Kentuckians joined politicians, celebrities, labor unions, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and about 400,000 other people in New York City this weekend to demand action on climate change. The People’s Climate March was meant to draw attention to the communities that have already been affected by the world’s changing climate, and to spur world leaders into action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Smaller marches were also held around the world yesterday, including one in Louisville that organizers said drew 150 people.
Climate scientists say that global temperatures are on track to rise by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, if carbon dioxide emissions keep increasing. In order to keep the warming to a more manageable 3 to 5 degrees, swift action to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions is necessary.
One of the featured speakers at the New York march was Stanley Sturgill, a retired coal miner from Harlan County. He spoke about the way coal mining and climate change have affected his community.
In eastern Kentucky we have been suffering the early effects of climate change for more than a hundred years. We have dug the coal that has generated the electricity that has powered this country. But we’ve paid in miles of destroyed streams, in our health, and in our declining economy, including thousands of jobs lost in recent months.
I am here because our political leadership has failed us. In Kentucky, they have allowed the coal companies to blow up our mountains, and destroy our rivers and streams. I am here to call on them and on our world leaders to hear that those of us at the frontlines of the crisis are at the forefront of change.
The march was timed to coincide with the United Nations climate summit, which begins in New York tomorrow. World leaders—including President Barack Obama—will meet to discuss an international carbon emissions agreement.