The Legislative Battle Ahead

Report: Climate Crisis Action Day

US Capitol Building

Tuesday March 20th, 2007

Senator Kerry speaking at the rally

Although my temperature was 100˚F on Monday, I decided to make my motto “You’re either on the bus, or you’re off the bus”. Risking physical meltdown as a personal preview of planetary future, I left Brooktondale at 1:10 AM Tuesday, without taking my temperature again. Spacey as I was, nevertheless I made the pickup at Whitney Point, where I joined a busload of activists from Syracuse. By 9:15 AM we were parked in Washington.

The rally was attended by several thousand people plus 3 polar bears (Halloween-style). The Alaskan Wilderness League and its coalition, including Sierra Club and Audubon, characterized the gathering as “the largest action in the history of the United States” focused on the crisis.

The coalition drew a sterling series of presenters, including Senators, Representatives, Native Alaskans, and scientists. The Alaskans testified that homelands have been transmogrifying before their eyes as the Arctic became the crucible of change. The elected officials made it clear that they were prepared to do the heavy lifting to get energy-efficiency legislation through the process. The scientists emphasized the need for 80% reduction of heat-trapping emissions from the 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid the more severe damages. Bills have been introduced that would mandate such a reduction; the legislation is discussed in an article on this website at Article, Carbon Trading and Offsets Counterproductive Compared to Politically Possible Carbon Tax.

Throughout I was handing out fliers about the powerpoint slides available free from If I saw someone who looked like a reporter scribbling away, I gave them my article (also on this website) Do Well Doing Good: Profiting in a Sustainable World detailing motivations for businesses to support strong legislation. Unsuccessfully, I tried to get interviewed on camera.

About mid-way through the rally, I realized that speakers had to cross the lawn to get back to the Capitol Building, surrounded by well-wishers. I started handing my article to their aides with a brief explanation. A tallish Representative broke free from the pack. In my weakened state, I struggled to catch up. “Here are reasons for businesses to support strong legislation to reduce heat-trapping emissions.” “Yeah, it stimulates the economy; I get it.” “And further reasons listed in the Abstract.” He took it “Thanks”. “My pleasure.”

After the rally I went to the Senate Hart Office Building to meet with the aide to Senator Schumer of NYS. The line to get through security lasted about 20 minutes.

The NY Senator’s aide was from CA, with a thorough sympathy for the concerns of the activists (about 25 of us at this meeting in the wide hallway). He did not think the 80% reduction of emissions was doable. A point of confusion cleared up when I mentioned that the goal for 2050 meant only two percent per year. However, he thought a compromise bill would stand more of a chance as a stepping stone. I emphasized that a political compromise may be seen as a political success, but it could be a climatological failure, delaying the necessary cutbacks for an unknown number of years as impacts accelerated, creating a need for an even more severe goal for 2050 than 80%. Meanwhile, the country would likely be awash in expenses arising from impacts, enervating the ability to invest in efficiency and renewable energy sources. Nevertheless, the aide reiterated that a compromise would be more doable and likely.

Governance involves a flurry of scattered conflicting activities that occasionally coalesce into compromise. Yet this issue demands action as soon as possible to enact the 80% goal. Scientists’ published predictions are based on the more conservative results of computer modeling, but modeling is extremely difficult for ice sheet crumbling, methane release from decomposition of melting permafrost tundra and from methane hydrates. Impacts will possibly accelerate more rapidly and with more severity than predicted. Even meeting the 80% goal, the world will be very fortunate if the damages are as conservative as published predictions. Therefore it’s imperative to enact laws that have not been compromised from the 80% goal.

Here’s how to push legislation: Aides pay attention to the calls and letters received by their offices. A national coalition such as that organized by the Alaskan Wilderness League could periodically inundate Washington with communications urging passage without compromise. News of such a coalition has yet to break.

Sixteen hours of direct exposure to the transportation system gave me a chance to witness up close and personal the vast enterprise that it drives so fiercely, it’s virulent vibrations penetrating to my marrow. And my activism was informed by the sense of a land strangled by a networking mesh of tarmac and smoke.

Wednesday March 21st: My temperature was 99.5˚F. In 2006, the Arctic regions had suffered an increase of 1.7˚F over the 1960 to 1991 average. I can recover from my fever; the Arctic probably won’t, in human time-scales.

Can the world? Just as every emission of heat-trapping gasses increases warming, every reduction reduces warming that otherwise would have occurred. It’s up to us.

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