On the palindromic 3/21/23 this past week, a national day of protest occurred. A day earlier, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest “synthesis” report, an analysis of where we are in our understanding of climate change and our chances to mitigate its negative impacts. These two significant events are very much related, and the rationale behind the protest powerfully illuminates the conclusions of the IPCC report.

UN Climate Report

Women wade through floodwaters as they take refuge in the Shikarpur district of Pakistan’s Sindh province Sept. 2,  2022. A major new United Nations report released last Monday provided a sobering reminder that time is running out if humanity wants to avoid passing a dangerous global warming threshold. Fareed Khan/Associated Press, File

The protest was against the four largest U.S. banks – JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, both with branches in Portland (Bank of America with branches also in Belfast and Brunswick), Citi and Wells Fargo – for continuing to finance the development of new lines of production of fossil fuels.

Following the Paris agreement in 2015 on combating climate change, these banks formed an alliance to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This involves, of course, dramatically increased financing of renewable energy projects, and ceasing to finance new production projects of fossil fuels. Two of those signatories were Bank of America and Chase. Good for them. So what’s the problem?

Both of them have continued to pour billions of dollars of loans and underwriting to fossil fuel companies for new production projects.

Everybody knows that the transition to a non-carbonized energy sector will involve continuing to use fossil fuels until the renewable energy sector is large enough to meet demand. But that only takes existing production lines of fossil fuels, and many of those will have to be retired early.

The protests were organized by thirdact.org, Bill McKibben’s organization to mobilize people over 60, people in the “third act” of their lives, to join with those in the first act of their lives, like Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future and the Sunrise Movement. These young people have taken the lead in this fight because they have to wonder if they will have a third act in a stable environment. Third Act folks see it as a moral imperative to join them.


I look at it this way: I was born in 1940 and the temperature increases and climate instability I’ve experienced in the last two decades (well into my “third act”), people like Thunberg (and my grandchildren), born around the turn of the century, have experienced in the first two decades of their lives, almost the entirety of their ‘first act’. What will the years 2060 to 2080 hold for them?

Third Act Maine is the state chapter that led the protests in Belfast and Portland last week. We, and all the others in this nationwide day of action, were rallying to keep us on track to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The IPCC report just released notes the advances we’ve made, and identifies all the benefits we can realize if we commit to achieving the goal of the Paris Agreement. But we’re not proceeding nearly fast enough to meet that target by 2050. And for every tenth of a degree we exceed the target, the damages to livelihood and natural environments increase.

The international banks need to be pulled along to keep their promise.

We need an encore of the protests against the banks.

And we need repeated coverage of the IPCC report, explaining its import for people who will live in the decades 2060 to 2080 – and beyond.

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: