People’s Climate March aims to be biggest rally yet on global warming

The People’s Climate March, scheduled for Sunday in New York and featuring everything from noisemakers to an ark, will take place just days before world leaders gather there to address global warming concerns at the UN Climate Summit.

Marc Schultz/The Daily Gazette/AP
Bill McKibben speaks on the SUNY Albany campus Tuesday. McKibben, who has written extensively on the impact of global warming, is the founder of the anti-carbon campaign group

More than 100,000 people are expected to attend the People’s Climate March in New York this weekend, a parade and protest that organizers hope will be the largest global rally yet to urge world leaders to act against climate change.

The massive march, which will include a modest Macy’s parade-like spectacle of floats and marching bands, will travel a similar route down Manhattan’s Central Park West on Sunday. A moment of silence will interrupt the parade at 1 p.m., organizers say, but it will be followed by a “great big noise” from marchers and local churches, which have pledged to ring their bells.

“Own a trumpet? Bring it. Own a vuvuzela? Definitely bring it,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of, a Brooklyn-based activist organization against climate change, which helped organize the march. “Whistles, drums, tin cans, vocal cords – we're going to make a noise that will echo down over the eons,” Mr. McKibben, author of several books on climate change, wrote in a Huffington Post piece.

Organized by dozens of labor, religious, and environmental groups from the political left and sponsored by more than 1,400 other organizations from across the globe, the People’s Climate March is scheduled to take place just days before world leaders, including President Obama, gather in New York for the United Nations Climate Summit, which convenes Tuesday.

The goal of the summit, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who announced this week he planned to attend the march, is to set a framework for another global agreement to reduce carbon emissions, which leaders hope will take place next year in another global summit in Paris.

“When the secretary-general invited world leaders to this summit, all of us in the climate justice movement thought, ‘Left to their own devices, these guys will do the same thing they’ve done for 25 years – i.e., nothing,’ ” McKibben told The New York Times. “So we thought, we better go to New York, too.”

This week, residents from New York’s Rockaways neighborhood, devastated by superstorm Sandy in 2012, worked to put together a 30-foot inflatable life preserver to parade down Manhattan streets on Sunday. Immigrant artists also constructed a giant papier-mâché tree being chopped with axes, and religious leaders worked to assemble a giant ark to symbolize ever-rising sea levels, the Times reported.

Organizers say that marches will also take place in other cities around the globe this weekend as world leaders are set to convene in New York.

“The goal is not just to be the largest climate march in history but also to be the most diverse,” said Caroline Murray, the field director for the event. “Traditionally, you think of climate change as the cause of more traditional environmental groups, but this is a much broader array of activists.”

More than two-thirds of Americans believe there is “solid evidence” the earth is getting warmer, according to a Pew Research Center survey this year. Of these, two-thirds also believe this warming is caused by human activities – though there is a deep partisan divide on the issue.

Even so, global warming ranked second to last on a list of 20 priorities for the president and Congress this year, Pew reported. And Americans are far less concerned about the issue than people in other countries.

But with forecasts predicting a warm and sunny afternoon on Sunday, many climate activists and scientists hope a massive turnout could spur a larger movement.

“I think the best scenario is that a million people show up and they feel they accomplish something important,” Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, told the Los Angeles Times. “That creates momentum that ultimately keeps them engaged in the issue.”

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