Blog Action Day: How you, personally, can end climate change

The topic of this year’s Blog Action Day is climate change, which is convenient for me. In keeping with the spirit of the event, I thought it might be useful to let people know how they can save the world.

Personal conservation is great, but it’s not nearly as great as political activism. Climate change is a global commons problem, and only coordination on a national and international scale will deliver the long-term emissions reductions necessary to avert the worst effects of global warming.

Now is a particularly propitious time to act. Climate change legislation has already passed in the House, and the Senate version is gaining momentum. World governments gather in Copenhagen in little more than a month to lay the groundwork for a new global accord on greenhouse gas emissions. While neither the U.S. climate bill nor the next round of international negotiations represents the end point of this effort, they are both make-or-break moments.

And let’s be clear about this: passage of a climate bill in the Senate is by no means assured. (Neither is a positive outcome in Copenhagen, for that matter.) Until fairly recently, the situation was looking grim, and only recently have the political tides started to turn. **Failure of the bill will be a disaster for both the country and the planet.**

Fortunately, increasing the political pressure for action is easier than changing your light bulbs, easier than bicycling to work, easier than eating locally — easier than just about anything else you can do. Here’s how:

1. Download this template letter.
2. Find the names and addresses of your senators here.
3. Fill out one copy of the letter for each Senator, print, sign, stuff, stamp, and mail.

Should take maybe ten minutes. If you’re feeling saucy, customize the letter by discussing a specific provision of the bill that’s important to you, or talk about some of the climate change impacts specific to your state. Or don’t. Just make sure you send the letter. (Yes, you can also use fax or email, but letters are more effective. If you can’t be bothered, this site lists the online contact info for your senators.)

Let’s up the stakes a little bit. Some senators are definitely going to vote no on the bill, and others are definitely going to vote yes. The most important pressure points are the undecided senators. If your senator is on the following list* and you fail to send a letter, then, well, stop complaining about your neighbor’s Hummer.

* Alaska: Mark Begich, Lisa Murkowski
* Arizona: John McCain
* Arkansas: Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor
* Florida: George LeMieux
* Indiana: Evan Bayh
* Iowa: Chuck Grassley
* Louisiana: Mary Landrieu
* Maine: Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins
* Missouri: Claire McCaskill
* Montana: Max Baucus, Jon Tester
* Nebraska: Ben Nelson
* New Hampshire: Judd Gregg
* North Carolina: Kay Hagan
* North Dakota: Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad
* Ohio: Sherrod Brown
* Pennsylvania: Arlen Specter
* South Carolina: Lindsey Graham
* South Dakota: Tim Johnson
* West Virgina: Robert Byrd, John D. Rockefeller

Of course, even if your senator isn’t on this list, you’re not off the hook. You can still write expressing your hope that the Senate passes a bill this year, or that the final bill includes such-and-such a provision. Most of all, just write!

And if you’re itching to do still more, go to 350.org and get involved in the upcoming International Day of Climate Action.

\* This is a broad list of undecideds. Some are probable yes votes, some probable no votes, some in the middle. To make this even more confusing, some of these people may vote yes on cloture but no on the final bill. In any case, all of these votes are important.

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  1. UpstateNYenergyguy - October 21, 2009

    Well done. As gratifying and personally meaningful as it is to “change light bulbs” on an individual scale, global warming is an issue that has been created–and will only be successfully addressed–by large-scale, coordinated action by a big majority of all nations and all peoples. I’d encourage everyone to write your own letters and forward this article to your friends and family members who live in the “undecided” states. Having worked on the hill, I can tell you that these letters–particularly the ones that come in hard copy form from the districts, get read, logged and responded to. We can either be a part of the process–or not.

  2. parrish - October 21, 2009

    Years ago, when I worked on the nuclear freeze movement, we visited our senator who told us his aide read the letters and put them into “yes” or “no” piles. He said he began to sweat if there were more than just a few in the “yes” pile, as they count on public apathy. They don’t want the public to pay much attention to what they do. They have to get re-elected, and don’t want to think the public is watching – and remembering- how they voted on critical bills. This kind of pressure is truly effective.

  3. Jeff B - October 21, 2009

    Elected officials worry more about primary challenges than they do about general elections. For example, with the gerrymandering of congressional districts, there are very few that are in play year-to-year. A Republican district is likely to stay a Republican district, same for the Democrats.
    So if you want to get a politician nervous, just claim that the issues would be one that would energize the base of the party if he/she didn’t support it.

  4. Meagen - October 21, 2009

    As an Ohioan, I’m kind of shocked that Sherrod Brown would be on this list. Really? I usually don’t write letters (email saves energy!) but for if he’s really on the fence, I’ll do it!
    P.S. Can I surmise that George Voinovich is a definite “no” since he’s not on this list? His obsession with national debt makes me think so.

  5. Adam Stein - October 21, 2009

    Sherrod Brown is a big fence-sitter. The slightly good news is that he’s stated he won’t filibuster the bill. But he definitely hasn’t put his support behind it.
    E&E News just put out an updated list of swing vote senators, and actually Voinovich is on it. So both Ohio votes are in play:
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/21/swing-fence-sitters-senators-cap-and-trade-climate-energy-bill/
    Please do mail a letter — physical letters get much more attention then emails, and the cause is worth it. Thanks!

  6. Diana - October 22, 2009

    Have any of you actually read the bill that the Senate is considering? It’s supportive of building more nuclear power plants as well as providing monetary incentives for supposedly “green” biomass plants, which are already spewing more CO & CO2 into the atmosphere than coal plants.
    Go check out HR2454 at: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/webreturn/?url=http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.2454:
    Be sure you’re informed about what’s included in this Climate Bill before you ask your Senators to support it.

  7. Adam Stein - October 22, 2009

    I know what’s in the bill and I support it wholeheartedly. I can’t say this strongly enough: failure to pass this bill will be a disaster for the environment.
    Joe Romm points out that the nuclear provisions were always going to be in there, and he gives several reasons why they’re not as big a deal as they seem. If we wait for the perfect legislation to come along, we’ll be waiting forever.

  8. Anonymous - October 29, 2009

    When is the vote?

  9. Adam Stein - October 29, 2009

    Whenever they can bring it to a floor vote. It would be great if it happened in 2009, because it would give a huge boost to Copenhagen. But early 2010 might be more likely.

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