Desmond Tutu: “climate change is our global enemy”

Israel flash floodNobel Prize-winning retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, long-time environmental advocate, just released a powerful video urging world leaders arriving in New York City for this year’s UN Climate Summit to “move beyond the fossil fuel era.”

In an associated editorial published in The Observer, he convincingly argues that the same boycott, divestment and sanction tactics used against firms which did business with apartheid-era South Africa must now be applied to institutions that exploit fossil fuels.

The Climate Summit 2014 kicks off tomorrow in New York City, when world leaders from government, finance, business, and civil society will meet to catalyze climate action. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked all invitees to bring bold action plans that will significantly reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015.

“Never before have human beings been called on to act collectively in defense of the Earth. As a species, we have endured world wars, epidemics, famine, slavery, apartheid and many other hideous consequences of religious, class, race, gender and ideological intolerance. People are extraordinarily resilient. The Earth has proven pretty resilient, too. It’s managed to absorb most of what’s been thrown at it since the industrial revolution and the invention of the internal combustion engine,” he wrote.

Until now, that is, when science clearly indicates that our environment is carbon-saturated. Tutu continued, “If we don’t limit global warming to two degrees or less we are doomed to a period of unprecedented instability, insecurity and loss of species. It is time to act.”

Tutu frames the issue as the premier human rights challenge, linking the most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, drought, rising food prices and the emergence of “climate refugees” – directly to the world’s poor. He rightly illustrates that developing states, which emit far less carbon than industrialized nations, will pay the steepest price.

He describes sensible, scalable ways we can be agents of change. “Boycott events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil fuel companies; demand that their advertisements carry health warnings; organize car-free days and other platforms to build broader societal awareness; and ask our religious communities to speak out on the issue from their pulpits. We can encourage energy companies to spend more on the development of sustainable energy products, and we can reward those companies that demonstrably do so by using their products to the exclusion of others,” he stated in his editorial.

He urged swift action by nations and individuals alike, including freezing fossil fuels exploration, redirecting investments into renewable energies, encouraging governments to stop accepting lobbyist money from the industry and holding those who have damaged the environment legally liable for the harm they have caused.  No histrionics or hype, just simple strategies to start now. Watch his short video message below.


We can stop climate change. Join the global movement – a moral movement – spearheaded by individuals across the spectrum of professions and culture, religions and political alliances. Climate Change is the game the whole human family can play, we are collectively responsible for immediate action. “We can no longer tinker about the edges,” he said. “We can no longer continuing treating our addiction to fossil fuels as if there were no tomorrow, or there will be no tomorrow.”

Check out the event website (link here) for details on how you can get involved.

Image of a flash flood in Nahal Habsor, Israel from Shutterstock

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