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Amid the swell of protesters demanding that California put an end to oil, and a police force growing irritated with their monotonous chanting (“I’m going to be singing that one in my sleep,” quipped one officer), the Global Climate Action Summit kicked off last week in San Francisco. The international gathering of climate activists, elected officials, and corporate leaders had come to the city’s George Moscone Center committed to holding the United States to the terms of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Trump and his administration be damned.
Much of the summit was simple corporate and government backslapping — noble but too easily mocked. What does it matter if General Electric presents its climate ideals when the company refuses to back down on plans for a new coal plant in Kenya? Starbucks might have banned plastic straws, but emissions still accumulate in the long lines at its many drive-throughs. And McDonald’s…really?
For protesters outside the fences, maintaining global temperature below the point-of-no-return threshold means that, in some cases, entire industries have to be shut down. “We have to keep 80 percent of the fossil-fuel reserves that we know about underground,” the noted author and climate warrior Bill McKibben has written. “If we don’t—if we dig up the coal and oil and gas and burn them—we will overwhelm the planet’s physical systems, heating the Earth far past the red lines drawn by scientists and governments.”
The problem with that…