At 1 PM EST activists from across the US plan to engage in civil disobedience at Capitol Power Plant in Washington DC. Organizers from 40 different groups estimate that more than 2,500 people will be joining in the protests, making it the largest U.S. protest on climate change to date. Owned by Congress, Capital Power Plant is seen by activists as a longtime symbol of the US government’s consistent support for the use of coal, the leading source of CO2 emissions in the U.S.
Many activists see this year as a possible turning-point in how the US government views energy policy and climate change. Since taking office in January, President Obama’s administration has already signaled that it plans to take climate change far more seriousy than its predecessors. Just last week, President Obama released a preliminary budget that included revenue from cap-and-trade programs, though Congress has yet to take up the issue. Activists have been calling for a cap-and-trade program on CO2 emissions for years.
“This is just the moment to up the ante,” said Bill McKibben, professor and founder of 350.org, a climate change group. “Barack Obama–an organizer himself–has asked us all to give him the political backing he needs to make the change that science requires. When civil disobedience works, it demonstrates a willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for a larger end — a way to say, ‘coal is bad enough that I’m willing to get arrested.’”
Along with McKibben other notable scientists and environmentalists are at the capitol today. Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and professor at Colombia University, has signaled his willingness to get arrested at the protests. In addition, author Wendell Berry, former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, environmental lawyer and writer Gus Speth, activist and writer Vandana Shiva, and actress Daryl Hannah will be in attendance.
The protest had an early and unexpected victory last Friday when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid asked that the Capitol Power Plant move away from coal toward natural gas by the end of the year.
“Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid’s dramatic action shows that Congress can act quickly on global warming when the public demands it,” said Greenpeace Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett. “This move demonstrates that they recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for a switch to cleaner energy sources.”
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