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Kerry, Schwarzenegger wage ‘World War Zero’ on climate change

Today former Secretary of State John Kerry and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared war on climate change. The two led an all-star cast of lawmakers and celebrities to launch an initiative called World War Zero, which aims to get individuals, businesses, and governments to drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The initiative, for now, boasts a lot of glitzy names without many details on how it will achieve its goal. Its bipartisan founding members — which include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Richard Branson, Jimmy Fallon, Cindy McCain, and Al Sharpton, and more than 70 other notable names — plan to hold 10 million “climate conversations” in 2020, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

“Our fossil fuel addiction is killing us,” Schwarzenegger said in a Monday statement. “World War Zero has brought together leaders from different backgrounds with different viewpoints to find the way forward and inspire every citizen to act.”

The world will need to get to net zero emissions by mid-century in order to prevent catastrophic effects from climate change, an international panel of scientists reported last year. That means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to nearly zero and starting to remove excess human-caused greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Since last year’s report, cities, scientists, and most recently the European Parliament have declared a “climate emergency.”

Kerry compared the urgency of climate change to the challenges facing America during World War II. “When America was attacked in World War II we set aside our differences, united and mobilized to face down our common enemy,” Kerry said in a statement. “We are launching World War Zero to bring that spirit of unity, common purpose, and urgency back to the world today to fight the great threat of our time.” The launch coincides with the opening of the United Nations’ annual climate conference in Madrid.

Kerry and Schwarzenegger aren’t the first to evoke a pivotal moment in American history to rally climate action. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (R-NY) and climate activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement have championed a Green New Deal to spur a green economy, while also tackling economic and racial disparities exacerbated by fossil fuels. They’ve rallied behind the idea of a modern set of public works projects that would uplift the economy and workers, like Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal did after The Great Depression. But their desire for an all-encompassing climate plan that includes social programs like a federal jobs guarantee has drawn criticism for trying to address too wide a range of issues from even some climate-concerned Democrats like Nancy Pelosi.

Kerry’s initiative focuses on cutting carbon emissions and says that doing so will “create millions of new jobs in the process.” But it avoids more heated discussions around righting environmental injustices. Kerry described his new initiative as policy-agnostic. “We’re not going to be divided going down a rabbit hole for one plan or another,” he told The New York Times.

In his statement today, he says, “We are bringing together unlikely allies who may not agree on everything, but who have enlisted in this effort to do everything they can to mobilize people to tackle climate change on every front.”

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