Usually when the Press details a group of Senators convening at all hours of the night we expect the worst. However this wasn’t the case this past Monday as 29 Democrats and 2 Independents convened on Capitol Hill to call to attention the need for climate related legislation. The 19 hour event , dubbed on social media as #Up4Climate was organized by freshman Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) “to make sure everybody across the nation knows we’re taking this seriously, and that there is a stirring in the Senate on this issue (climate change).” Per Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the goal of the event was not to introduce any new legislation, but rather to express confidence in Congress’ ability to get a climate change bill passed, a task the Democratic-led Senate failed to do in 2010.
Climate change is the worst problem facing the world today –
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
#Up4Climate Senators presented a number of poignant (and entertaining) arguments, ranging from Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) smog photos and particulate matter statistics in China, to Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D-VA) rejection of the hotly debated Keystone XL pipeline, to Sen. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) recitation from Dr. Seuss’ 1971 environmentally themed tale, The Lorax . Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) went as far as to nominate climate change “the worst problem facing the world today” .
The timing of the event could not have been more convenient for climate change legislation supporters. This week the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) released its latest national overview detailing California’s warmest Winter ever (in its 119 year record) and 3rd driest winter on record exacerbating water issues throughout the state. It also noted that 91% of the Great Lakes were covered in ice; the 2nd highest value ever, which will have localized impacts on weather in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile the Earth Systems Research Lab (ESRL) Global Monitoring Division noted CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa observation station at 400.93ppm, thus exceeding 400ppm twice this week alone, and only the 5th and 6th time ever. The 3/13 reading is the highest modern reading on record at Mauna Loa and cyclical trends show that values will likely increase into early/mid May (when the effects of photosynthesis begin and concentrations start to decline).
And if the news wasn’t dire enough, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) indicated that Arctic sea Ice extent is currently (as of 3/13) at its 2nd lowest seasonal maximum extent on modern record, trailing only 2011.
#Up4Climate also served as an easy target for dissenting Republican Senators as well. Outspoken denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) oddly referenced the recent cold snap as evidence of a “lack” of climate change while Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went as far as to call the group of 32 “anti-coal liberals” blaming them and “green initiative” supporters for the “depression” in industrial coal states in the Appalachia region.
It’s hard to say who came out ahead at dawn’s break, but if nothing else Democrats succeeded in bringing further media attention to the climate discussion, including political funding by the Koch brothers, the Keystone XL pipeline environmental risks and the potential impacts currently affecting industrialized China.
1. Congressional all-nighters aren’t quite as rare as you’d think. The latest was the 36th in history, including 3 in 2013. “All-nighters” are defined as any session extending past 4:00 AM.
2. During Sen. Ted Cruz famous Obamacare filibuster in late September-2013, he too read stole a line from Seuss and read Green Eggs and Ham.
3. Kate Sheppard at HuffPo has a great Live Blog of the evenings highlights, which you can access here.