This weekend, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world are marching, protesting, and acting creatively in solidarity to demand bold solutions that will actually curb climate change now and for future generations. This movement includes Santa Barbara. On Sunday, December 13, concerned citizens of Santa Barbara County will rally at noon at the downtown courthouse and march down State Street towards Stearns Wharf. Anyone is welcome to participate and express their worries and hopes, and show our community that climate change is both a global and a local challenge that we can’t ignore.
After the march, there will also be a participatory, artistic action near the ocean demonstrating what a future water line in our city could look like, if we don’t change course. The community is invited to take part in this safe, interactive experience. Indeed, we will need volunteers to help us hold 3,000 feet of high-visibility blue ribbon as a temporary depiction of what’s at stake in just our town alone. What if all of our beaches disappear and marine life continues to decline due to dramatic shifts in ocean and coastal environments? What if droughts get harder and longer and, paradoxically, the rains we do get are heavier, intensify erosion, and create other kinds of expensive damage?
The timing of all these global protests is not accidental. Right now, 40,000 world leaders, journalists, diplomats, and others are gathered in Paris for COP21, a summit to limit the devastating effects of climate change. That sounds like a good thing, right? Well, consider this: Since these talks began in the ’90s global carbon emissions have increased over 60 percent, according to the Global Carbon Project. Also, COP21 is sponsored in part by major fossil fuel companies themselves, which are, literally, monetarily invested in extracting all their reserves. Activists in Paris have attempted to point out the hypocrisy, but new security measures have allowed French authorities to swiftly silence these messages and other protests.
As Bill McKibben points out, 2 degrees C of global temperature rise is considered the tipping point, beyond which the impacts of climate change become more dangerous and unpredictable by orders of magnitude. Just a month ago, we reached and increase of one degree of warming since the dawn of the Industrial Age, and we show no sign of slowing down. This should give us pause, considering that climate change is already having dramatic impacts around the world. Santa Barbara, like many places, is experiencing historic droughts and successive years of record-setting temperatures. Clearly, weather is not the same as climate, but the patterns of the former hint at the latter. Then, consider this: currently, the world’s oil reserves are enough to raise the planet’s temperature more than 10° C, and according to the imperatives of our current economy, it must all be burned.
By Sunday, we will know the results of the summit, which is scheduled to wrap up on Friday. Many are hopeful, but from what we’ve seen, we can expect lots of high rhetoric that ultimately kicks the can perilously down the road. This is what we won’t stand for. This is why we march. Join us! There is little an individual can do in the face of such an existential challenge, so do what you can — add your voice to the growing chorus.