US Senate debates climate change through night

Lawmakers maintain climate vigil on Capitol Hill, warning of economic and human costs that could hit US in warmer world


By Ed King

US Senators are maintaining their all-night ‘talkathon’ on Capitol Hill to draw attention to the risks of climate change.

Twenty-eight Democrat Senators and two independents were still talking when this article was published at 0630 in Washington DC.

Topics touched on have ranged from the influence of the oil-magnate Koch brothers, the warnings from climate scientists and the economic opportunities from investing in low carbon.

WATCH LIVE: Senate debates climate change

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine called on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline “right now”, warning that embracing tar sands oil would lead to a “dirtier tomorrow”.

Connecticut’s Christopher Murphy said insurance companies were already signalling their concern by raising rates in his state.

He also said sicknesses like Lyme disease could become more common in a warmer world.

Earlier in the evening Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey said the transition away from fossil fuels would help the US economy.

“There are now 80,000 people in the wind industry in the United States, there are 142,000 people in the solar industry… this is a revolution, a job-creating revolution,” he said.

President Obama, White House staffers and the UN’s lead climate official all tweeted their support for the event, which can be followed on the #Up4climate hashtag on twitter.

Not all those taking part have backed tough new carbon cutting legislation.

Speaking late on Monday evening Oklahoma Republican Jim Inhofe repeated his concern that global warming is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

According to the Center for American Progress around 56% of Republicans in the House of Representatives deny the existence of climate change or oppose action on climate change.

That number rises to 65% in the Senate, explaining the stiff opposition to laws proposed by the White House to close polluting power plants.

In the absence of a national law on carbon emissions, some states participate in carbon trading while major cities such as New York have carbon reduction targets.

The US currently has an international emissions reduction target of 17% on 2005 levels, but says new efficiency measures and fewer coal plants are essential for it to meet this.

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