Though overshadowed in news headlines by a major hurricane in the Atlantic and a super-typhoon in the Pacific, both of which may well have been enhanced by climate change, the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco showed its own kind of force on Thursday. The summit began with a snarl—an environmental protest against Gov. Jerry Brown’s policies on oil and gas development in California and nearby construction collaborated to pile up summiteers waiting to be processed into the Moscone Center—but then smoothly flexed its star power.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called Brown “an early visionary” on combating climate change, an effort that in California, she said, “is not an issue; it is an ethic.” Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg dealt with the protesters via a quip: “Only in America could you have environmentalists protest an environmental conference.” Then he noted that the real action on climate change in the United States has come from state and city governments, noting that last year US carbon dioxide emissions fell to their lowest level in 25 years.
Harrison Ford made an impassioned plea for action on climate change, and a bit later in the day, Alec Baldwin interviewed primatologist Jane Goodall for an episode of his WNYC podcast, “Here’s the Thing.” The subject was the absolute need to preserve rain forests if climate change is to be checked, but the show-stoppers in the discussion involved banter between Baldwin and Goodall that somehow, toward the end of Goodall’s segment, converged on chimpanzees and President Trump, leading Baldwin to suggest the primatologist might do well on Saturday Night Live.
But for all the star power at the summit—which continues today with a presentation by former Vice President Al Gore—the summit also produced substantive commitments on Thursday. Seventeen US governors of both major parties pledged new spending to fight climate change, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that 27 major cities around the world had peaked their carbon emissions in the last five years and sent them into steep decline.
To remind the stars of government and Hollywood of the generational stakes of climate change, Jamie Margolin, the 16-year-old founder of the group Zero Hour, will appear Friday morning on a panel named “Building a more just world through climate action.” Pacific Standard magazine has a nice interview with the high school junior that offers a stirring quote that might open some eyes on a Friday morning: “We’re not here to start the Communist Revolution. We’re here to say that not everything is for sale, and that the [summit] leaders need to listen to indigenous people, people of color, low-income communities, and immigrants, who have been paying the worst price for the climate crisis and have been victims of these systems.”