In January, a group of 18 Senators launched the Climate Action Task Force to bring more attention to the issue of climate change. Starting Monday, 28 Senators are leading an all-night session of speeches on climate change in one of the task force’s first major endeavors.
The Climate Action Task Force is made up of all Democrats and the Senators speaking throughout Monday night and into Tuesday morning include Democrats and two Independents, but this isn’t due to lack of reaching across the aisle. “How about we get five Republicans from coastal states whose states are already suffering from sea level rise, droughts, floods and all the rest of it?’’ Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said at the launch of the task force.
Here’s a list of how climate change is impacting all the states represented by Senators in Monday’s all-night session. For every state represented, there is another state not represented — like Texas, or Mississippi, or McConnell’s home state of Kentucky — that’s suffering just as badly, if not worse.
- Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) California is in the midst of one of the state’s worst droughts in recorded history. ClimateProgress’s Joe Romm has written several times about how climate change is exacerbating the drought.
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) The drought is impacting everyone from beer brewers to public health workers to farmers growing things of all shapes and sizes in California.
- Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) Last fall Colorado experienced unprecedented rainfall and flooding, and an analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the federal government spent $621 million in taxpayer dollars helping Colorado recover from nine extreme weather events in 2011–2012. Studies show that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Climate change will adversely impact agriculture, infrastructure and natural resources in Connecticut through changing climactic conditions, increasing frequency of flooding and other extreme weather events.
- Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) Coastal erosion and sea-level rise will also put fragile ecological wetlands and coastal populations at risk in Connecticut.
- Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) Florida is a low-lying coastal state, making it especially vulnerable to increased extreme weather events such as hurricanes and the impacts of sea level rise. It is also one of the states most susceptible to heat-related deaths. Florida’s economy is highly reliant on tourism, and when businesses are forced to close due to weather it really hurts the state’s bottom line.
- Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) Sea level rise is the most immediate threat posed by climate change on Hawaii, with experts expecting up to three feet of increase by 2100. This will impact Hawaii’s food and water security as well as the state’s ability to maintain its infrastructure. Climate change is just one of many challenges facing the state’s fragile and unique ecosystem.
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) Climate change will make summers in Illinois more like those in Texas — scorching hot and relentless. It will also increase the frequency of droughts. Heat- and water-stress will harm the state’s important agricultural sector.
- Sen. Angus King (I-ME) Residents of Maine are becoming more at risk of diseases transmitted by insects as the climate warms and increases their range. Lyme-disease carrying ticks are now endemic to all sixteen counties in the state as opposed to just the southernmost regions as was the case in the past.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) Massachusetts is actively preparing for climate change’s impact on the state. In January, Gov. Deval Patrick announced that the state will allocate more than $50 million on measures to protect against sea level rise and destructive storms like Hurricane Sandy.
- Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) Change in precipitation in Massachusetts will have significant effects on the amount of snow cover and spring snow melt — which will in turn impact water supply and quality.
- Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) Maryland has over 3,000 miles of tidal shoreline, and water is rising much faster than the national average in the state. As acres of land get swallowed up each day, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is trying hard to get the state to take serious mitigation and adaptation measures.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Residents of Minnesota are used to enduring frigid winters, not blazing summers — and the infrastructure reflects this. As the state confronts increasing heatwaves, the way homes are built and cooled will have to be re-envisioned.
- Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) Known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, Minnesota has also experienced three “1,000-year floods” in the last eight years.
- Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) Hurricane Sandy tore through New York, causing, among other devastating impacts, over one million people to lose power. There will be more storms like this in the future, and New York recently started requiring all state-run utilities to begin preparing for sea level rise and extreme weather events associated with climate change.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Climate change will also exacerbate the “heat island” effect in large urban areas like New York City. This will have public health impacts as well as economic costs as more energy will be needed to stay cool in the summer.
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) Snowpack is suffering in Oregon’s majestic mountains, with average reductions already estimated at up to 20 percent across the state’s Cascade range. Increasing greenhouse gas emissions will continue to deplete seasonal snowpacks, impacting everything from ecosystems to hydropower systems.
- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) Oregon will also experience more wildfires in the future as climate change reduces snowpack runoff and increases the likelihood of drought in some part of the state.
- Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) Last week, Majority Leader Ried said “Climate change is the worst problem facing the world today.” Nevada is a very hot and dry part of the world, and the state will feel the impacts of heat and drought on an already water-stressed population as climate change continues.
- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) New Jersey was also hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, however the state has been less proactive in addressing climate change as a potential threat and more reactive in simply rebuilding after the storm, leaving residents vulnerable to future climate-related threats.
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) Fall foliage could be threatened by climate change as the season could get truncated and invasive species move into new northern areas. Drought can also thwart fall colors by making leaves smaller with muted colors. Officials in New Hampshire estimate that leaf-loving tourists add about $1 billion to the economy each year.
- Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) New Mexico is enduring what amounts to a chronic drought. Surface water sources, such as the Rio Grande, are precariously low while already being over-allocated.
- Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) Groundwater reserves, which provide much of the New Mexico’s drinking and agricultural water supply, are also in danger as the region gets hotter and drier.
- Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has taken to the Senate floor dozens of times in just the past year to push for congressional action on climate change. He is one of the founders of the Climate Action Task Force and recently announced the launch of a website devoted to documenting climate change’s impacts on Rhode Island.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) In Vermont climate change is harming the state’s prized maple syrup industry as well as the treasured winter sports industry. The winter sports industry is suffering from warmer and shorter snow seasons both across the U.S. and around the world.
- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) Coastal communities are especially at risk of climate-impacts in Virginia, but residents across the state are likely to suffer increasing respiratory health problems due to smog, asthma and allergies that are exacerbated by climate change. Mayors across the state recently urged state lawmakers to take action in combating climate change.
- Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) Washington State will suffer from hotter summers and more unpredictable rainfall due to climate change, this could jeopardize important hydroelectric energy sources.
- Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Washington’s families, businesses and communities are likely to incur billions of dollars of annual economic costs due to climate change. This will include increased energy costs, wildfire costs, storm damage and public health costs.
No Republicans signed up to and judging by minority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) recent statements that’s unlikely to change soon.
“For everybody who think it’s warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t,” McConnell told the Cincinnati Enquirer over the weekend, saying he opposed U.S. action on climate change. “Even if you conceded the point, which I don’t concede, but if you conceded the point, 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. I think it’s beyond foolish and real people are being hurt by this.”
In case these 28 reasons aren’t enough of an argument for climate action, take a look at a breakdown of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for some more thought-provoking statistics.
Thirty senators ended up participating in the event, including Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Chris Coons (D-DE), who joined the lineup after it was announced on Friday.