Read the speech hereCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Workers and environmental activists need to get together for serious discussions about the future of the coal industry, the president of the AFL-CIO said Thursday in a major speech about global warming.
Richard Trumka, former president of the United Mine Workers, said action is needed to reduce greenhouse emissions, citing scientific studies that "tell us we are headed ever more swiftly toward irreversible climate change -- with catastrophic consequences for human civilization."
But Trumka also said that coal miners and many other workers fear what environmentalists call the "green economy." He called for a "just transition" to a low-carbon emissions economic system.
"We live on one planet, and we share a common humanity that requires respect for each others' families and communities," Trumka said. "In particular, we need dialogue between environmentalists and workers and communities about the future of coal."
Trumka delivered his speech at the United Nations, during a conference called the Investor Summit on Climate Risk & Energy Solutions. The event was co-sponsored by the United National Foundation, the U.N. Office of Partnerships, and Ceres, a group that works with investors to have companies consider sustainable practices.
Coal is one of the nation's largest sources of global warming pollution, representing a third of U.S. greenhouse emissions, equal to the combined output of all cars, trucks, buses, trains and boats. Most scientists recommend the nation swiftly cut carbon dioxide emissions, reducing them by about 80 percent below 2000 levels by mid-century to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
But many coalfield politicians either dismiss the science or argue that any consequences of rising temperatures are too far off to worry too much about.
Trumka, though, said he's seen the evidence himself in the rural areas around his native Nemacolin, Pa.