Climate Change Rally Largest in U.S. History

Climate change rally in Washington, DC (February 2013)An estimated 40,000 rallied on a cold day in Washington, DC yesterday to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline and destructive energy extraction practices, such as fracking.

"All I ever wanted was to see a movement of people to stop climate change and now I see it," said Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College professor, author and activist, and the movement's Pied Piper.

Since the president has started ramping up his rhetoric on climate change in his inaugural address and in the State of the Union speech, organizers were walking a fine line -- trying not to offend Obama, while also trying to convey the message that words are not enough. The name of the rally, "Forward On Climate" was borrowed from the president's "Forward" campaign slogan.

But organizers also made their demands clear. Sierra Club director Michael Brune has this to say to the president: "We have loved a lot of what you have said on climate change. Our question is, what will you do? What will you do when our tap water lights on fire? What will you do when the Arctic melts? What will you do when the rainforest dries up? And what will you do with the Keystone XL?"

The controversial pipeline project will carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast for processing and export. Environmentalists are hoping they have a powerful ally in the State Department with the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has long worked on the issue. The next step is Kerry's, who is reviewing the pipeline permits for the administration.

Beyond the Keystone Pipeline more needs to be done to prevent further damage to the planet by global warming.

Climate Change Legislation Introduced in U.S. Senate

At the rally, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse told the crowd that one of the movement's biggest challenges was that Congress was "sleepwalking through the crisis." But the Senate got the ball rolling this week with new legislation targeting some 85 percent of carbon emissions.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, chair of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, introduced new legislation that would apply a carbon fee of $20 per ton of carbon or methane equivalent to 2,869 of the largest fossil fuel polluters. The fee would increase each year for ten years. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the fee would raise $1.2 trillion in revenue over 10 years.

A portion of the money raised would be used to make investments in energy efficiency and in sustainable energy technologies to reduce emissions and to create jobs. For instance, funds are slated to weatherize 1 million homes a year, a no brainer that would quickly start employing workers in the idled construction industry. Funds are also slated for a financing program for investments in wind, solar, biofuels, hydropower, etc. Read a detailed summary here.

"The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their earlier projections were wrong. The crisis facing our planet is much worse than they had thought only a few years ago. Twelve out of the last 15 years ranked as the warmest on record in the United States. Now, scientists say that our planet could be 8°F warmer or more by the end of this century if we take no decisive action to transform our energy system and cut greenhouse gas emissions," Sanders explained. The world is facing more massive storms and weather events and coastal cities are facing much higher sea level rises than previously predicted.

Climate change activists have their work cut out for them to get any reasonable legislation through the House of Representatives which is still packed with climate change deniers.

State Legislators Weigh In on Keystone XL

Average Americans watching the rally on C-Span, were highly supportive with universally positive comments coming in from both the Republican and Democratic lines. Almost every caller mentioned how climate change was affecting their community. But some state legislators have their heads deep in the sand.

As CMD has reported, legislators in four states have introduced bills in recent weeks supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline, with language that appears to have been lifted directly from a "model" American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill and from TransCanada's own public relations talking points. The bills proposed in Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, and Minnesota call on the president and Congress to approve the controversial pipeline.

But citizens in these states are unlikely to be hoodwinked by this ALEC/TransCanada play. As Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen energy program puts it "this pipeline has nothing to do with energy independence, nothing to do with lowering energy prices." As for jobs, "Jobs will be created cleaning up spills," says Slocum, who argues that the deal largely benefits Canada, who has little refinery capacity and some Chinese investors who are already buying into the project.

Mary Bottari

Mary Bottari is a reporter for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). She helped launch CMD's award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation and is a two-time recipient of the Sidney Prize for public interest journalism from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.


Climate blame believers are the real fear mongering neocons! Why are we acting like the fear mongering neocons now? Bush didn't threaten my kids with a CO2 death. Our crisis is an exaggerated crisis and real planet lovers are glad not disappointed a crisis wasn't real. You can’t have a little cataclysmic climate change and if it’s not a crisis, climate change crisis is not real! Science has never said any climate crisis (death for all) "will" be a crisis, only could be and not one single IPCC warning says it will happen, only might happen. So it's only you lazy copy and paste news editors and goose-stepping journalists and fear mongers and pandering politicians that are saying it "WILL" happen. 27 years of science only saying it might happen not will happen proves beyond any doubt that a crisis won't happen. Former Climate Change Believers Are Better Planet Lovers!

The "better planet" they're lovers of must be some other planet in some higher universe they can exploit and trash and pollute to their hearts' content with never any negative consequences. It sure ain't this one.

Seems the highest priority would be the containment of Fukushima radiation that's being dumped into the Pacific. That is going to affect the Pacific food supply. BP is still a slap on the wrist with no measures of protecting Gulf of Mexico food, either. They make the issue about CO2 out of a rush to implement policy because basic observations over time will no longer justify the "Geo-Engineering" our benevolent overseers have taken upon themselves to perform these past 15 years.

I'm an environmentalist, but I think that the pipeline should be approved. The oil will be moved by rail or by pipeline, and pipeline is clearly the better option. The oil will be sent west over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast, and then to China, or else south by pipeline to the U.S. Sending it to the U.S. is clearly the better option. The pipeline decision is a very simple one, but unfortunately some people have tried to make it complicated.

I'm a corporate and Wall Street shill, but I think someone who supports pipelining that toxic brew through the U.S. should only be allowed to call himself an "environmentalist" if he signs a sworn pledge to eat it all up with a spoon if it spills. Tell you what: build the refineries right there on the tar sands; that land is already screwed anyway. Then let the Canadians export the refined gasoline and heating oil to the U.S. and wherever else.

I share your feelings about some people who call themselves "environmentalists," but your proposed solution makes no sense, either in terms of energy extracted from the ground in return for energy sunk in, or of keeping greenhouse gases out of the air: Much better just to leave tar sands "oil" in the ground and concentrate on conservation and developing renewables.

Oh dear...YOU are an environmentalist? Who is paying you to betray the environment, the Koch brothers? This is the only way such a peculiarly poisonous solution would occur. I suggest you read a bit... Derrick Jensen would be a good place to begin to heal the wounds in your psychic tear. Good luck my dear.

16 hours on a bus, 8 hours in 25 degree weather in DC while Pres O was golfing in Florida to ask his help to stop this dirty tar sands oil project that will only create jobs cleaning up the spills and enrich foreign nations. Two of my precious grandchildren already suffer from asthma due to coal burning and we are watching the fast track to fracking for natural gas that will pollute our groundwater here in ALEC-controlled NC. Fossil fuels are suicidal to the planet and my family! Too bad many commentors have not seen Gasland or are so short-sighted and uninformed about alternatives not to realize that corporations are trying to increase their bottom line with no human concerns. Look up A.L.E.C. and to learn more. Join with the rest of us air breathers to stop this assault on us all.

16 hours on a bus? Good for you G'ma! Does that mean you are a neighbor from the mid-west? I suffered from asthma for the first time in my life as an adult when I moved near a coal burning plant and never made the connection until my G'ma explained it to me.