Sigourney Weaver: For Our Children’s Sake, We Must Act on Climate Change

Sigourney Weaver, actor and concerned citizen
Sigourney Weaver arrives for the premier of the film 'Chappie' in New York City on March 4. Like many, the actor wants fast action on climate change to preserve the world as we know it. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

The COP21 conference on climate change runs in Paris until December 11. Newsweek will publish a series of opinion pieces throughout the event.

The world is watching the international climate talks underway in Paris right now. The negotiators have our children’s future in their hands, and we want them to act like it.

Think about it. Climate change is one of the few forces that can drastically reshape the world our children inherit. Do we want it to include cleaner air or more asthma attacks? Vibrant coastal cities or neighborhoods inundated with storm surges? Justice and equality or the most vulnerable among us suffering the worst?

I know what kind of future I want for the next generation, and I am not alone. Millions of people around the world have called on leaders to confront the climate crisis, and many have risen to the challenge. The United States, China, India and more than 150 nations arrived at the Paris climate talks with firm commitments for cutting carbon pollution.

These plans represent major progress—the most we have ever seen in the fight against climate change. But we can’t stop here. We have to keep moving.

The international community must agree to continually strengthen their climate commitments. If they fail to do so—if they make vague promises for distant timeframes—scientists say we won’t be able to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.

If that sounds dire, it’s because it is. Climate change touches most everything we care about, from our health to our communities to our natural systems.

I care deeply about the oceans; I have lived beside them most of my life and worked to protect their marine life. Yet even the mighty seas are vulnerable to climate change: Carbon pollution turns ocean water acidic, and rising acidity makes it harder for creatures like mussels, oysters and corals to build shells. Scientists say marine species may not survive so radical a shift in chemistry.

I don’t want to leave my daughter a world without fish and vibrant fishing economies—or a world where island nations and coastal communities live in fear of rising tides. We can do better, and we must.

Here in the U.S., we are reducing carbon pollution from cars and power plants—which together make up the biggest source of carbon emissions in the country. And we are building wind farms and solar plants in every corner of the nation. My home state of New York just committed to getting 50 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources within the next 15 years.

This clean energy growth has helped the U.S. enter the climate talks in a position of strength and leadership. When President Obama arrived in Paris last week, he declared, “Our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to something about it.”

So far, the countries of the world have pledged to reduce carbon pollution enough to limit global temperature rise to roughly 3 degrees Celsius (37 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s good, but it’s not good enough. Scientists say we must hold steady at 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit) or below in order to protect our children from supercharged storms, famine and instability. The delegates in Paris can help shield us from that fate, but only if they agree to gather every five years to increase their climate commitments.

The global call for climate action won’t stop in Paris, but now is the time to demand the nations of the world commit to ambitious and steadfast progress. That’s the path to a brighter future for our children.

Sigourney Weaver is an actor and a concerned citizen.