Climate Protesters March on New York, Calling for End to Fossil Fuels

Somini Sengupta, Hilary Howard and Delger Erdenesanaa | September 17, 2023 | The New York Times

Tens of thousands of people, young and old, filled the streets of Midtown Manhattan under blazing sunshine on Sunday to demand that world leaders quickly pivot away from fossil fuels dangerously heating the Earth.

Their ire was sharply directed at President Biden, who arrived in New York Sunday night for several fund-raisers this week and to speak before the United Nations General Assembly session that begins Tuesday.

“Biden, you should be scared of us,” Emma Buretta, 17, a New York City high school student and an organizer with the Fridays for Future movement, shouted at a rally ahead of the march. “If you want our vote, if you don’t want the blood of our generations to be on your hands, end fossil fuels.”

The Biden administration has shepherded through the United States’ most ambitious climate law and is working to transition the country to wind, solar and other renewable energy. But it has also continued to approve permits for new oil and gas drilling, in most instances because it was required by law.

That has enraged many of Mr. Biden’s traditional supporters, as well as politicians on the left flank of the Democratic Party, who want him to declare a climate emergency and block any new fossil fuel production.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, drew applause at the end of the march when she described climate action as “an electoral and a popular force that cannot be ignored.”

While the protesters suggested their support for Mr. Biden in 2024 would depend on more aggressive climate action, none of the Republican candidates running to replace him plan to cut the country’s emissions and several want to encourage more drilling. The front-runner, former President Donald Trump, scoffs entirely at the idea that the planet is warming.

A White House spokesman cited last year’s landmark climate law as evidence of Mr. Biden’s commitment to fight global warming. “President Biden has treated climate change as an emergency — the existential threat of our time — since day one,” the spokesman said.

Sunday’s protest aimed at stopping fossil fuels suggested a more focused target on the part of climate advocates, who have grown increasingly frustrated by the continued expansion of drilling and mining. The industry has argued that emissions, and not the fuel, are the problem, and that it can use nascent technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air and bury it underground.

According to scientific models as well as projections by the International Energy Agency, nations must stop approving new oil, gas and coal projects if the world is to stay within relatively safe levels of atmospheric warming.

Megan Bloomgren, a vice president at the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil and gas industry, said in an email “We share the urgency of confronting climate change together without delay; yet doing so by eliminating America’s energy options is the wrong approach and would leave American families and businesses beholden to unstable foreign regions for higher cost and far less reliable energy.”

The turnout in New York surprised organizers, and followed a weekend of climate protests demonstrations in Germany, England, Senegal, South Korea, India and elsewhere. They are the largest such protests since before the Covid-19 pandemic. And they come on the heels of the hottest summer on record, exacerbated by planetary warming, and amid record profits for oil and gas companies.

In New York, some protesters came in wheelchairs; others pushed strollers. They traveled to the city from around the country and around the world. There was puppetry and song and thousands of homemade signs and banners. They were health care workers and antinuclear activists, monks and imams, labor leaders and actors, scientists and drummers. And students, so many students.

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