There's a new sense of momentum around climate change here in Washington, DC. It started with President Obama’s inauguration, when the President broke the climate silence and called for action to address the crisis, saying a “failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Obama then ratcheted up the rhetoric in this Monday’s State of the Union. “We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence,” said the President. “Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it's too late."
Now, members of Congress are beginning to act, as well.
This morning, 350.org founder Bill McKibben and a group of allies joined Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and California Senator Barbara Boxer to launch a new climate bill. The bill would end fossil fuel subsidies, invest in job-creating climate solutions like energy retrofits, and pass a stiff price on carbon, 60% of the profits of which would be rebated, per capita, to ever legal U.S. resident.
“The legislation that Senator Boxer and I are introducing today with the support of some of the leading environmental organizations in the country can actually address the crisis and does what has to be done to protect the planet,” said Senator Sanders at an event in the Senate office building. “It can reverse greenhouse gas emissions in a significant way. It can create millions of jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.”
“This bill establishes a really important principle,” said Bill McKibben at the event. “And that’s the fact that if the sky belongs to anybody it belongs to us and not the fossil fuel industry.”
Sanders and Boxer will spend the next few months marking up the bill, debating its provisions, and bringing on cosponsors. Senator Boxer said that she hopes to bring the bill up for a vote this summer (we’ll see if another summer of record breaking temperatures helps make the case). While it’s going to be a tough row to hoe in Congress, both Senators are confident that they’ve got the will of the American people on their side.
“No Big Oil company can sit down in someone's living room and say Superstorm Sandy didn't happen," said Senator Boxer.
"We're going to win this fight when millions of people stand up and say you must protect my children," Senator Sanders concluded.
Luckily, millions of people are already standing up to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline. And this afternoon, they found some new allies among progressive members of Congress. At a press event in front of the capitol, representatives from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian American caucuses released a letter calling on President Obama to say no the Keystone XL pipeline. The letter was signed by 23 members of Congress, including long-time progressive champions like Rep. John Lewis and new members of Congress like California Representative Mark Takano.
“You cannot be talking about doing something proactive about climate change while approving the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva at the event. “We're now in a position to lead, rather than follow the worn, tired path industry has laid for us.”
Other Representatives went directly at the fossil fuel industry for the misinformation they’ve been spreading about Keystone XL. “The idea KXL will deliver energy independence isn't just a lie, it's a sad lie,” said Florida Representative Alan Grayson.
The Congressional letter will help build political momentum for this weekend’s “Forward on Climate” rally, when we’re expecting tens of thousands of people to rally for climate action and protest Keystone XL.
“At the rally, Americans will ask you [President Obama] to take a stand for the climate and reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, limit carbon pollution from our nation's dirty power plants, and fire up our clean energy economy,” wrote the members of Congress. “As progressive Members of Congress, we support those who will be part of the largest climate rally in America’s history.”
From the growing fossil fuel divestment movement that’s now spread to over 250 campuses across the country to this weekend’s massive rally in Washington, DC, the climate movement is beginning to fire on all cylinders and our politicians are taking notice. For the first time in awhile, it really feels like we’re moving, well, #forwardonclimate.