Leonardo DiCaprio

Address at the United Nations Climate Summit

delivered 23 September 2014, New York, NY


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

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 that mankind has looked at climate change in that same way -- as if it were a fiction, as if pretending as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away. But I think we know better than that now.

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,1 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 you will be vilified by it.

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

Now is our moment for action.

We need to put a price tag 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 ecosystems collapse.

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

This is not a partisan debate but 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.

And 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.

1 Constructions of the climate change issues and surrounding debates are indeed rhetoric, as understood and practiced both in classical and contemporary intellectual senses and situations, including the rhetorical situation in which this particular speaker addresses these particular audiences. 

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