by Laurie Dougherty

At the end of November people around the world will demonstrate to send this message to world leaders at the UN climate conference: Get off fossil fuels and on renewable energy.  In Salem please join 350 Salem OR on Sunday November 29  at I:00 pm at High and Court Streets downtown to walk to Riverfront Park for a short rally at 1:30 pm with speakers, music and art.

The one place that people will not rally is Paris where the talks begin on November 30.  After the recent tragic violence            there, despite months of planning for massive demonstrations by a broad international coalition, the French government prohibited those demonstrations.  Some low key activities will happen in Paris, but the absence of mass action in view of the delegates means that solidarity events are critical for telling the world’s governments to get serious about climate change before it’s too late.

Already we see the impacts.  2014 was the warmest year on record and 2015 is on track to break that record.  Seasons and ecosystems are getting out of sync with risks to agriculture, forests and wildlife habitat. Salmon are dying because rivers and streams are too low and too warm.  The snow pack, so valuable for winter recreation and for replenishing rivers in the summertime, is disappearing.  Warmer air evaporates more moisture, drying out the land.  When it rains, it pours that moisture out causing floods and landslides.  We see more fires lasting longer, spreading farther. That’s just here in the Pacific Northwest.  That’s with only what NASA calculates as 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit of warming (less than 1 degree Celsius) averaged over the whole world since the late 19th century.

Previously world governments agreed (but without effective plans) that 2 degrees C is the safe limit for a livable climate.  Less than half way there Arctic ice is diminishing, glaciers and ice caps are melting.  Coastal areas suffer worse storm surges, tidal flooding and salt water seeping into water tables. Island nations are falling into the rising seas and calling for more stringent global targets. Around the world people are demanding urgent action to protect our climate-dependent human habitat.

We’ll hear many acronyms: COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Countries are developing INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), plans for greenhouse gas reductions by each Party to COP21 of the UNFCCC, on and on.

What we want to hear is that government leaders understand the urgency of climate change. That they take serious steps to get off fossil fuels and on renewable energy. That it happens in a way that’s fair to low income people and countries who suffer the most from climate-related disasters yet have done the least to cause the problem; and fair to workers and communities that will have to transition to new economic realities.  It can be done.  Costs for renewable energy are falling and technology advancing.  The Solutions Project, based on research by Professor Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, shows state by state and country by country what resources are available using current technology to move to a 100% renewable energy system.

Nicolas Haeringer, lead campaigner in France for climate action organization 350.org, said:  “We need global solidarity more than ever right now, and that is, really, what this movement is all about. Even as climate change fans the flames of conflict in many parts of the world — through drought, displacement, and other compounding factors — a global movement that transcends borders and cultural differences is rising up to confront this common existential threat….There couldn’t be a more important time to work for climate justice, and the peace it can help bring.”

Laurie Dougherty is Coordinator of 350 Salem OR, local chapter of 350.org. She can be reached at salem.climate.activists@gmail.com

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