Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) announced a new effort Thursday to make climate change a central issue in Congress this year, saying they would attempt to marshal civic groups, private industry, religious organizations and others to pressure senators toward action.
The pair said they had formed a new “Climate Action Task Force” with other Democratic senators that has a wide variety of goals, including obtaining the 60 votes needed in the chamber to put a price on carbon emissions as a way of curbing the greenhouse gases responsible for warming the earth. They said they would roll out their full agenda Tuesday.
“There is a vast and clear truth, which is what carbon pollution is doing to our atmosphere and our oceans,” and there is a “barricade of special interest lies around Washington and around Congress,” Whitehouse told reporters. The new group would “bring that truth to the barricade and expose those lies.”
Boxer stressed that the group’s top priority is fast action. “The goal is to wake up Congress,” she said, emphasizing the last three words. Several times, she mentioned a new study that concluded that the planet’s temperature will rise seven degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 if action is not taken.
The creation of the group was first reported by the National Journal Wednesday.
Whitehouse said he was heartened by a poll released by the League of Conservation Voters, which showed that 74 percent of independents and 53 percent of Republicans under the age of 35 would use the terms “ignorant,” “out-of-touch,” or “crazy” to describe climate change deniers.
Boxer said the task force’s agenda includes thwarting efforts to undermine President Obama’s climate change initiative, protecting states that have instituted carbon taxes from any congressional attempts to thwart them and promoting energy efficiency in federal buildings and better fuel economy.
Boxer said she would continue her efforts to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, though the State Department has yet to decide whether to permit the project, which would bring crude from Canadian oil sands fields to U.S. refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.
The group joins other congressional efforts on climate change, including the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force, which was organized by Democrats in both houses last year.