By Agence France-Presse
A climate protest rolling across the world’s time zones Saturday peaked in San Francisco, where thousands marched in a bid to shame political leader into stepping up action on global warming.
In a festive, sun-soaked atmosphere, demonstrators from across the state and country set out from the city’s Embarcadero Plaza beating drums and carrying handmade banners and posters.
The dominant message was two-fold: speed up transition to a world powered by renewable energy rather than planet-warming fossil fuels, and protect the people most vulnerable to climate-addled weather, including droughts, heatwaves and superstorms.
Several slogans were barbs from the heart of Blue America pointed at Washington.
“Alternative Energy, not Alternative Facts,” read one, while another — more blunt — said: “More Science, Less Bullshit.”
“Defend democracy: impeach Putin’s poodle,” read a third, taking aim squarely at US President Donald Trump, who opted out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate treaty and has moved aggressively to dismantle the climate policies of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Many participants were demonstrating for the first time.
“We’re not really the protesting kind,” said Mariko Eastman, 65, speaking also for her husband Dick, 81. “But for this, we had to come out. There is too much at stake.”
‘Keep fossil fuels in ground’
“Climate change is not a niche topic anymore,” said Payal Parekh, program director for 350.org, an umbrella organiZation for hundreds of activist groups worldwide.
“More and more people are seeing how the fossil fuel industry is ultimately responsible for the climate crisis,” he told AFP.
“Fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground.”
California — by some estimates the fifth largest economy in the world — has committed ambitious goals for slashing carbon dioxide emissions over the next three decades.
Governor Jerry Brown leads a coalition of subnational regions and cities also taking aggressive climate action. Many will be represented next week in the port citty at the Global Climate Action Summit.
But within his own state, Brown has come under attack for allowing the expansion of natural gas and oil extraction under his watch.
“Normally a pragmatic visionary, Governor Brown has failed to reconcile to key climate facts: California is a major oil producer and climate science demands that we phase out oil and gas,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, a major conservation group.
The protests in San Francisco and elsewhere are unfolding as United Nations climate talks struggle to breathe life into the Paris Agreement, which enjoins nations to cap the rise in global temperatures at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).
“If national governments are not willing to do the work necessary to stop greenhouse gas emissions… then others are willing to fill the gap,” said Parekh.
Global climate march organizers said some 450 grassroots groups held nearly 1,000 events across more than 90 countries.