DiCaprio: not enough for individuals to make changes, governments and industry must do so as well
Actor, environmental activist, and recently named UN Messenger of Peace, Leonardo DiCaprio, spoke today to a UN Climate Summit. The summit, which is hosting the largest gathering of world leaders to address the crisis in five years, is meant to pave the way for a new climate agreement in Paris in 2015.
“As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems,” said DiCaprio, who on Sunday marched with 400,000 people in New York City demanding action on climate change.
“I believe that mankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away. But I think we know better than that.”
Pointing to the many impacts already documented by climate change, from rising temperatures to worsening droughts, and melting ice sheets to acidifying oceans, DiCaprio said, “None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact.”
“The scientific community knows it, industry knows it, governments know it, even the United States military knows it. The chief of the U.S. navy’s Pacific command, admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat.”
The Great Barrier Reef is threatened by global warming and ocean acidification, both caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
DiCaprio also noted that the problem had gone well beyond the power of individual citizens to solve it.
“This is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make,” he said. “This is now about our industries, and our governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.”
DiCaprio urged leaders to put a price-tag on carbon emissions and cut all government subsidies for fossil fuel producers, actions that scientists and experts have been pushing for years.
“We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy. They do not deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny,” he said, adding that, “the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse.”
This year’s Global Carbon Budget, released just before the summit, found that global carbon emissions rose 2.5 percent last year and are set to hit 40 billion tonnes this year, a new record. According to the report, at this rate the world will blow through its carbon budget in just 30 years. The budget counts how much more carbon can be burned before we are likely to warm 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a ceiling that the world’s governments have agreed on staying under.
“My friends, this body—perhaps more than any other gathering in human history—now faces this difficult, but achievable, task,” DiCaprio said. “You can make history or you will be vilified by it.”
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