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Leonardo DiCaprio Addresses UN Climate Summit: ‘You Can Make History… Or Be Vilified By It’

Leonardo DiCaprio addressed world leaders assembled for the United Nations Climate Summit early Tuesday morning, urging them to take action to address “the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet.”

See his full speech here.

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William S. Burroughs | Graphite on Paper | 40x50cm

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William S. Burroughs

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The highest summit of Mount Kilimanjaro was once completely covered in ice. But since 1912, more than 80% of the mountain’s ice cover has melted, disappearing at an even faster rate in recent decades. Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s aerial photographs show how climate change has impacted the environment. He says, "It’s too late to be pessimistic — really too late. We have to be a part of the solution."

Watch his talk for more stunning photos »

Watch on sagansense.tumblr.com

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, your excellencies, ladies and gentleman, and distinguished guests.

I’m honored to be here today, I stand before you not as an expert but as a concerned citizen, one of the 400,000 people who marched in the streets of New York on Sunday, and the billions of others around the world who want to solve our climate crisis.

As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems.

I believe humankind has looked at Climate Change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that Climate Change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.

But I think we know better than that. Every week
, we’re seeing new and undeniable Climate Events, evidence that accelerated Climate Change is here now. We know that droughts are intensifying, our oceans are warming and acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from beneath the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.

None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact. The scientific community knows it, Industry and 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.

My Friends, this body - perhaps more than any other gathering in human history - now faces that difficult task. You can make history…or be vilified by it.

To be clear, 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. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.

I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

Now is our moment for action.

We need to put a price tag on carbon emissions, and eliminate government subsidies for coal, gas, and oil companies. We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy, they don’t deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny. For the economy itself will die if our eco-systems collapse.

The good news is that renewable energy is not only achievable but good economic policy. New research shows that by 2050 clean, renewable energy could supply 100% of the world’s energy needs using EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES, and it would create millions of jobs.

This is not a partisan debate; it is a human one. Clean air and water, and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is our moral obligation - if, admittedly, a daunting one.

We only get one planet. Humankind must become accountable on a massive scale for the wanton destruction of our collective home. Protecting our future on this planet depends on the conscious evolution of our species.

This is the most urgent of times, and the most urgent of messages.
Honored delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living.

But you do not.

The people made their voices heard on Sunday around the world and the momentum will not stop. And now it’s YOUR turn, the time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet… is now.

I beg you to face it with courage. And honesty. Thank you.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Addressing the 2014 U.N. Climate Change Summit. DiCaprio was recently named U.N. Messenger of Peace by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who participated in NYC’s Climate March on September 21, which brought in over 400,000 people.

Which countries are responsible for climate change?

Country sizes show the eventual CO₂ emissions from oil, coal and gas extracted each year. Many of these fuels are exported rather than used domestically, but arguably the countries extracting and selling fossil fuels bear a degree of responsibility for the resulting emissions.

See who is most vulnerable to global warming’s impacts »

As an actor, I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems. I believe humankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.

But I think we know better than that.
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In preparation for today’s UN Summit discussing climate change, its implications, and steps to tackle the problem, the People’s Climate March took place on Sunday, September 21st at locations around the world.

New York City’s march was said to have a turnout of over 400,000 making this the largest climate march in history. The indigenous people took the lead of this march as those that are most affected by climate change.

Among them was the Lakota People’s Law Project’s own Madonna Thunder Hawk who marched and spoke at the AIM-West UN Press Conference on Sept. 19th. At the press conference, Thunder Hawk kept her focus on the illegal taking of Lakota children by the state of South Dakota, “The state of South Dakota is still trafficking Lakota children. They get millions of dollars in federal money every year for their so-called child welfare services.” For a clip of Thunder Hawk’s presentation, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBypaR8QCf0&feature=youtu.be .

Please become a Member and donate to help the create structural change for the foster care program in South Dakota: http://lakotalaw.org/donate-new.

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Our lovely blue planet, the Earth, is the only home we know. Venus is too hot. Mars is too cold. But the Earth is just right, a heaven for humans. After all, we evolved here. But our congenial climate may be unstable. We are perturbing our poor planet in serious and contradictory ways. Is there any danger of driving the environment of the Earth toward the planetary Hell of Venus or the global ice age of Mars? The simple answer is that nobody knows. The study of the global climate, the comparison of the Earth with other worlds, are subjects in their earliest stages of development. They are fields that are poorly and grudgingly funded. In our ignorance, we continue to push and pull, to pollute the atmosphere and brighten the land, oblivious of the fact that the long-term consequences are largely unknown. A few million years ago, when human beings first evolved on Earth, it was already a middle-aged world, 4.6 billion years along from the catastrophes and impetuosities of its youth. But we humans now represent a new and perhaps decisive factor. Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.
— Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)

Read it all. And keep in mind, as we move forward with our lives beyond this important (and hopefully historic) moment in our developing history, that Carl would have not only been right alongside those protesting around the world for global climate action, he would have most certainly been one of the key featured speakers at the 2014 U.N. Climate Summit.

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