US holds vital all-nighter on climate change

2014-03-11 07:54
A group of visitors walks past the Senate carriage entrance as Senate Democrats speak nonstop on the chamber floor about climate change. (T J Kirkpatrick, AFP)

A group of visitors walks past the Senate carriage entrance as Senate Democrats speak nonstop on the chamber floor about climate change. (T J Kirkpatrick, AFP)

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Washington - Dozens of US lawmakers eager to make climate change a major political issue will begin an all-night Senate session on Monday urging Washington to enact legislation that reduces the threat of global warming.

At least 28 Democrats including Senate majority Leader Harry Reid will participate in the unique overnight event that will carry through the night and conclude at 09:00 on Tuesday.

The overnighter is the first major effort organised by the newly-created Climate Action Task Force in Congress that aims to kick-start public debate on climate change.

"On Monday we'll be sending a clear message: it's time for Congress to wake up and get serious about addressing this issue", Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement.

No Republicans are scheduled to participate, highlighting the political divide over the issue in Congress.

Democrats accused Republicans of being in the pocket of big oil and gas companies and putting their heads in the sand when it comes to controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Republicans attack Democrats for pushing pie-in-the-sky reforms like mandatory emission caps and environmental regulations that kill jobs.

Several conservatives in Congress openly question whether human activity plays a role in the planet's changing temperatures, rising sea levels or shifting storm patterns.

"Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable", said Senator Brian Schatz. "Congress must act."

Senator Barbara Boxer will also participate in the event.

As chairperson of the Senate environment and public works committee, Boxer has been a thorn in the side of Republicans who support energy projects like the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States.

She pointed to China, as the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, as an example of an unchecked climate policy.

"All you have to do is look at China to see what happens to your country when you throw the environment under the bus", she said.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which praised the event, noted that Congress is already contending with effects of climate change, such as passing drought relief legislation, "even if some members dare not say the words".

"What we need is a much bigger national debate about how we can respond to the risks scientists have uncovered about climate change and how we can reduce emissions to avoid the worst impacts", said Angela Anderson, director of the alliance's climate and energy programme.

Read more on:    us  |  environment  |  climate change

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