WASHINGTON — Environmentalists, distraught by the slow pace of government action on climate change, gathered in front of the White House Saturday afternoon, calling on President Biden and Congress to swiftly pass a climate bill that has stalled in the Senate since December. .
The White House demonstration was one of dozens of “Fight for Our Future” rallies held across the country to pressure the government to cut pollution that dangerously warms the planet, and a week of events to coincide with Earth Day.
“We’re here because we’re hit by hurricanes in a row in North Carolina, and we haven’t repaired anything,” said Willett Simpkins, 68, a retired nursing home maintenance director from Wallace, NC. “And it gets worse every year. It’s time they stopped talking about it and did something about it.”
Several hundred people gathered under the pale green trees in Lafayette Park and chanted, “Climate action! Climate action!” Many worked for environmental groups, but among them were voters who wanted Biden to know that failing to introduce climate legislation could cost him their vote.
Rising gas prices due to the war in Ukraine have prompted Mr Biden to take measures that are anathema to climate activists. He released a record amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and begged oil and gas companies to drill more. In accordance with an order from a federal judge, Mr. Biden said he would open more public lands for drilling, despite a campaign promise to halt new oil and gas exploration.
Gracie Chaney, 27, a doctoral student in physics at the University of Maryland, said those actions felt like betrayal. “I’m pretty disappointed,” she said. “There were a lot of promises he broke. It feels like we’re going back to the 19th century or something.”
The events come at a time when scientists say the window is rapidly shrinking for nations to avoid slipping the planet into an irreversible future of more deadly storms, wildfires, floods, drought, food scarcity and mass migration.
Mr. Biden has pledged to halve greenhouse gases by 2050, a target consistent with what scientists say is needed from the United States to prevent such disasters. The United States has historically produced the most pollution that causes climate change. The country is now the second largest polluter in the world after China.
But if Democrats, who have a wafer-thin Congressional majority, don’t pass major climate legislation in a few months, many analysts say the window to that goal will slam shut. Republicans prefer to gain control of at least one House of Congress in this fall’s midterm elections, and their steadfast opposition to climate action would likely wipe out the prospects for new legislation soon.
Scientists have stated with increasing urgency that nations must act now to avert a harrowing future. A major scientific report released earlier this month concluded that countries must immediately and drastically move away from the fossil fuels that have supported major economies for more than a century.
The Earth has warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius (1.9 degrees Fahrenheit) since the industrial age, largely due to human activity, namely the burning of oil, gas and coal. Scientists say every fraction of a degree of heating translates into more frequent droughts, more violent storms, more species extinctions — effects already being felt in every corner of the globe. Once Earth passes a threshold of 1.5 degrees of warming (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the likelihood of devastating heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and storms increases significantly, scientists say.
At an Earth Day event in Seattle on Friday, Mr. Biden spoke about a series of actions his administration has taken to curb pollution, but emphasized the need to change his stalled legislation, which would deliver more than $500 billion in tax credits. to speed up the pollution. the country’s transition to wind and solar energy and to electric cars. “I just have to look around me,” he said. “Cities and states are acting. Companies act. I act. We also need Congress to act.”
Mr. Simpkins has followed Mr. Biden’s actions, including a crackdown on the planet-warming methane leaking from oil and gas wells and a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas produced by refrigerator coolants.
“That thing about gas emissions, that was good,” he said. “The stuff on the Freon and the air conditioning, that was good. But they need even more. Those trees that burn down every year are not replanted. The houses that are hit will not come back.”
Mr Simpkins voted for Mr Biden in 2020, but he said if Mr Biden fails to deliver strong climate laws, he will sit out the 2024 election. “I hate to say that, but I wouldn’t vote,” he said.