California Forum

Ed Begley Jr.: People’s Climate March will speak loudly to world leaders

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a keen interest in science. My dad got me a chemistry set, and then an erector set, and they instantly became my most cherished possessions.

And though I’ve never sought a career in the sciences, I long have been drawn to experts in various scientific disciplines and have come to the conclusion that I’m not alone. Most Americans love science.

It’s for that reason that I think we all should look at climate science and encourage our leaders to stop ignoring the facts of climate change and act to address it.

What the science tells us is clear. And while I am happy to repeat it each time I trot myself out into the media, the only way we as Americans are going to get our leaders to fix the climate crisis is to trot ourselves out and demand they look at the science and act before it is too late.

The People’s Climate March on Sunday in New York will be a unique opportunity for all of us to do exactly that. It’s a chance to get out on the streets and demand climate action. And the science shows it will be well worth the effort.

When thousands of the world’s most highly respected scientists got together to look at all the information available on climate change, more than 98 percent of them agreed that climate change is real. They conclude it is caused by human activity, and, without a change in the way we do things, it will cause irreversible problems to our wonderful planet.

To put that staggering number in perspective, the science community is more certain that climate change is man-made than they are that smoking increases the likelihood you get cancer.

If we look at global warming through the lens of its most literal definition, there’s no question we are nearing a tipping point. The period covering 1983-2012 was very likely the warmest 30-year period in 800 years, and likely the warmest of the past 1,400 years.

Climate change is impacting people here and now, but the consequences will be even worse in the future if action is not taken. Therefore, the focus must be on ensuring comprehensive government action that averts the worst impacts of climate change.

The science is about as clear as it gets, but action from people in a position to do something about climate change has been as muddled as ever. We can’t give our leaders a free pass in science class. We can’t let them ignore the facts.

Scientists say if we don’t do anything now, we will be more exposed to extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, the drought that has been crippling California and Texas and sea-level rise that could make Miami disappear.

Politics and the planet should not be in opposition to one another. By taking part in the People’s Climate March, we have the chance to show our leaders that we will support them in taking bold action to address climate change.

Climate change is real, but so is our power. We just need to show it. The People’s Climate March is taking place two days before the United Nations Leaders Summit on Climate Change brings heads of state together to sort out how to cut planet-warming carbon emissions as well as outline how to address the climate change impacts we can’t avoid.

It will take leadership to begin shifting our planet away from resources that pour massive amounts of carbon emissions into our atmosphere. Science shows us those emissions have to be greatly reduced if we are to avoid a shock to our planet; leadership can get us there.

It will take leadership to find ways to support some of the world’s most vulnerable people as they face the impacts of climate change firsthand. Science shows us that remote islands are likely to disappear, that crops will dry up and disease will become more rampant in a warming world. Leadership can help us prepare for this.

So let’s remind our leaders that we are watching their actions when it comes to climate change. If we act, they will listen. We gave these leaders their power. We can take it away.