Notable climate quotes from 2019

December 31, 2019

​As 2019 winds down, we’d like to thank everyone working to advance climate solutions for their outstanding dedication, contributions, and leadership. The drumbeat for a low carbon future continues to increase as thoughtful discussion and powerful insights inform the public on the scale and urgency with which we need to achieve emissions reductions. Here are some notable climate quotes from 2019 that highlight climate commitment, challenge the status quo, and push climate solutions forward.

People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

— Greta Thunberg, United Nations Climate Action Summit, September 23, 2019

If we love our children more than we love ourselves, we have only one option: communal action. I understand that in preparation for World War II, the U.S. auto industry pivoted in only six months from making cars and trucks to manufacturing tanks and jeeps. Communal action is how we ended the horrendous mistake of the Vietnam War. Global warming, climate change, ecocide, call it what you will; it all boils down to this, last year global carbon dioxide emissions rose 2.7 percent. We are speeding toward the precipice of irrevocable climate chaos. If we want to stop the brutal future we have set in motion we must decrease global carbon emissions by 50 percent per decade beginning now. 

– Chip Fletcher, associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, March 2019  

The goal of 2045, 2050 for a low-carbon, no-net-carbon economy is critical. Let’s get everybody moving in that same direction, agreed that we have to reach that goal urgently—almost treating it like war, literally. Because if we don’t get on a war footing in order to do what we have to do … we’re not going to make it.

But something extraordinary is happening in America, which is that states have passed renewable-portfolio laws, and so you’ve got [37] states in our country that are locked in already to moving towards Paris, no matter what the president does. You also have the mayor of every major city in America signed on to the mayor’s commitment to try to live by the Paris Agreement. So you have this dichotomy in America, where the president of the United States has said I’m out, but, frankly, the majority of the American people are still saying, We’re in.

John Kerry, Former United States Secretary of State on launching new climate coalition World War Zero, December 2019

  It’s too late for us not to have some impacts. And so there’s gonna have to be some adaptation that’s going to take place. The oceans will be rising and that is going to displace people. And so we’re going to anticipate and care for some of the consequences of that, including large-scale migration and disruptions that are going to be very costly. But there is a big difference between the ocean rising three feet and rising six feet.

Former President Barack Obama speaking at a Kuala Lumpur conference hosted by the Obama Foundation, December 2019–malaysia-us-obama-20191213-story.html

This year saw atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases hit the highest level ever recorded in human history. While our window of opportunity to do something is quickly closing, fossil fuel companies are frantically expanding new drilling, mining, fracking and exporting.

This is the last possible moment in history when changing course can mean saving lives and species on an unimaginable scale.

I beg people to think about how they can ratchet up their activism on climate. Not as an individual but in concert with others, in ways that will awaken more people to the urgency and with a focus on changing policy, shifting power, electing brave people who aren’t scared of bold actions in the face of this crisis.

Jane Fonda, Capital climate protests, December 2019

Every report shows we do not have time to waste when it comes to confronting climate change. In the absence of federal leadership, subnationals are taking bold action toward creating a carbon neutral future. Our collective effort will not only lead to a more resilient United States, it will also signal to the rest of the world that we are committed to meeting this challenge and our determination is still strong.

— Bob Wieckowski Senator, California State Senate, at COP25 in Madrid, December 2019


If the threat we were facing with #ClimateChange was coming from another country, we would not blink twice at trillions of dollars for a military response that uses violence, bloodshed, and displacement as a solution.

We must be honest with ourselves about these realities. #ClimateChange is real, massive, and deserves a kind of peaceful mobilization on par with one that we would mount against an offending nation.

Mark Ruffalo, Twitter, August 2019


.@EPAAWheeler California is working diligently to fight #airpollution & #globalwarming. Please do your job – or step aside & and let the states lead the way!

Mary Nichols, Twitter, regarding EPA revoking California’s waiver on vehicle emissions standards, October 2019


We know all too well states cannot rely on the federal government right now to act responsibly and take the bold action scientists have made clear is needed to prevent calamitous climate change fallout in our lifetimes. It’s up to us. 

— Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, signing an executive order committing New Mexico to essential climate change action, January 2019


My goal for the next few months is to present proposed modifications to the legislation that still achieves the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals at the least possible cost while continuing to grow our economy. Let me be very, very clear — I am not backing down.

— Gov Kate Brown, after cap-and-trade fails to pass in the Oregon legislature, July 2019


Had the CPP gone into effect, the EPA’s 2015 analysis showed that by 2030 power plant CO2 emissions would have fallen by 32 percent below 2005 levels and the pollutants that cause life-threatening smog and soot would have been reduced significantly. The CPP pollution cuts would have saved thousands of lives and prevented tens of thousands of pollution-related illnesses.

In sharp contrast, the Trump administration’s ACE will achieve virtually no reductions in CO2 emissions and next to no cuts in soot and smog pollution. It will prevent next to none of the premature deaths, cardiac problems, lung damage or asthma attacks suffered by the most vulnerable among us—our kids, seniors and poor families—that the CPP would have prevented.

— Gina McCarthy, Janet McCabe, and Joseph Goffman, op-ed, June 2019

Let me be clear: The Trump administration cannot stop the states on about 80 percent of what we are trying to do around climate change. And the other 20 percent we address through litigation. The federal government is not able to stop the states from taking action.

Fighting climate change and protecting our children and grandchildren from its ravages is a monumental task. But it is not insurmountable.

Leadership may be lacking in the U.S. federal government, but when the world thinks of the U.S. on climate action, they should think of the states.

Gov Jay Inslee, op-ed, December 2019



I’m here for one reason and one reason only. And it’s not to weep about all my precious rules being rolled back. Though I admit that the constant roll-back is beginning to tick me off a bit.

I’m here to remind the political leadership at the EPA that what they do matters, and it’s time for them to step up and do their jobs. Just do your jobs. Right now this administration is trying to systemically undo health protections by running roughshod over the law.

— Gina McCarthy, appearing before Congress, June 2019


Get the term “global warming” out of your head. What’s actually happening is better described as “global weirding.” The warming of the atmosphere makes the weather weird. First, the hots get hotter. This then leads to greater evaporation, which means there’s more water vapor in clouds for precipitation. So the wets get wetter and the floods get wider. But the droughts in dry areas also get drier.

Some of the colds can even get colder, as when a weakened polar vortex, which normally keeps cold air trapped in the Arctic, allows more frigid polar air to push southward into the U.S. At the same time, the hurricanes that are fueled by warmer ocean temperatures get more violent.

That’s why you’re seeing weird weather extremes in all directions.

— Thomas Friedman, op-ed, June 2019


Urgent action at an unprecedented scale is necessary to arrest and reverse this situation, thereby protecting human and environmental health and maintaining the current and future integrity of global ecosystems. Key actions include reducing land degradation, biodiversity loss, and air, land and water pollution; improving water management and resource management; climate change mitigation and adaptation; resource efficiency; addressing decarbonization, decoupling and detoxification; and the prevention and management of risk and disasters. Those all require more ambitious and effective policies, including sustainable consumption and production, greater resource efficiency and improved resource management, integrated ecosystem management, and integrated waste management and prevention.

UN, Global Environment Outlook report, March 2019



It is extremely important that in order to be successful with our environmental crusade and to fight global climate change and to fight all of the pollution we have worldwide, we all have to work together. And the more people we bring into the crusade the better it is. The world leaders alone have not been able to solve the problem and they won’t.

Whether it is the Indian movement or the women’s suffrage movement, or anti apartheid movement or the civil rights movement in America — none of those were solved in the capitals, always by people. So people power is essential.

— Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, January 2019


Our air and our water are far cleaner today because policy makers in the 1970s set wildly unrealistic, ambitious, expensive goals. They did so because the public demanded action and those public demands led to widespread bipartisan support for an “environmental moon shot.”  And so, despite my skepticism that the Green New Deal is feasible, or politically possible, or technologically sound, I am cheering Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey on, at the top of my lungs, hoping that their wild ambition can change hearts and minds about the biggest environmental problem we have ever faced.

UCLA Professor Ann Carlson, blog, February 2019


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