MONTREAL – Activists demanding urgent action on global warming plan to take to the streets Saturday across the United States and beyond, with hybrid car parades, parties and marches.
The demonstrations are planned to coincide with a 10-day United Nations Climate Change Conference being held in Montreal.
There, the Bush administration has been criticized for refusing to sign on to international agreements that cap industrial emissions. President Bush has called for an 18 percent reduction in the U.S. growth rate of greenhouse gases by 2012 and has committed $5 billion a year to science and technology to address global warming.
"This is not just an environmental issue; it's a survival issue," said Ted Glick, who heads a group called Climate Crisis Coalition.
The largest protests are expected to take place in Montreal on Saturday, but smaller actions are planned in more than 30 countries and in about 40 cities around the United States.
In Washington, drivers of hybrid cars plan to rally around the White House. In New Orleans, residents plan to hold a "Save New Orleans, Stop Global Warming" party in the French Quarter. Other events will be held from Boston to Los Angeles.
Scientists believe global warming will intensify storms, floods, heat waves and drought. They are studying whether climate change has already strengthened hurricanes, whose energy is drawn from warm ocean waters, or whether the Atlantic Basin and Gulf of Mexico are witnessing only a cyclical upsurge in intense storms.
A September survey of 800 registered voters by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University found that 79 percent favored stronger environmental standards, but only 22 percent said environmental concerns have played a major role in determining for whom they voted.
In focus groups, voters told pollsters they see the environment as a long-term problem that cannot compare in urgency to immediate concerns such as jobs, health care or taxes.
"Global warming is an issue that has a certain level of interest, but it's not as high on most people's radar screen as something that is more visible every day," said University of Minnesota history professor Roland Guyotte, who has studied protests in the U.S.
Environmental protests have had an effect in the past, he said. The Earth Day events of 1970, which involved an estimated 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and communities, helped lead to the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Protest organizers want Bush to sign on to the Kyoto Agreements, adopted in 1997 and ratified by 140 countries. The agreements call on the top 35 industrialized nations to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
The United States has refused to ratify the agreement, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and lacks restrictions on emissions by emerging economies such as China and India.