Monday night, the Democratic Party Senate leadership will take to the floor with speeches on climate change.
Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has pledged in recent weeks to continue allowing time for anyone who wants to discuss the issue during the weekly Democratic caucus lunch or on the Senate floor. The format planned for Monday is an extension of floor speeches given regularly by Whitehouse that usually begin with him saying that “it’s time to wake up” to climate change.
The majority of the majority will follow, through the night, with speech after speech focusing on climate change issues.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.
Senator Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Senator Al Franken, D-Minn.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Senator Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Senator Angus King, I-Maine
Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Senator Edward J. Markey, D-Mass.
Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J.
Here is one of Senator Whitehouse’s 60+ floor speeches on climate … this one about the need for Congress to wake up to reality (text here), that “it is time for my colleagues to wake up.”
Senator Whitehouse’s speech … excerpts … really worth reading …
This is the 52nd consecutive week we’re in session that I have come to the Floor to ask us, please, for Lord’s sake, to wake up to the damage carbon pollution is already doing to our atmosphere, oceans, and climate; and to look ahead, to use our God-given sense, and to plan for what is so obviously coming.
In those weeks, I’ve talked about all different aspects of carbon pollution: its effect on sports and our economy, its effect on oceans and coasts, its effect on agriculture and wildfires, its effect on storms and insurance costs.
I’ve talked about the measurements — measurements — we can already make of the harm already happening: sea level rise, which you measure with a yardstick, basically; ocean temperature, which you measure with a thermometer; and ocean acidification — the fastest in fifty million years, according to research published in Nature Geoscience — which you can measure with litmus tests.
I have, I hope, to anyone listening with their logic turned on, thoroughly rebutted the deniers’ phony arguments against solving carbon pollution, whether those arguments purported to be based in science, or religion, or economics, or our competitiveness.
I have listed the thoughtful and responsible groups — from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, from WalMart to NASA, from Ford and GM to Coke and Pepsi, from America’s Garden Clubs to just last month our major sports leagues — who understand the truth about climate change and are saying so.
I’ve done my best to expose the calculated campaign of lies that we’re up against, and the vast scandalous apparatus of phony organizations and engineered messages that are designed to propagate those lies. I’ve traced the connections back to — of course — the big carbon polluters and their billionaire owners. And I’ve been obliged to point out that the money of those big polluters and billionaires floods this Chamber, that their lobbyists prowl the outer halls, and that to a sad and disappointing degree this Congress is bought and paid for by that polluter influence.
One factor we have yet to consider is whether, as an institution, Congress has just become completely irresponsible. Maybe this Congress just can’t operate as an institution at an intelligent level. Some Congresses are going to be smarter and more responsible than others — that’s just the natural order of variation. Some Congress is going to be the sorriest Congress ever. Maybe we’re it.
Some organizations, like NASA, for instance, are very smart. That’s why NASA is driving a rover around on the surface of Mars right now. That is a seriously smart organization.
Some organizations take ordinary people and call them to be their very best, to play at a level above their natural talents, to heed a higher calling than their selfish inclinations. At their best, our military and our churches tend to achieve that.
Some organizations, however, take even the most talented people, and drag them down to the lowest common denominator, and stifle the best and bring out the worst in even those very talented people.
Well, I ask people watching: which type of organization do you think Congress is right now? Which type do you think we are?
As an organization, it is hard to say anything kinder of Congress than that it is now a really irresponsible organization. We couldn’t even keep the United States government running. Standard and Poor’s estimated that our Tea Party shutdown foolishness cost Americans tens of billions of dollars, for no gain — none. We can’t sort out the basics of building and maintaining our American infrastructure: our own American Society of Civil Engineers gives our country a D+ for infrastructure.
And that’s not complicated stuff, yet we flub it; like a football team that fumbles the ball at the snap.
And that brings us to climate change. Yeah, it’s complicated, when you’re trying to predict and model something as complex as what our climate is going to do in the years ahead. But, it is also simple, when you look at the stuff that everyone agrees on, on the stuff that you can measure, the stuff that you’d have to be a nut or a crank or an eccentric to dispute.
Nobody responsible — nobody responsible disputes the principle that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere raises the temperature of the Earth, and that it does so through the so-called “greenhouse effect.” A scientist named John Tyndall figured that out at the time of the American Civil War. I brought his musty old paper in here several speeches ago. Its old leather binding was flaking and peeling. When that report was first published, Abraham Lincoln had just been elected President. In all the years since then, this principle of science has always been confirmed and validated. It is not some questionable theory. The greenhouse effect is real. It would not just be wrong, it would be irresponsible to deny that.
Nobody responsible disputes that for over a century our modern economy has run on fossil fuels, and that burning those fossil fuels has released gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Global Carbon Project estimates that mankind has pumped about 2000 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since 1870. That’s a pretty solid estimate, and I’ve never even heard anyone dispute it.
So we know those two things: adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere traps more heat; and we have released an estimated 2000 gigatons — 2000 billion tons — of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Let’s go on from there. It is a known principle of science that a significant portion of that multi-gigaton carbon load is absorbed by the oceans, and that the chemical reaction when that absorption happens into the oceans makes the oceans more acidic. No responsible person disputes either proposition. It’s not some theory, it’s something that you can actually do and measure in a lab. Again, it wouldn’t just be wrong, it would be really irresponsible to deny that.
