Leonardo DiCaprio. Courtesy of United Nations, 2014.

Leonardo delivers landmark speech at the United Nations climate summit

September 24, 2014

Leonardo delivers landmark speech at the United Nations climate summit

On September 23, 2014 Leonardo DiCaprio addressed one of the largest gatherings of government, business and civil society leaders in history, at the United Nations Climate Summit. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Leonardo to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace for Climate, calling the actor a “new voice for climate advocacy.”

The Sunday, both both Ban Ki-moon and Leonardo participated in the 400,000-strong People’s Climate March through the streets of New York City, drawing renewed public attention to the escalating climate crisis.

The speech garnered a record-breaking 1.6 million views on the United Nations channel and was echoed in over 45,000 news articles across the globe. Below is the full text of the speech:

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, your excellencies, ladies and gentleman, and distinguished guests. I’m honored to be here today, I stand before you not as an expert but as a concerned citizen, one of the 400,000 people who marched in the streets of New York on Sunday, and the billions of others around the world who want to solve our climate crisis.

As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems.

I believe mankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.

But I think we know better than that. Every week
, we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, evidence that accelerated climate change is here right now. Droughts are intensifying, our oceans are acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events, and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.

None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact. The scientific community knows it, industry knows it, governments know it, even the United States military knows it. The Chief of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat.

My Friends, this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces this difficult, but achievable task. You can make history… or be vilified by it.

To be clear, this is not about telling people to change their light bulbs or buy a hybrid car. This disaster has grown BEYOND the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.

Now must be our moment for action.

We need to put a pricetag on carbon emissions, and eliminate government subsidies for oil, coal and gas companies. We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy, they do not deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny. For the economy itself will die if our eco-systems collapse.

The good news is that renewable energy is not only achievable but good economic policy.

This is not a partisan debate; it is a human one. Clean air and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics, it is a question of our own survival.

This is the most urgent of times, and the most urgent of messages.

Honored delegates, leaders of the world, I pretend for a living. But you do not.

The people made their voices heard on Sunday around the world and the momentum will not stop. But now it is YOUR turn, the time to answer humankind’s greatest challenge is now.

We beg of you to face it with courage. And honesty. Thank you.

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