30 US Senators Speak Up4Climate Science

On the night of March 10th to the morning of March 11th, 30 US Senators stayed up all night speaking about climate change for 15 hours.  The event was the first hosted by the Senate Climate Action Task Force.  A video of the full session can be viewed courtesy of C-SPAN2, and is also searchable by speaker and keyword.

The event was encouraging not just because 30 percent of the members of the US Senate were willing to devote their personal time to discuss this critical subject, but also because they displayed a strong understanding of climate change and its impacts.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) invoked the 97 percent expert consensus on human caused global warming from Cook et al. (2013).

Senator Jeff Merkeley (D-OR) spoke about pine beetle population explosions decimating Oregon forests.  This is a result of warmer winters and thus fewer extreme cold events that normally act to limit pine beetle populations.

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) spoke about the often overlooked threat of ocean acidification.  Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere don't just warm the planet, they also form carbonic acid in ocean waters, reducing their pH level.  This has significant adverse impacts on coral reefs (for example, The Great Barrier Reef) and other marine ecosystems.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) spoke about the importance of viewing climate change in terms of risk management, as illustrated in John Cook's latest cartoon.

SkS contributor Sarah attended the event in person.  She reports,

About 50 of us watched this historic event from the viewing gallery of the Senate Chamber. When we first arrived about 9:30 the only section open was right above the democratic side of the chamber, so all we could see was the completely empty republican side. The ushers responded to complaints and moved us around the corner where we could see the rotating cast of democrats. Of course they were playing to the cameras, not to us; and cheering or photos from the gallery are strictly prohibited.
Both my natal state senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, gave good remarks. Senator Klobuchar was unintentionally ironic in lamenting how low water levels in the Mississippi limited traffic of barges carrying coal. I was disappointed not to see any appearance by senators from my current home of Michigan. All the talks I saw were science-based, with each senator making personal links to his or her home state.

Unfortunately the only Republican to speak at the event was Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), and his comments were generally limited to "zingers" about the Senate Democrats having "an audience of themselves" during the event.  Such is the state of American politics that one party takes climate change very seriously and the other views it as a punchline.

The fact that these 30 Senators were willing to hold this high profile climate event and display their understanding of the science and importance of addressing climate change suggests that they now view it as an issue that will help them win elections.  Although there is still close to zero support for climate legislation amongst conservative members of Congress, the Up4Climate event and President Obama's significant action from the executive branch are good signs that the USA may be moving in the direction of addressing climate change.

Posted by dana1981 on Friday, 14 March, 2014

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