Climate Marchers Are Sending a Message to the Rest of the World

Trump should listen, too.

April 28, 2017

Marchers at the 2014 People's Climate March


Instead of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump will spend the weekend at a rally in Pennsylvania. This means that he’ll not only miss the traditional correspondents' dinner, but also an astounding sight that’ll take place outside the White House on Saturday. Tens of thousands of concerned citizens will march past, bearing signs and chanting slogans in support of climate action—and in fervent protest of the Trump administration’s shameful record of science denial.

Large-scale protests seem to rattle this president. A day after he was sworn in, more than two million women and men registered their disapproval and dissent in a string of linked Women’s Marches across the country. Trump seemed unable to process both the scale of the demonstrations and the intensity of the demonstrators; later that day, he sent out his newly appointed press secretary, Sean Spicer, to try and convince journalists that the crowds for the inauguration had been even bigger. (They weren’t, by a long shot.)

But even if Trump won’t witness the Peoples Climate March in person, I think we can safely assume he’ll get the message, one way or another. But will he heed it?

For the sake of our economy, air quality, oceans, seaside cities, crops, national security― basically for the future of life on earth as we know it―let’s hope so. But we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that he won’t. With that in mind, more and more people are unwilling to wait and see how this all plays out. Instead they’re demanding that serious, substantive action proceed immediately—with or without the blessing of this administration.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York who has become a leading advocate for helping cities build climate resilience, is one of them. In interviews related to his new book, Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet, he urges world leaders to ignore Trump’s bluster with regard to the Paris climate agreement—from which the president has repeatedly threatened to withdraw, even as his own advisers counsel him not to. Bloomberg said he wrote the book in large part to let world leaders know that they shouldn’t be taking their cues from the Trump administration on Paris—or on anything else related to climate, for that matter.

Welcome to Topsy-Turvy Trumpy Land, where public figures with respected international profiles feel compelled to assure our allies that they needn’t follow our lead: that the United States—for the time being, at least—has abdicated its traditional leadership role and ceded it to other, more responsible players on the world stage.

Bloomberg’s statements amount to a vote of no confidence in the president, who has done plenty to deserve it. Saturday, the day of the climate march, also happens to be the 100th day of the Trump administration: an admittedly arbitrary benchmark that will nevertheless inspire much analysis of the president’s accomplishments—or lack thereof. Frustrated by his own inability to rack up the big legislative victories he promised during the campaign, Trump has spent a fair chunk of his first 100 days issuing executive orders that allow him to appear decisive while sidestepping the long, difficult, debate-driven process by which our laws are crafted.

Just this week, for example, Trump signed an order directing the U.S. Department of the Interior to “review” national monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, a directive seen by many as the first step toward releasing these lands to the states—and ultimately to oil and gas companies. It’s an ugly bookend to last month’s executive order initiating the systematic rollback of President Obama’s climate policy, including his signature piece of climate action, the Clean Power Plan. One recent analysis of Trump’s actions projected that they will, if implemented, result in 900 megatons of greenhouse gas being added into the atmosphere every year by 2025, increasing the entire world’s annual carbon footprint by 2 percent.

Enter the tens of thousands of marchers descending upon Washington tomorrow. They will have two messages. Both are laced with righteous anger. Both are rooted in the firm knowledge that hesitating or reneging on climate action isn’t an option. And both messages will be very, very loud.

But only one of them will be directed at the president. The other one, significantly, will be directed at the rest of the world. That message, in effect, is this: The American people are with you, even if our current president isn’t. Stay the course—and know that we’ll be back on track and working right alongside you just as soon as we’re able. In the meantime, please don’t give up on us, or on the planet.

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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