was the first time that it became known as a people’s movement, led by the frontline communities most directly impacted. Global climate change disproportionately affects communities of color. In the U.S., 68 percent of African Americans live within thirty miles of a coal plant, where they are exposed to myriad negative health effects.
A Greenpeace activist leads a delegation advocating protection for the Arctic at the 2014 People’s Climate March. Photo credit: Greenpeace / Michael Nagle
Rebranding the fight as a people’s movement has prompted environmentalists to start talking less about polar bears and more about the people who are affected by climate change every day.
2. Under Pressure From the Public, President Obama Vetoes the Keystone XL Pipeline Bill
Years ago, it seemed like few had even heard of the Keystone XL Pipeline. But these days, most can tell you that it continues to be one of the top environmental issues. And this past February, President Obama sided with the scores of Americans who oppose it by vetoing a bill that would have begun its construction.
While the President has yet to fully reject the Keystone XL Pipeline, this veto was a big step in the right direction—and showed the power of people to influence our leaders. A Keystone rejection may not be far away, either; reports indicate that TransCanada, the pipeline company behind the project, is bracing for Obama’s final word on KXL.
3. People Power Is Fueling Local Climate Victories
Without a doubt, organizing has led to some major climate wins for cities, counties and states. One great example is New York’s historic ban on fracking. After years of being confronted by “fractivists” at his public events and receiving hundreds of thousands of public comments, Governor Cuomo finally succumbed to public pressure and issued a statewide ban. Not long after New York, Maryland followed suit by passing a 2.5 year fracking moratorium.
And the clean energy victories keep coming!
Once known as “king coal,” the dying coal industry has taken a huge hit this year, thanks in large part to local organizing efforts to shut down coal plants. And just last week, Hawaii’s governor decided to make the switch to 100 percent renewable energy.
4. Arctic Drilling Activists Reach New Heights
This year, the movement to stop Arctic drilling got courageous—and colorful. First, six activists occupied Shell’s drilling rig, the Polar Pioneer, for several days as it crossed the Pacific Ocean. The rig was headed to Seattle for maintenance and it was met by a giant “unwelcome party” when it arrived.
Rallies continued on land and on water as the ship was in port. Finally, as the rig attempted to leave port for the Arctic at the break of dawn, dozens of “kayaktivists” got in the water and attempted to stop the rig using only their boats and their bodies.
Then in late July, Shell had to return a damaged vessel to port in Portland, Oregon. But it was met by an obstruction when it tried to leave: activists had suspended themselves from the St. Johns Bridge, making it impossible for the vessel to safely pass. The protest stalled the vessel for roughly 40 hours and delayed Shell’s time-sensitive Arctic drilling plans as the world watched.
After 40 hours, the last activist has now come down from the St. Johns Bridge in Portland. While all the activists are tired and hot, they are filled with gratitude for amazing support from the #Portland community -- and for everyone around the world that joined with them to protest Arctic drilling. They couldn't do this without YOU! These activists came to block Shell for as long as possible, and that's what they did. Now eyes around the world are on Shell's risky drilling plans. Can you take action at the link in our bio -- and share it with your friends? #pdxvsshell #greenpeace #activism #peoplepower #shellno
A photo posted by Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) on
5. Pope Francis' Encyclical Highlights Climate Change as a Moral Issue
Arguably one of the most influential people in the world, Pope Francis is changing the conversation on climate. With an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, his reach is vast—and in the last year, he has spoken out about climate change more than ever.
In June, the Pope released his Laudato Si, insisting that climate change is caused by humans and drawing attention to how it disproportionately affects the poor. The release of this encyclical reframed the international conversation on climate as a moral one and received support from hundreds of American ministers.
— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) June 20, 2015
The Pope’s leadership on this issue is already having a vast impact and it’s only growing. Next month, the Pope will visit Washington, DC to address Congress, which has thus far done very little to address or even acknowledge our warming world.
6. Renewable Energy Becomes More Affordable Than Ever
In the last month, wind power hit an all-time price low and solar power became cheaper than natural gas. With clean energy becoming more affordable, utilities, businesses and families across the U.S. are making the switch to save their pocketbooks, as well as the climate.
Another great development for renewables came earlier this year, when Tesla released its 450 volt Powerwall, making it easier than ever for homeowners to store energy that they harnessed from the sun. This innovation has been widely described as a game changer for the solar industry.
7. President Obama’s EPA Rolls Out the Clean Power Plan
In his biggest move yet for the climate, President Obama issued the Clean Power Plan, which will lead to significant reductions in emissions from power plants. The plan on its own is not nearly enough, but it is a big step in the right direction for our climate.
