Yesterday, Senate Democrats determined to work around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unwillingness to legislate on the climate crisis, held their first hearing highlighting the work to combat climate change being undertaken by mayors across the U.S.  The Democrats, according to the Committee’s Chair, Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii, who told Chris Hayes on MSNBC last night that they want to “lay the predicate for action in 2021” and build “a coalition of working people” in support of climate action because “It is long past time to act.” 

Why This Matters:  The Senate last seriously considered climate legislation TEN years ago.  And yet this is an existential crisis, whose impacts can be seen all around us from sea to shining sea — from rampant wildfires in “baking” Alaska and California that has burned cities and forests to the ground, to severe flooding in the midwest ruining billions of dollars in agricultural products, to hurricanes that that have killed thousands of Americans and left hundreds of thousands as climate refugees in our own country. It is long past time to act, but until the Congress — House AND Senate — act, at the very least they can prepare.  Most laws take years to pass, so starting now is not just filling time — it is critical to eventual legislative success.  And in fairness, there is some legislation slowly its way through the Senate to make the U.S. less dependent on fossil fuels, but there is nothing on the scale of what is needed currently under consideration by the Republican-controlled Senate.  So let’s get ready in the hopes that the Congress will finally be able to act in 2021.

What Are Mayors Doing About the Climate Crisis?

  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talked about Clean Energy Atlanta in which the city is committed to transitioning to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 — both for municipal operations and by all residents, noting that Georgia is projected to see an increase in “dangerous heat days” from an average of 20 days a year today to more than 90 by 2050.
  • Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota highlighted the city’s effort to create a sustainable, energy-efficient demonstration neighborhood on a 122-acre site that once housed a Ford production plant that will generate 80% less carbon emissions than those built to code in 2005; and most homes will be powered, heated, and cooled with renewable energy.

The Senate Democrats Intend to Look At Numerous Climate Issues.

  • Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois highlighted environmental justice issues at the hearing today (see below), and in future hearings will work to better understand all the national security implications of the climate crisis.
  • Similarly, Senators Tina Smith of Minnesota and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin will delve into how climate change is negatively impacting farmers.
  • Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island seems to be focused on the issue of dark money and its link to climate change inaction in Congress.

To Go Deeper: You can watch the entire 90-minute hearing by clicking here.  And you can read the testimony by clicking here.

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