Thursday marked the 51st Earth Day, first observed on 22 April 1970 and held each year to commemorate the environmental movement to conserve the planet. The holiday started “with very lofty goals”, said Jimmy Kimmel on Thursday evening, “and it kinda turned into ‘guys, please, just for one day try not to light garbage on or near a panda bear, OK?’
“Humans celebrating Earth Day is like fleas celebrating Dog Day,” he added.
Timed to the occasion was a historic two-day, virtual climate summit with 40 world leaders in Washington, where Biden announced the US will cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030. The pledge, part of the president’s intent to restore US leadership on handling the climate crisis, is “huge”, said Kimmel, “because the science is absolutely clear that it’s necessary to avoid a worldwide catastrophe”.
“No one should be against this,” he continued. “So naturally, almost every Republican is against this.”
Still, with the Biden administration in charge, “other countries are cautiously optimistic now,” Kimmel explained. Emphasis on cautious – “they’re like, ‘OK, but last year weren’t you the guys saying climate change isn’t real? Which America are we talking to?’” Kimmel joked. “We’re like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde-your-head-in-the-sand.”
“Earth Day is like prom in that every year has a theme,” explained Stephen Colbert, with this year’s being “restore our Earth”.
“Yes, we have to, or pretty soon the theme’s gonna be ‘Enchantment Under the Sea’,” the Late Show host joked.
“Climate change is getting harder to ignore,” he continued. “Last year wildfires blazing in the Arctic Circle set new emissions records, the Atlantic hurricane season raged stronger than ever and we reached the end of the hottest decade ever recorded. Most of that came in the last year, due to the rise in Bridgerton butt.
“Climate deniers complain that doing anything is doing too much, but we just learned the price of doing nothing,” he added, citing one insurance company estimate that the climate crisis could cut the world economy by $23tn in 2050 as crop yields fall, disease spreads and sea levels rise over coastal cities.
“It’s not a good sign when your insurance company sounds like the Book of Revelation,” joked Colbert.
Colbert then turned to the virtual climate summit where the teen activist Greta Thunberg “did not mince the words” in addressing world leaders. “We the young people are the ones who are going to write about you in the history books,” she said, “so my advice for you is to choose wisely.”
“Are you listening, my fellow oldies?” Colbert responded. “Teens are the ones who are going to write about us. Have you talked to teens? They are savage! One of them told me I looked like the twin Bob Saget tried to strangle in the womb!”
And on Late Night, Seth Meyers took a broad look at Republicans’ performative outrage over a range of issues from the Green New Deal to DC statehood and voter suppression laws. “As much as a relief it is to not have to cover or care about Trump any more, the Republican party Trump left behind is still very much committed to the ideology and the performance of Trumpism,” he explained.
For example, the Georgia congresswoman and conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene challenged the progressive representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to a pay-per-view-style debate over the Green New Deal, despite admitting to never having read the 14-page measure.
“Greene’s just dying to grab some of AOC’s spotlight,” said Meyers. The Q-Anon associated lawmaker is the “perfect avatar of Trumpism, because it’s all a performance”.
Meyers then pointed to a similar bad-faith moment by the Louisiana senator John Kennedy during a Senate hearing on voting rights. In one segment, Kennedy tried to “gotcha” Stacey Abrams, architect of voting rights movements in Georgia, with a challenge to list specific provisions she opposed in her state’s draconian voter suppression law. Abrams responded at length and in detail, as Kennedy repeatedly tried to cut her off.
“It’s so cathartic to watch a person who actually knows what she’s talking about school these bad-faith goons,” Meyers said. “Kennedy and his ilk weren’t expecting such a detailed response because they’re so encased in their rightwing bubble. They’re used to dealing with their fellow Maga weirdos. The hardest questions they’re ever exposed to are ‘you work so hard, how do you do it?’”