28 Lawmakers Are Staying #Up4Climate Tonight

Senators to pull an all-nighter for speech-athon on climate change.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, is organizing the effort to bring more attention to climate change. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Mar 10, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristine Wong is a regular contributor to TakePart and a multimedia journalist who reports on energy, the environment, sustainable business, and food.

Watch out, Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman: The best late show tonight might just be on C-SPAN.

That’s because a band of 28 crusading U.S. lawmakers—26 Democrats and two independents—will be taking over the Senate tonight to deliver uninterrupted speeches on climate change. The group plans to talk from the moment this afternoon’s votes are over (around 4 p.m. ET) until 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The goal of the gabfest is to convey the urgency of climate change and to get Congress to take legislative action.

“Climate change is real, it is caused by humans, and it is solvable,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, in a statement. Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, helped organize the event as part of a push by the Senate Climate Action Task Force to support the climate change plan President Obama unveiled in June 2013.

With so many climate deniers in Congress—including approximately 56 percent of its Republican members, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund—the group has a tough task ahead.

Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Cincinnati Enquirer Friday that there’s no point in the U.S.'s passing climate policy because other nations will dampen its effect through opposition. “You’re not going to have global cooperation to do it,” McConnell said. “Even if you conceded the point, which I don’t concede, it isn’t going to be addressed by one country. So the idea is, we tie our own hands behind our back and others don’t.”

McConnell’s analysis is counter to that of most diplomatic observers, who have said that countries such as India and China feel there’s little to be gained from acting to reduce emissions as long as the world’s top per-capita emitter—that would be us—sits on its hands. With much to lose owing to melting glaciers and rising seas, these expanding economies will only be too happy to commit to reductions once the U.S. does.

Not all Democrats are publicly rallying to change the minds of McConnell and Co. As pointed out by The Hill, four legislators who will be up for reelection this fall opted to stay off the stage tonight: Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), and Mark Begich (Alaska).

But if marathon talkfests staged in the last year by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis on other trending topics are any indication, the climate speech-athon is sure to get media attention—if nothing else. The lawmakers behind tonight’s event even devised a hashtag to accompany their night-shift tweets: #Up4Climate.

One participating senator, Sheldon Whitehouse, (D-R.I.), has set the foundation.

“The cost of Congress’ inaction on climate change is too high for our communities, our kids and our grandkids, and our economy,” Whitehouse said in a statement. Since November 2012, he’s delivered 60 speeches about climate change on the Senate floor—one every week that the body has been in session. “On Monday we’ll be sending a clear message: It’s time for Congress to wake up and get serious about addressing the issue,” he added.