Citizen Certainty on Climate, Energy
By Keith Schneider U.S. Climate Action Network
WASHINGTON – Just days before an influential Senate committee begins hearings on a comprehensive climate and energy bill that could reshape the American economy and clear the skies of climate changing pollution, Darcell Streeter was on Capitol Hill this week to urge lawmakers from her home state of Florida to support the measure’s potentially game-changing goals.
“This is an easy one for me,” said Streeter, a 36-year-old human relations specialist from Jacksonville, and the former executive director of the Duval County Republican Party who now represents CARE, the international humanitarian organization. “My concern is for people who have no influence. The changing climate affects the poorest people who aren’t equipped to handle the adverse consequences. This is a global issue and the United States has an opportunity now to lead the world to a solution.”
Streeter conveyed her message on Wednesday to Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, a champion of clean energy and climate action, and Republican Senator George LeMieux, who hasn’t said much about both ideas since being appointed to the Senate in September.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to begin hearings on the measure on October 27. The deliberations will influence the work of international negotiators who meet in Copenhagen to shape a new global climate agreement to cool the planet.
“With my background maybe we can convince Sen. LeMieux to see the issues differently,” said Streeter, who is one of most recognized young African American Republican leaders in her state.
Delegation With A Purpose
Similar expressions of optimism guided the nearly 50 other climate and clean energy advocates from 15 states who joined Streeter on Capitol Hill this week. The national fly-in, which ends on Thursday, is sponsored by the U.S. Climate Action Network, a Washington-based coalition of 80 leading environmental, science, and policy organizations.
The effort by Streeter and the other advocates to meet with home state lawmakers and their staffs has national significance and comes during a week of global citizen activism. People around the world this week are organizing events, meeting with policy makers, generating media attention, and otherwise raising a collective voice to convince U.S. and world leaders that powering the global economy with dirty and expensive fossil fuels is not only obsolete, it also is increasingly dangerous.
Other prominent public events in support of climate action and clean energy in and outside Washington include the thousands of gatherings around the world early in the week organized by Stand Up Take Action, and the more than 4,000 other global events taking place on Saturday that are sponsored by 350.org. In all, millions of Americans and citizens around the world this week are calling for new climate protections.
In December in Copenhagen, negotiators meet to shape a new global climate agreement. In Washington the climate and energy bill, like the debate on a new health care policy, has spurred one of the most intense political struggles in years over the economy, ideology, regulation and the role of government oversight.
|Terri Glaberson, executive director of CoolMom, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization joined Stewart Henderson , a small business executive from Olympia, on Capitol Hill this week. “We’ve got to rush the stage,” he said.|
Diverse Voices in Support of Action
The delegation that fanned out across Capitol Hill this week reflected, in microcosm, the diversity of sentiment about the need for government to act to pass a national climate and energy law. Among the 49-member group were religious leaders from Florida and Ohio, students from Florida, South Carolina, and Oregon, an architect from Minnesota, professors from Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and an activist mother from Seattle.
“This bill is so important,” said Terri Glaberson, executive director of CoolMom, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that activates mothers to take action on climate change. “It’s all about the children and their future.”
Joining Glaberson in Washington was Stewart Henderson , a small business executive from Olympia who represented the Business Leaders for Climate Solutions. Henderson applauded the size of the delegation and the number of scheduled meetings over two days with lawmakers. “We can’t do this one by one,” said Henderson, “They’ll pick us off. We’ve got to rush the stage.”
Across the country, according to public opinion polls, Americans say they view federal action on climate and clean energy as essential. In late June, the House passed its version of the bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. In September, the Benenson Strategy Group polled nearly 1,000 registered voters in 16 states and found 63 percent supported the goals of the bill, which included reducing greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The bill also provides for gaining substantial revenue from capping carbon to invest in the clean energy economy.
|Lorena Hildebrandt, an 18-year-old student at Winthrop University in South Carolina, and Gabriel Fair, the 20-year-old co-president of Students for Environmental Awareness at Clemson University, said new jobs and environmental security were the reasons they traveled this week to Washington.|
Polls Find Consistent Support
The Benenson findings are consistent with nearly every other independent poll on the climate and energy bill. One reason is that Americans recognize the potential for the legislation to make a significant difference in modernizing the economy and generating millions of clean energy jobs. The Renewable Energy Policy Project, an Ohio think tank, published a study earlier this year that showed that a 25 percent reduction in climate emissions by 2025 would result in 500,000 new manufacturing jobs in just 10 states in seven Midwest states plus Texas, California, and North Carolina.
Lorena Hildebrandt, an 18-year-old student at Winthrop University in South Carolina, and Gabriel Fair, the 20-year-old co-president of Students for Environmental Awareness at Clemson University, said new jobs and environmental security were the reasons they traveled this week to Washington. The two students had scheduled meetings with state lawmakers, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who earlier this month co-authored with Senator John Kerry a New York Times article designed to produce a pathway for legislation action on the climate and energy measure.
“We will tell him that student support, in his own state, is high for energy policy and to deal with global warming,” said Hildebrandt. “It’s rare now that I talk with anyone who says global warming is not real. Congress needs to understand that young people really care about this issue.”
Keith Schneider, a journalist and communications strategist, is the media and communications director for the US Climate Action Network. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org