How can watching CSPAN possibly be a climate action, you may ask? Or something other than as exciting as watching paint dry, as the wheels of congress churn slowly through live TV coverage? Because last night, 28 of our US Senators pulled an all-nighter to talk about climate change, and that is a really big deal. In a congress where climate change comments are sitting at the level of “we breathe carbon dioxide in and out so it can’t be a pollutant” and “wind turbines slow the speed of winds and raise global temperatures” and “humans can adapt to climate change by going in the shade”, one isn’t exactly left expecting great things from our representatives on this issue.
So to watch our Democratic and Independent senators actually get in a room and talk about the very real environmental and economic consequences of carbon pollution was, I have to say, a breath of fresh air. And frankly, those I got to watch before I had to go to bed mostly did an excellent job, particularly in their ability to speak from their home state’s perspective on the risk of climate change to their constituency: be it Senator Chris Coons of Delaware speaking compellingly about what climate change and sea level rise means for his home state, which has the lowest mean elevation of any state in the nation; Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon talking about the real and present dangers of ocean acidification to Pacific Northwest aquaculture; Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico talking about impacts to water availability and forest health; or Senator Schatz of Hawaii taking his colleagues who did not show up for this discussion to task because climate change risks are truly the provenance of every senator and representative (thank you, Senator!).
I know that our more polite conservative colleagues choose to brandish the sword of cynicism and say that this event was primarily a publicity stunt, an opportunity to fill those campaign coffers with liberal cash. I’m sure there is a grain of truth in that interpretation. However, I also think that some of our leaders are actually doing just that- leading, on an issue that at least a subset of Congress realizes is an extremely real and extremely important issue on which the US literally cannot afford to continue to stick its head in the sand. And for that, I am extremely thankful, and I immediately called both my Senators offices, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, to thank them for their participation in this conversation. Let’s keep it up!