President Obama has spoken out often about the urgent need to address climate change—saying that "our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind." And his Clean Power Plan is the largest step he’s made to back up those words. But he’s also contradicted himself by opening up the Arctic to offshore drilling. In order to secure his legacy on climate change, Obama will need to commit to keeping dirty fossil fuels, like coal and Arctic oil, in the ground.
8. The Next Big Moment in the People’s Climate Movement
This past year has reinforced that when people speak up on climate, leaders listen. With the Paris talks just two months away, environmentalists have another great opportunity to make our voices heard.
That’s why this October, people around the world will take part in a giant day of action on climate change. But it won’t have an effect unless hundreds of thousands of people get involved. Organize an event in your community, or find one in your area!
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By Jan Ellen Spiegel
It wasn't so long ago that the issue of climate change was poised to play a huge – possibly even a decisive – role in the 2020 election, especially in the race for control of the U.S. Senate. Many people supporting Democratic candidates saw a possible Democratic majority as a hedge against a potential Trump re-election … a way to plug the firehose spray of more than 100 environmental regulation rollbacks and new anti-climate initiatives by the administration over its first term.
Potential Climate Voters<p>In a September 1 memo on climate and the election, Andrew Baumann, vice president of the consultants Global Strategy Group, wrote: "Few issues have seen as dramatic a shift in public opinion as climate change has over the last few years. Only marriage equality and the recent shift in views around racial justice outpace the rapid growth in the salience of climate change as an issue."</p><p>Calling it a "winning political issue" the memo says: "First, it is clearly a motivator for both younger and Latinx voters. Second, it has the power to move swing voters, particularly center-right white women."</p><p>Baumann points to a finding that when a group of such women were asked generic ballot questions, Democrats trailed by nine percentage points. But when the question was revised as a choice between:</p><p>"A Democrat who supports taking strong government action to combat climate change.<br>A Republican who opposes taking strong government action to combat climate change."</p><p>… the result was a 29 percentage point shift, putting Democrats ahead by 20 percentage points among that same group.</p><p>"I think it is playing a role," says Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, a longtime outspoken climate activist who is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and also on the Senate Democrats' Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. If Democrats win back the Senate, he stands to play an even more pivotal climate role as part of the majority. He is not up for re-election this year.</p><p><span></span>"I think from the Democratic side it's playing a role in generating enthusiasm – particularly making younger voters feel that they have a real stake in this election. On the Republican side, I think things have moved enough that candidates can no longer get away with simply scoffing about climate change."</p>
Climate a Top Concern for Youths, Latinx<p>So who's still thinking climate? Mostly young voters – 18 to 25 or 29 and Latinx voters.</p><p>Climate and the environment are the top concern among young voters, just above racism and healthcare according to <a href="https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/poll-young-people-believe-they-can-lead-change-unprecedented-election-cycle" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CIRCLE</a>, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, which focuses on the political life of young people in the U.S. For Latinx youth, it drops a bit but remains in the top three.</p><p>The issues young people care about have an impact on how they volunteer their time, says Kristian Lundberg, an associate researcher at CIRCLE. He says that's played out most notably through the Sunrise Movement, which focuses on climate change and the environment along with other key activist groups such as Black Lives Matter and March for Our Lives.</p><p>He points to polling this summer that showed that 83% of 18-to-29-year-olds felt they had the power to change things. "Young people feel much more empowerment than in 2016 and 2018," Lundberg says. "It's intentional these movements are carving out space for young people. It's an important strategy."</p><p>In positions of power in these organizations, young people have developed peer-to-peer outreach on activism. And Lundberg says young people have made the leap that connects activism to voting as a lever for change. "In the past in very close races, young people breaking heavily have provided the margin of victory," he says.</p><p>CIRCLE is highlighting 10 U.S. Senate races as ones in which young voters can be decisive. Several of them have notable climate or environmental components – most prominently the Colorado and Montana races.</p><p>The Republican incumbents in each state – Cory Gardner in Colorado and Steve Daines in Montana – are running against a popular Democratic governor – John Hickenlooper in Colorado, now out of office — and Steve Bullock, still the governor of Montana. Both governors have had to balance their state's fossil fuel economic interests with supporting climate change solutions.</p>
