Live Earth 2015: Can concerts for a cause make a difference?

Pharrell Williams and Al Gore are teaming up for an epic series of concerts to bring attention to climate change. Will it become a pivotal moment in the fight against global warming?

Michel Euler/AP
Former US Vice President Al Gore, left, and US singer Pharrell Williams, right, enjoy the view on the roof top of the Congress Center where the World Economic Forum takes place in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. The meeting runs Jan. 21 through 24 under the overarching theme "The New Global Context". (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

This June, musicians around the world will stand together with one voice and call for the governments of the world to address climate change.

Singer and producer Pharrell Williams, former Vice President Al Gore, and CEO and concert promoter Kevin Wall, will join forces to put on Live Earth 2015, a series of giant concerts on seven continents. The motivation behind the spectacle is to garner support for a binding agreement at the 2015 UN Climate Climate Change Conference in Paris at the end of the year. Williams described the concerts' purpose, saying, "we literally are going to have humanity harmonize all at once."

Large scale concerts-for-a-cause have captured the public's attention before, beginning with singer George Harrison's 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, and again with 1985's Live Aid. Musicians Bob Geldof and Mige Ure put together Live Aid as simultaneous concerts that took place in London's Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium to raise money for the ongoing Ethiopian famine. The concert also featured video feeds from other smaller concerts taking place in seven other cities

The concerts, which were broadcast via satellite link, were able to bring the event to an estimated 1.9 billion people worldwide across 150 countries, according to the New York Times. One of the event's organizers claimed in 2001 that the concert raised over $140 million for charity, according to CNN.

Twenty years later the world reunited for an even bigger international concert: Live 8. Geldof and Ure organized an eleven-city simultaneous concert with shows in Philadelphia; London; Johannesburg; Berlin; Paris; Toronto; Chiba, Japan; Edinburgh; Moscow; and Cronwell, England. Among the highlights from the concert was the reunion of Pink Floyd with former frontman Roger Waters for the first time since 1981 and Paul McCartney and Bono opening the Hyde Park concert with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Three billion people watched the concerts on television and 1.5 million were able to attend one of the concerts. 30 million people signed the text and web petition calling the governments that make up the G8 to increase their aid to Africa ahead of the G8 summit that summer in Edinburgh

These political goals were debt cancellation, increased government foreign aid and renegotiating trade deals to be less exploitive of African nations, according to the Live 8 website. Geldof counts Live 8 a success – G8 leaders pledged to double aid to poor countries, to $50 billion by 2010 – though some commitments have failed to materialize. Sadly, a lot of the public attention built up from the concerts will was short-lived because the London subway and bus bombings occurred two days after the concerts, on July 7, 2005. 

Geldof told the BBC at the time, "Getting mass media to focus on a particular problem is a very, very difficult thing to do and I think that was done amazingly," he says.

Live Earth 2015's message will attempt to unite the people of the world to call for addressing climate change. It remains to be seen how organizers will cover expenses for the concerts. World governments have agreed the global temperature needs to be stabilized, but a binding agreement on carbon emissions has remained elusive. 

"You would have pundits and comedians who didn’t understand global warming, and we were often ridiculed," Williams told Rolling Stone. "We wanted to do something very different this time."

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