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Over 1,000 Climate Rallies Planned This Weekend

Haider Rizvi

New York - A nationwide grassroots campaign aiming to force the U.S. Congress to take drastic action on climate change is now in full swing.Come Saturday, activists in all major towns and cities across the United States will be taking to the streets to mark "the National Day of Action on Climate Change."

During the day-long rallies and sit-ins on April 14, demonstrators will call for Congress to pass a law requiring an 80-percent cut in carbon emissions by 2050.

"People are ready to do something more than change their light bulbs," said Bill McKibben, a well-known environmental writer and scholar who is among those spearheading the climate action campaign, called "Step It Up 2007."

"They understand the need for quick and dramatic political action," he added in a statement, describing the nationwide campaign as a "wake up call" to legislators in Washington.

In persuading the Congress to get serious about climate change, McKibben and other organizers are using innovative campaign techniques, such as making smart use of the Internet for organizing.

"Instead of marching on Washington, which would burn a fair amount of carbon," said McKibben, "we will have a nationwide rally occurring more or less simultaneously."

In all 50 states, community groups, including students, environmentalists, peace activists, and religious leaders, have pledged to organize more than 1,200 events as part of the activities to observe the Day of Action.

As part of their efforts to make the campaign relatively more effective, organizers said they have chosen a number of iconic places for the day-long events, which would remind people of the urgent need for action on global warming.

A large group of scuba divers, for example, have signed up to hold an underwater rally off the coral reefs in Key West and Maui, while another organization plans to ski down the dwindling glacier above Jackson Hole, in Wyoming.

Also, as the organizers have planned, there will be people gathering near Mount Hood, in Oregon; on the levies in New Orleans' Ninth Ward; and on Canal Street in Manhattan, which is feared to be the new tide line if the seas rise a few feet as a result of global warming.

"My older daughter is organizing a group of kids from her school to join us. My younger daughter has helped to make signs," said Nancy Kricorian, a coordinator for the CODEPINK: Women for Peace group in Manhattan, who is involved in organizing efforts for the April 14 rallies.

In explaining her decision to get involved in the global warming campaign, she said as a mother of 10- and 14-year-old daughters, she could see that for kids of their generation, climate change and the protection of the environment are among the political issues that concern them most.

According to Kricorian, "two weeks ago when the weather here in New York City hit 70 degrees, my 14-year-old who had seen 'An Inconvenient Truth' with her class last spring, looked at me dolefully and said, 'the polar bears are drowning.'"

Growing youth activism on global warming has made the campaign far stronger than ever before, organizers said, who are heavily relying on e-mail communication for community outreach.

The momentum of the campaign is likely to grow further in the next few days, as will the pace of discussions in the Senate on the future of five different bills requiring mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

While most of the legislative proposals have much in common, they vary with respect to the stringency of the caps and the chosen regulatory approaches. Observers say differences in approach can be expected to have significant effects on the cost of the programs and the distribution of those costs across households and businesses.

The 1997 Kyoto treaty requires as many as 35 industrialized countries to cut emissions by an average of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States is not obligated to abide by the treaty because the George W. Bush administration does not recognize it.

Recently, at a major climate change conference, UN experts warned that billions of people face shortages of food and water and increased risk of flooding, as a result of global warming.

Agreement on the final wording of the report was reached after a marathon debate through the night in Brussels.

"It's the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produced the report.

The United States is responsible for about 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, although its share of the global population is just 5 percent.

The Bush administration rejected Kyoto in 2001, arguing that it would harm the U.S. economy and that it should have also required reductions by poor but fast growing economies, such as India and China. Bush also repeatedly has said that more research was needed into the science of climate change.

Activists say they want the Congress to adopt aggressive measures on climate change proposals without any delay.

"Congressional action on climate change in the United States will carry tremendous weight internationally," said McKibben. "We are the poster child for carbon in the atmosphere. If we get our own house in order, then we can rejoin the rest of the world in dealing with this problem."

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