On Friday, April 22, actor and and climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio addressed the United Nations to speak about the urgent need to address climate change. The actor spoke at the opening session of the signature ceremony for the 2015 Paris climate accord, which brought together a record-breaking 175 countries to cut carbon emissions. DiCaprio began his remarks with a quote from Abraham Lincoln on the subject of slavery, comparing the radical changes the US experienced following the civil war with the action the world must now take to combat climate change.
The powerful quote he chose applies equally well to modern challenges as it does to the major political questions of Lincoln’s time: “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
Like the issue of slavery in the past, DiCaprio called climate change “the defining crisis of our time.” He went on to describe his global travels, and the terrifying experience of watching climate change alter the landscape worldwide. Taking the opportunity to plead for world governments to make real commitments to cut emissions, DiCaprio said, “Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong.”
This isn’t the first time DiCaprio has used his platform to urge world leaders to take action on climate change. In February, the actor used his Oscar acceptance speech to highlight the effects of global warming, telling the troubling story of how the cast and crew of The Revenant were forced to travel far and wide just to find snow for the film. He’s also used his wealth to fund conservation projects around the world.