Arnold Schwarzenegger joined a host of global leaders the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris to discuss climate change, saying: “it’s not science fiction, this battle is in the real world.”
The former Republican governor of California was speaking at the summit of conscience (COP21), hosted by French President Francois Hollande yesterday, where he said “the science is in”.
“The debate is over and the time for action is now. This is bigger than any movie, this is the challenge of our time. And it is our responsibility to leave this world a better place than we found it, but right now we are failing future generations.”
Schwarzenegger was joined by the likes of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, Prince Albert of Monaco, former president of Ireland and UN special envoy for climate change Mary Robinson and Irish President Michael D Higgins.
“This year alone we will dump 40bn tonnes of carbon emissions into our atmosphere,” said Schwarzenegger.
“The World Health Organization says that air pollution causes over seven million premature deaths every year and all over the world we can see flooding, monster storms, droughts and wildfires that are completely out of control.”
Big support for action
— Kofi Annan (@KofiAnnan) July 21, 2015
“Cities like New York and Venice will drown,” said Annan, who echoed a phrase attributed to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev talking about nuclear war in 1979: “climate change would leave the living envying the dead”.
“If action is not taken immediately my grandson will live in a world suffering heat waves, severe droughts and floods,” he said.
“We are on the brink of catastrophe, but the solution to the climate crisis cannot be left to governments alone… People are taking the lead and demanding change. We must not fail them.”
Only this week it was reported that a man from Kiribati, a central Pacific Island nation, lost his appeal in New Zealand that, if passed, would have seen him become the world’s first climate change refugee.
Notably the court didn’t rule out climate change refugees entirely, claiming its decision should not be taken as ruling out the possibility of people being granted refugee status due to environmental degradation or climate change in the future.
An Irish touch
President Higgins warned that we may be the final generation with the tools to help combat the growing threat of climate change, saying that a failure to appropriately respond to the “scientific reality” of climate change could lead us down an irreversible path.
“We must begin with an acceptance of the evidence of science. It is now clear that failure to respond to the scientific reality of climate change may ultimately lead to the destruction of life on our planet,” he said.
Calling on society to “unequivocally reject” the position of people looking to obscure this scientific reality, Higgins said: “the first ethical test is in accepting that there can be no compromise with truth”.
Robinson, president of the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, asked people to act together to set us on a path to a safe world.
“Human solidarity, that is the key to igniting global will to act on the climate… People can act together to build a more resilient world, stabilise our climate, and create an unprecedented attack on global poverty and inequality.”
Main image of Arnold Schwarzenegger, via Steve Jurvetsone on Flickr