Tying Climate Change to the Economy<p>In August, Data for Progress, a progressive research think tank, released polling on climate change – including in the battleground Senate elections in Arizona, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina – showing voters back a Senate candidate supporting strong climate action.</p><blockquote>Climate change as 'mobilizing issue … key persuasion issue.'<br></blockquote><p>It also showed that linking climate change to the economy may be key. That means talking about clean energy and jobs together, says Danielle Deiseroth, climate data analyst for <a href="https://circle.tufts.edu/latest-research/poll-young-people-believe-they-can-lead-change-unprecedented-election-cycle" target="_blank">Data for Progress</a>. She says that in addition to jobs, climate change issues include climate justice and economic equality – both of heightened interest because of fallout from western wildfires.</p><p>"Climate change, we've observed over the last year or so, is a key mobilizing issue and a key persuasion issue," she says. "Climate issues can only grow support for Democratic candidates.</p><p>"I think it's pretty naive to say climate is the key issue for voters. For a lot of voters it really exemplifies so many things that are wrong with the Trump presidency," Deiseroth says.</p><p>So a factor among others. Helpful, but pivotal only in narrow circumstances.</p><p>At the League of Conservations Voters, a progressive environmentalist organization putting a lot of money and effort into the 2020 races, Senior Director of Political Affairs Craig Auster says: "I'll push back that climate change doesn't matter or isn't registering."</p><p>"It's still showing up in several Senate races. It's been playing a role in almost all of them."</p><p>Candidates are still talking about it, he says, pointing to Colorado, Montana, Iowa, and other states where ads are addressing climate and environmental issues. That shows the candidates believe their opponent is vulnerable on the issue or they're strong on it, he says.</p><p>Like others, Auster calls climate a motivator.</p><p>"Climate change matters," he says. "We have proof point after proof point about what's happening, whether it's a hurricane, a superstorm, derechos in Iowa, or wildfires out west.</p><p>"Pre-COVID it was top tier for Democratic voters along with healthcare. If COVID didn't happen I think climate would be a big deal."</p>
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By Gudrun Heise
Just as scientists are scoring successes in coronavirus research, new problems are on their way. Fall is with us and winter is around the corner, so the season for colds and flu has begun — joining COVID-19.
Influenza Vaccination<p>A flu vaccination may thus be able to narrow down the diagnostic options when flu-like symptoms occur, but whether such a vaccination also has an influence on the behavior of the dangerous new virus is — like so much else — not clear. "It is conceivable that there is an indirect effect. But it is, I believe, a matter of speculation whether it has an immunological effect in the narrower sense," says Krause.</p><p>Every winter, doctors' waiting rooms are full of people who are coughing and sniffing but who mostly turn out to have only a severe respiratory infection. According to current knowledge, the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is also likely to be subject to seasonal fluctuations. </p><p>In winter, cold viruses, at least, flourish because cold and dry air offers ideal conditions for their spread. In addition, it becomes more difficult to air rooms regularly and intensively — an important further measure to counteract the coronavirus and contain to some extent the danger posed by aerosols.</p><p>According to the <a href="https://www.rki.de/DE/Home/homepage_node.html" target="_blank">Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health agency</a>, between 5% and 20% of people in Germany become infected with flu viruses every year. These viruses are also dangerous and can be fatal. The flu vaccination must be adapted to the influenza viruses every year, because they mutate. But at least there is a vaccination.</p><p>Most experts agree that there is unlikely to be a vaccine against the coronavirus by the time the next wave of influenza comes around. And even if a vaccine were to be approved, many unknowns remain.</p>
COVID-19 and Flu Simultaneously<p>For example, there is a lack of practical experience in dealing simultaneously with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza. It is possible to speculate that having influenza could facilitate the entry of the coronavirus into the human body. "The general weakening of the immune system during an influenza infection could increase the susceptibility of a patient to a SARS-CoV-2 infection," Krause says.</p><p>However, it is uncertain how dangerous this double infection could ultimately be and what can be done about it. Krause is of the opinion that we must arm ourselves against all three diseases — colds, flu and COVID-19. If we have a cold, bed rest, hot tea and cough medicine usually help. We can get vaccinated against flu. But how do we deal with COVID-19?</p><p><span></span>Probably people can only hope that if they get the illness, they will have a mild form with as few after-effects as possible. Here, it will certainly help to stick to suggested rules on hygiene to reduce or prevent our exposure to the virus. In an interview with DW, Bonn-based virology professor Hendrik Streeck made it clear that COVID-19 usually takes a more severe course when there is a high viral load at infection.</p>
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene<p>The same hygiene measures with which we are trying to get at least some kind of grip on COVID-19 also apply to influenza. The less we come into contact with viruses, the greater the chance that we will be spared an infection or that it will be mild.</p><p>These measures include general hygiene precautions such as frequent hand washing and the wearing of protective face masks. "The various hygienic measures against COVID-19 will also reduce the spread of influenza," says Krause. "Possibly, further connections of a more immunological nature will be discovered."</p><p>Let us hope that is the case, because the flu season hasn't even started.</p>
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