28 United States senators are pulling an all-nighter Monday night to, in the words of Senate Climate Action Task Force Co-Chair Senator Barbara Boxer, "wake up Congress to the disturbing realities of climate change." Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the other Co-Chair of the Task Force, declares there is a "vast and broad array of armies" that understands the danger of the crisis and are willing to fight, but they are confronting a "barricade of special-interest lies around Washington and around Congress." He is absolutely right.
Senator Barbara Boxer:
"The purpose is to use the bully pulpit of our Senate offices to achieve that wake-up call. We believe that climate change is a catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes, and we want Congress to take off the blindfolds."
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse:
"Once that barricade is broken, all sorts of legislation becomes possible, because suddenly Congress has to get real."
If the climate talkathon is anything like Secretary of State John Kerry's remarkable speech in Jakarta, this could prove an event worth staying up for. But we need to get real. The answer is not President Obama's climate action plan, which is more PR than plan and has zero chance of stabilizing the climate.
Policymakers at all levels need to stop claiming we have until 2050 to address a "catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes." They also need to dispense with the illusion that the internationally agreed-upon ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius is safe for humanity. World-renowned climate scientist James Hansen and 17 others recently released a study stating that heating the globe 2 degrees C (we are already 0.8 degrees C above preindustrial levels) is "foolhardy" and would lead to "disastrous consequences" beyond our control. Hansen and his co-authors urge instead that we stay as close as possible to a ceiling of 1 degrees C. It is time for a wartime-like mobilization to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.
It might interest you to know that two of the senators who will be participating in the talkathon Monday night are Independents. The other 26 are Democrats. This begs the obvious question: Where in the hell are the Republicans?
Survival is not a partisan issue. We need all hands on deck.