I stand before you, not as an expert, but as a concerned citizen.
One of the four hundred thousand 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 a poet, I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems. 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 all know better than that now. Every week we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, evidence that accelerated climate change is here, right now.
Droughts are intensifying, our ocean’s are acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events and the west Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets melting at unprecedented rates decades ahead of scientific projections. The scientific community knows it. Industry knows it. Governments know it. Even the United States military knows it.
The chief of the US 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 this difficult but achievable task.
You can make history or you will be vilified by it.
To be clear, this is not about just telling people to change lightbulbs or to buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries and our governments around the world taking decisive large-scale action. We need to put a price tag on carbon emissions and eliminate government subsidies for all oil, coal, and gas companies. 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. For the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse. This is not a partisan debate, it is a human one. Clean air and a livable climate area inalienable human rights and solving this crisis is not just a question of politics. It is a question of our own survival. But now it is your turn.
The time to answer humankind’s greatest challenge, is now. We beg of you to face it with courage and honesty.
This is a slightly paraphrased speech given at the UN Climate Summit by Leonardo DiCaprio on 23 September 2014 in New York