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As it happenedended1587589293

Earth Day 2020: Greta Thunberg, David Attenborough, Barack Obama and more send messages as millions protest online

Updates on this year's modified events focusing on climate action after mass gatherings were cancelled following the coronavirus outbreak

Emma Snaith
New York
,Louise Boyle
Wednesday 22 April 2020 20:23 BST
What is Earth Day?

Dozens of prominent figures including former President Barack Obama, the Pope, youth activist Greta Thunberg and naturalist Sir David Attenborough have shared messages on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

President Trump took part in a tree-planting ceremony with First Lady Melania at the White House but was mocked for his efforts after he has continually called the climate crisis a “hoax” and failed to take action to tackle it.

Thunberg, who helped inspire millions of youth activists with her Fridays For Future school strikes, tweeted: “Every day is #EarthDay. The changes needed to safeguard future living conditions for all species won’t come from governments or businesses. It will come from the best available science and public opinion. So it’s up to us. Spread the science. #unitebehindthescience”

The first Earth Day on 22 April, 1970 saw 20 million Americans, 10% of the population at the time, demonstrate from coast to coast. Half a century later, millions around the world were expected to take part in the annual day of environmental action to address the huge challenges facing our planet.

This year’s planned in-person gatherings were cancelled after the coronavirus outbreak but the movement pivoted to 72-hours of digital action instead, focusing on the theme of climate action.

Meanwhile, the lockdowns introduced across the world have seen the skies clearing of pollution and wildlife returning to deserted streets, while US oil prices plunged below zero for the first time in history.

Catch-up on events as they happened


Good morning, and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of Earth Day 2020 

emma.snaith22 April 2020 10:38

72-hour livestream brings Earth Day online

This year’s plans for massive in-person events have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic but the movement has pivoted to 72-hours of digital action.

Jane Fonda, Joaquin Phoenix and Al Gore are among the stars speaking on the ongoing climate crisis, alongside leading scientists and journalists. 

The theme for this year is climate action, with 2020 seen as a tipping point for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving the UN goal of keeping global warming below 2C.

emma.snaith22 April 2020 10:44

What is Earth Day?

Earth Day has now reached its 50th year, and according to the Earth Day Network (EDN) over one billion people in 192 countries are thought to have taken part in last year’s event.

The celebration marks the anniversary of the birth of the environmental movement in 1970.

Modern environmentalism is largely credited as starting with the publication of Rachel Carson’s bestselling book Silent Spring – documented the effects of the indiscriminate use of pesticides – in 1962.

Read more here: 

emma.snaith22 April 2020 10:49

World must show 'same determination against climate change as against coronavirus', UN experts say

The world must "show the same determination and unity" against the accelerating problem of climate change as against coronavirus, UN experts have urged.

A report from the World Meteorological Organisation released to mark the 50th anniversary of the annual Earth Day event, confirms the past five years have been the hottest on record globally.

WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said: "Whilst Covid-19 has caused a severe international health and economic crisis, failure to tackle climate change may threaten human wellbeing, ecosystems and economies for centuries.

"We need to flatten both the pandemic and climate change curves."

emma.snaith22 April 2020 11:07

Looking back at the seminal Earth Day moments over the last 50 years

The first Earth Day came about after Senator Gaylord Nelson witnessed the impact of an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969 and wanted to harness the energy of the youth-driven, anti-Vietnam War movement into environmental action.

From student 'teach-ins' in the Seventies, the movement now involves up to a billion people around the world demanding environmental action 

The Independent's climate correspondent Louise Boyle takes a look back at Earth Day over half a century: 

emma.snaith22 April 2020 11:17

 World is facing ‘deeper emergency’ than coronavirus, UN chief warns

The UN’s secretary general has urged nations to solve the climate crisis in unison once they emerge from the damages caused by coronavirus. 

Antonio Guterres said that while the impact of the virus on global society had been “immediate and dreadful”, there was "another, even deeper emergency - the planet's unfolding environmental crisis".

Read Vincent Wood's report here:

emma.snaith22 April 2020 11:42

Dalai Lama: 'We can no longer exploit the resources of this earth'

The Dalai Lama has urged people to "resolve to live in harmony with nature" in a message to mark Earth Day. 

emma.snaith22 April 2020 11:50

Last year was Europe’s hottest on record, scientists find 

Eleven out of the 12 hottest years to date have all occurred since 2000, according to a new report by the European Union’s climate monitoring service.

Last year was the hottest year on record for Europe after scorching heatwaves led to record-breaking temperatures in February, June and July, scientists from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (CS3) said in the annual European State of the Climate report. 

Read more about the report published on Earth Day here:

emma.snaith22 April 2020 12:11

Artist Olafur Eliasson releases interactive animations to mark Earth Day

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has begun to release a series of orange and pink coloured images of the Earth to encourage people to gain a new view of the world. 

People should stare at the dot in the centre of each image for 10 seconds and then focus on a blank surface where an afterimage will appear. The artist will release a series of these images,  hourly from 10am on Instagram, and hopes to encourage mass participation around the world. 

emma.snaith22 April 2020 12:25

How coronavirus lockdowns changed the world’s most polluted cities

While the coronavirus pandemic has forced the UN to postpone the COP26 international climate conference, it has also created a global experiment in reducing pollution in some of the world’s busiest cities.

From New Delhi to Milan, the air has become cleaner, albeit temporarily, as people stay at home.

Conrad Duncan reports on this unintended consequence of lockdowns around the world

emma.snaith22 April 2020 12:47

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