Regardless of whether President Donald Trump withdraws the United States from the Paris climate agreement, the environmental movement is calling for "full-on resistance" to the host of backwards, polluting policies that have already become a hallmark of the new administration.
Saturday's Peoples Climate March comes two and a half years after 400,000 people flooded the streets of New York City demanding that the U.S. government do something to address the climate crisis. That massive demonstration was "one of the key lead-ins to the Paris climate talks," said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, who told the Washington Post this week that proving such a "movement existed made Paris work much better" than previous efforts to secure an international agreement.
"Every day the news from the natural world gets darker...And every month that passes without sufficient action gets us closer to some invisible but real deadline. So, we march."
"But this time," McKibben continued, "the fossil fuel industry has fought back and put one of its own in the White House—a guy who even this week was figuring out how to open more national parks to oil drilling, a guy who buys the company line that global warming is a hoax. So now, the task is full-on resistance."
The upcoming "march for climate, jobs, and justice" in Washington, D.C. will coincide with the 100th day of the Trump administration.
Amid the week of environmental action, on the heels of the global March for Science, Trump's advisors are holding a meeting Thursday to discuss whether to revoke the United States' commitment to the Paris agreement—one of the president's campaign pledges—or simply water it down, which for many observers is a non-debate given the urgency of the climate crisis.
While much of corporate media has focused on the in-fighting over the agreement, with CNN positing that Trump's final decision has little to do with global warming but rather is a symbol of "his aides' influence—or lack thereof," campaigners say that either way fossil fuel interests have already "won."
"Make no mistake," said Friends of the Earth senior political director Ben Schreiber, "a choice between weakening U.S. commitments to climate action or withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will leave only one winner: fossil fuel companies. The losers are going to be the American people, who are already starting to experience the impacts of climate change."
"This meeting sends a clear signal to the world: Trump is a climate pariah," he continued. "The climate marches across the country this Saturday will serve as another reminder that the American people reject Trump's extreme agenda. World leaders should use every political and economic means available to compel Trump to act in accordance with what climate science and justice demand."
On Thursday, Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org, predicted that Trump will opt to stay in the climate accord, which he noted would be "a big testament to the durability of this agreement."
Another way to look at it, McKibben said in a separate interview with Yale 360, is that the administration will likely decide to stay in the accord "but only so that they can screw [it] up more effectively from the inside, which is exactly what the coal industry lobbyists are pushing." He similarly described Congress as "a wholly owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry."
Given that "nothing good is going to come out of D.C. in the immediate future," McKibben told the Washington Post, the goal of Saturday's march is to re-energize the grassroots environmental movement that has turned to cities and states to step in and take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assert environmental and public health regulations currently being slashed on the federal level.
"[W]e can use this march, and things like it, to build a new progressive idea about what must be done should people ever regain power in our country," he said, pointing to the newly introduced "100 by 50" Act, which calls for for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. "It won't pass right away, but it will become the standard around which people of good faith muster," he said. "And that will mean a sea change in our politics eventually."
"Every day the news from the natural world gets darker," McKibben told Yale 360. "And every month that passes without sufficient action gets us closer to some invisible but real deadline. So, we march."