Kerry, Schwarzenegger declare World War Zero on climate

Source: By Timothy Cama, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, December 2, 2019

 Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sits alongside climate activist Greta Thunberg. Photo credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters/Newscom

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sits alongside climate activist Greta Thunberg in May at the R20 Austrian World Summit in Vienna. Lisi Niesner/Reuters/Newscom

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is launching a major effort to spur people around the world to take action on climate change, joined by dozens of big names like actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), former Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Kerry and the group’s backers are dubbing the effort World War Zero and framing it as a push to get millions of people to call on their leaders in politics, business and elsewhere to take climate more seriously.

Yesterday’s launch came the day before the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference starts in Madrid, though the project isn’t limited to the Paris Agreement or other U.N. initiatives.

“World War Zero is a serious statement about what this is going to take to get done. And we’re trying purposefully to be provocative and elevate that discussion,” Kerry told E&E News.

“Like a war, if we don’t come together to make critical decisions, it’s very hard to imagine how the transition to electric vehicles, or to the infrastructure that’s necessary, or the efficiencies we’ve got to build into travel and to buildings and industry, are going to happen,” he said. “They’re going to happen because we demand accountability. And that’s what this is going to be.”

Kerry and his allies are putting $500,000 into the launch but have already raised millions of dollars, he said. “The money will come from concerned citizens who have the ability to give either a large sum of money or from concerned citizens who make small donations on the website.”

With allies like former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, singer Sting and actor Ashton Kutcher, the group’s goal is to have 10 million “conversations” between the launch and the presidential election in November 2020. Kerry, Schwarzenegger and others also are planning “town hall” events on climate around the country through that time, with a focus on primary and battleground states.

Advertising, talking to media and social media also will be a significant part of the effort — again, focused mainly on mobilizing individuals.

Enlisting well-known politicians and entertainers is part of the strategy to have people hear climate messaging from voices they already know.

While the project is bipartisan, it isn’t pushing for particular candidates or even specific climate policies.

“The important thing is, the climate crisis … has got to be elevated in the minds of people, in democracies where they vote — and in the minds of decisionmakers where they don’t — in order to get done what has to be done,” Kerry said.

He said the “war” terminology is deliberate on a number of levels, including to convey the scale of the effort he wants it to spur.

“A president needs to bring Congress to the table, industry to the table, auto manufacturers, utility leaders, and map out a coordinated approach for how we win,” he said. “It’s really going to take nothing less.”