Northernlights in Churchill, Manitoba

The northern lights put on a spectacular show during Polar Bear Week--and good news on climate rolled in.

© BJ Kirschhoffer/Polar Bears International

11/6/2015 9:09:04 PM

What a Week!

By Kassie Siegel

Polar Bear Week out on the tundra in Buggy One has been huge: we've seen a lot of bears, a red fox, an Arctic fox, a gyrfalcon (and, more surprisingly, a goose!).  Tuesday night was spectacularly clear and we saw the most brilliant northern lights I've seen in my life.  We've connected with dozens of classrooms and spoken with so many of you through our webcasts and live chats. After many wonderful years participating in this unique program, it's been a highlight, not least of all for the chance to spend time with old friends and new in one of the most magical landscapes on the planet.

And this week is even more memorable for the unprecedented victories we've seen on climate.  We all know we have to shift to renewable energy and slash our greenhouse emissions to solve the climate crisis and save polar bears, and this week alone we've seen incredible progress on that front.

Just today, President Obama announced his rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline, conceived to ship tar sands oil, some of the dirtiest and most carbon intensive fuel on the planet, from Canada across the U.S. to the refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. He said:  "The critical factor in my determination was this: moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combating climate change."

Also this week, four U.S. Senators introduced the 'Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground Act' to end leasing of coal, oil, and gas on public lands in the United States.  This would keep these publically owned resources in the ground where we need them to stay and avoid 450 gigatons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. 

Also greatly encouraging is a new study released Thursday showing the positive changes in the six months since the release of Pope Francis' climate change encyclical. The study found that across the spectrum, Americans have become more concerned about and have a greater understanding of climate change since the encyclical, and that in most instances the changes were greatest among American Catholics. For example, the percentage of Americans worried about climate change increased by 8 percentage points to 59% and for Catholics it increased 11 points to 64%. 

Today we stand at the crossroads on climate change. But we know that it's possible and absolutely necessary to move away from fossil fuels and embrace clean energy, to do it in a way that makes the world a healthier, more equitable place for everybody, and to do it fast enough to save polar bears. And I believe that the tide is turning towards much greater progress.

Around the world, people are realizing that we can't solve the climate crisis while building the dirty Keystone XL pipeline, or pursuing other schemes for digging up ever more remote, dangerous and carbon-intensive fossil fuels. When you're in a hole as deep as we are, the first step is to stop digging. To give our planet a chance, we've got to start leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

President Obama said today, "Because ultimately, if we're going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we're going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky." 

Three weeks from today, I'll be arriving in Paris for the international climate change talks. The last weekend in November, hundreds of thousands of people around the world will be marching in support of the fair, ambitious, and binding treaty we need.

This week's climate victories give me more hope than ever, and this week's bears give me joy and inspiration to continue to work for climate change solutions. Huge thanks to Polar Bears International, Explore.org, Frontiers North Adventures, Canada Goose, and all PBI's sponsors for making this experience possible, and thank so much to all the readers for caring so much about these bears. 

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