U.S. Senate Democrats stand #Up4Climate

March 11, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

It was the Senate Democrats in the U.S. who couldn’t muster the votes for Cap-and-Trade legislation four years ago. Tonight 30 senators took to the floor to pull an all-nighter in support of action on climate change. Not actually proposing any legislation, the group hoped their marathon session would draw attention to the need to deal with global warming. It was the first act of the Senate Climate Action Task Force, headed by Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

More cynical commentators might point out that in an election year, such a stunt is likely a fundraising opportunity. Good. That political leaders consider standing up for climate action as a campaign boon is in itself a big step. Democrats are clearly trying to make this an issue leading up to November.

Senators must have heard countless calls from their constituents feeling the impact of climate change. All regions of the country have been affected. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey detailed the loss of life and livelihoods in his state after Hurricane Sandy swept ashore in late 2012. New Mexico senator Martin Heinrich talked of his state’s struggle with a wildfire season two months longer than it used to be. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island discussed how fisheries on both sides of the country are being devastated by climate change.

“It is literally the American way of life that is at stake here,” said Schatz.

Charts were presented. Impassioned speeches were made. And the White House celebrated the senators’ push.

All across the United States, companies and citizens are feeling the pain of climate change. California’s record drought costs over $30 billion a year while January’s polar vortex (attributed to fluctuations in the jet-stream caused by climate change) cost the U.S. economy $5 billion in just a few days.

Emphasizing green growth and the economic costs of inaction, senators made their case for the climate action. They admitted, though, that passing any legislation this year is unlikely. Instead, tonight’s marathon #Up4Climate event will hopefully put climate change on the political agenda. Coverage in both the left- and right-wing media shows the issue is a hot topic (awful pun intended). Frustrated voters who have seen campaign after campaign pass with global warming put on the back burner might finally see their leaders held to account on this most pressing issue.