We also know that the oceans do more than absorb carbon — they absorb heat. Indeed they have absorbed most of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases– over 90% of the heat between 1971 and 2010 according to the recent IPCC report. And what happens when the oceans absorb heat? They expand. Thermal expansion is a basic physical property of liquids. It can also be shown in a very simple lab. It is not a theory. Again, it would be not just wrong but irresponsible to deny that, too.
It would not just be wrong, it would be irresponsible to deny what those simple measurements and clear principles tell us.
But we do. We do. We deny it. Congress won’t wake up and address this problem: like those monkeys: see no carbon, hear no carbon, speak no carbon.
Because we are so irresponsible, because we deny this reality, we are failing to take precautions, and as a result many people will suffer.
For those of us who love this country and are proud of it, and are proud of our government, and want this country and its government to be a beacon of hope and promise and rectitude, it hurts a little extra for the United States Congress to be such a failure. It hurts a little extra that we, in our generation, have driven Congress, the hub of our noble American experiment in democracy, the beating heart of this great republic, down to that low level.
It is a harsh judgment that this body is an irresponsible failure. But on climate, this Congress got it the old-fashioned way — it earned it.
I will close with a final observation. Compare the irresponsibility of this “see no carbon, hear no carbon, speak no carbon” Congress with the recent exhortation from Pope Francis. Here is what the Pope said – I’ll quote him at some length:
“There are other weak and defenceless beings who are frequently at the mercy of economic interests or indiscriminate exploitation. I am speaking of creation as a whole. We human beings are not only the beneficiaries but also the stewards of other creatures. Thanks to our bodies, God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement. Let us not leave in our wake a swath of destruction and death which will affect our own lives and those of future generations. Here I would make my own,” the Pope continued, “the touching and prophetic lament voiced some years ago by the bishops of the Philippines.” And he quotes them: ‘An incredible variety of insects lived in the forest and were busy with all kinds of tasks… Birds flew through the air, their bright plumes and varying calls adding color and song to the green of the forests… God intended this land for us, his special creatures, but not so that we might destroy it and turn it into a wasteland… After a single night’s rain, look at the chocolate brown rivers in your locality and remember that they are carrying the life blood of the land into the sea… How can fish swim in sewers like the . . . rivers which we have polluted? Who has turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?’ Small, yet strong in the love of God, like Saint Francis of Assisi, all of us, as Christians, are called to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, and all its peoples.”
What is our answer to the Pope, to this great Christian leader? In Congress, it’s the monkey answer: hear no carbon, see no carbon, speak no carbon.
We still have time to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. We can actually do it in painless ways. We can even do it in advantageous ways, in ways that will boost our economy. But we have got to do it. We have got to wake up. We simply have got to wake up.
Here is the message that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sent her supporters:
There are a lot of people in Washington — a lot of lobbyists and a lot of politicians — who are determined to block any new laws that might reduce pollution.
Year after year, evidence grows about the damage we suffer from carbon pollution, and yet, the science deniers stay locked in place. It’s so bad that we can’t even have a serious conversation about the growing evidence that the earth is in real trouble.
So I have a question for you.
If we don’t do anything at all to stop climate change, what do you think the world will look like 25 years from now?
Monday night, several other senators and I are pulling an all-nighter on the floor of the Senate to talk about the importance of pollution and climate change. We are going to do our best to bring attention to a topic that a lot of people in Washington don’t want to talk about.
I’ve been assigned a block of time to talk, and I want to spend a chunk of it talking about as many stories as I can from people like you.
So take the question wherever you want: What do you think the planet is going to look like 25 years from now if we don’t tackle climate change head-on? What small thing will be different? What big thing will change everything?
Make it personal or make it public. Do some research or talk about what worries you. But however you want to do it, write it up — maybe a paragraph or two? — and send it to me. I want to post some of your answers online and read some of your answers on the floor of the Senate because I want other people to think about this question: If we don’t act, what could happen?
I think about what we could lose. I think about our natural treasures here in Massachusetts, from the Cape to the Berkshires, from hidden away gems to defining features of our great state. I think about what a more acidic ocean will mean for our fishermen, and whether we can sustain great oceanfront cities if sea levels continue to rise. I think about increasing rates of asthma and toxins that work their way into our food chain. I think about the threats to our economy and to our safety.
I also think about my three little grandchildren, and what kind of world we will leave to them. Are they going to live in a world where it’s not safe to breathe the air or drink the water because powerful corporations and their lobbyists blocked real change?
Twenty-five years is not such a long time. In 25 years, what will you be doing? What about your family and friends? And what about our earth?
I’m hopeful that if we think more about the future — if we really think hard about the path we’re on and the place it leads — then the urgency to change will be stronger and change will be within reach.
So back to my original question: If we don’t make serious changes, what happens to our world? Take a minute to answer that question now.
Remember, I’m going to read as many of these stories as I can on the floor of the United States Senate, so please make them good! If you find some good research, add a link. If you want to add a picture, I’ll include as many as I can. And if you want some friends or family to think about this question too, please forward the email and ask them to write. More voices will make us stronger.
Thank you for being a part of this,