Those of us who have never tried to push a bill through Congress can’t appreciate what a difficult and frustrating process it is. It’s time we do — and time we take to the streets.
Some weeks ago, I posted a column about the Lieberman-Warner climate bill, which proposes that by 2020, we reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15% below their level in 2005. That’s less than half the goal set by the European Union – the equivalent of a 32% reduction in emissions by 2020 compared to 2005. The Lieberman-Warner cap is hardly a model policy for the world’s second-largest source of GHG emissions. I was not happy with a group of U.S. environmental leadership who endorsed that goal in a letter to Congress.
I spent time last week with one of those leaders — a man who carries a picture of his grandson in his shirt pocket to remind him of why working on the climate issue is worth the grief he gets from people like me – and I gained a different perspective: Inadequate action on the Hill is the result of inadequate action on the streets. The political calculus for climate caps is the same as it is for virtually every other dicey issue in Congress: Members feel they are more likely to keep their seats supporting a 15% reduction than supporting a 30% reduction.
We need to flip that calculation, making bold climate action the best way for members of Congress and presidential candidates to win the next election, and that puts the burden back on us voters. While our environmental leaders are chasing legislative aides through the halls of the Capitol, the rest of us need to take to the streets in a nonviolent show of solidarity that elected officials cannot ignore.
The movement to the streets may take legs this week.