CAPITOL HILL — At the U.S. Capitol, Democratic senators are speaking all night long Monday on the perils of climate change, and urging swift action to combat it. More than 30 lawmakers hope to advance legislation to cut carbon emissions, which are blamed by most scientists for rising global temperatures.
Pro-environmental initiatives have been stalled for years in America’s politically divided Congress - a situation that is not expected to change anytime soon. But that isn’t stopping Democrats from speaking out on the Senate floor.
Senator Patrick Leahy says the evidence of climate change is plain to see.
“We see it in California’s scorched farmlands, in Alaska’s retreating glaciers, in Wyoming’s burnt forests and [America’s] superstorm-ravaged coastlines," he said. "I say it is time to wake up and take action.”
Leahy urged passage of laws to boost America’s clean energy sector and tax carbon emissions.
No Republicans are joining their Democratic colleagues in the special Senate session. Earlier, however, several Republicans urged legislative restraint.
Senator Jeff Sessions said scientists are not unanimous in assessing the reality, much less the causes, of climate change.
“There has been a lot of exaggeration, a lot of hype," he said. "The American people are feeling the crunch already in their electric bills, in their gasoline bills as a result of our efforts to stop a rising temperature that does not seem to be rising right now.”
With major environmental legislation stymied in Congress, President Barack Obama has acted on his own where possible. For instance, his administration has boosted U.S. fuel economy standards for automobiles and sought to close the nation’s biggest-polluting coal power plants.
The president faces a major test in whether to approve construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil - a project backed almost unanimously by Republicans but vehemently opposed by Obama’s pro-environment political allies.