Members of the U.S. Senate stayed up all last night to talk about climate change and the need for action.
Democrats organized the all-nighter, and about half of the party’s members and both independents took to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada began the marathon session by noting climate change has led to more drought, milder winters with less snowpack, further threatening water sources.
“We’re standing up against the deniers. Climate change is real. It’s here. It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis. We have the ability now to reduce our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels and increase our production of clean energy and create good paying jobs that can never be out-sourced.”
Vermont’s Bernie Sanders was among those expressing concern and discussing the science of climate change. Sanders said there is no debate in the scientific community that climate change is occurring. “Climate change is real and climate change is already causing severe damage in terms of drought, floods, forest fires, rising sea levels and extreme weather disturbances. I find it extremely disturbing that virtually all of my Republican colleagues continue to ignore the scientific evidence and refuse to support serious legislation which will address this planetary crisis.”
The only Republican who participated, Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, spent nearly half an hour presenting data refuting climate change and calling Democrats alarmists. “You keep saying climate change is real. Global warming is real. It’s real. It’s real. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was cooking the science and exaggerated the impacts of a changing climate. Now we have the other problem, and that is that instead of increasing, we’re going through now some cold spells that are setting new records. This has got to be really shocking to an awful lot of advocates with the idea that this world is coming to an end and global warming is a reality.”
Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse countered his Republican colleague’s climate denial. “Here’s what’s happened since the original IPCC report: They’re even more sure of than they were of their findings and of the importance of climate change. Other scientific organizations, like NOAA, have chimed in in unflinching language. Now NOAA - you’ve got some good scientists who know what they’re talking about. I will put them up against a scientist paid for by the polluters every day.”
Democratic leaders have no plans to bring a climate bill to the Senate floor this year. House Democrats pushed a similar bill through in 2009, then lost their majority the following election.
Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth is not hopeful this all-nighter by Senators will lead to action. “It’s a good thing that they did the all-nighter to emphasize the necessity of addressing it. But I think it would have meant a lot more if the Democrats had an effective climate change strategy and legislation that would put the nation on the road to serious reductions of carbon emissions.”
The Vermont Natural Resources Council is the state affiliate of the NWF. National Wildlife Federation Senior Counsel Jim Murphy says it is important to build a momentum in Washington that will lead to appropriate action. “The biggest priority is to set a price on carbon that’s going to take fossil fuel sources off line and eventually replace them with renewable sources of energy. There’s pretty much universal agreement that some sort of price on carbon is the solution that’s needed.”
Audio from the U.S. Senate session on climate change is courtesy of C-SPAN.