Nationwide Climate Rallies to Demand Action from Candidates

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Nationwide Climate Rallies to Demand Action from Candidates

Haider Rizvi

NEW YORK -- Encouraged by the positive response to their call for demonstrations last April, environmental activists have planned another round of nationwide rallies today to demand decisive actions on global warming.

1103 02"November 3 represents a new move towards political accountability," said Bill McKibben, author and spokesperson of Step It Up, a coalition of environmental groups that organized more than 1,400 events on global warming in April.

Mindful that electioneering for primaries is gearing up, McKibben and other organizers are trying to build pressure on presidential contenders to take a firm stand on the issue of global warming.

"So far it's been enough for politicians to say: 'I care'," McKibben added in a statement. "Now, one year out from a pivotal global warming election, it's time to see who's going to lead."

Saturday's events are being planning by seasoned activists based in New Hampshire and hundreds of others across the country whose main organizing tool is the Internet.

Organizers say the demonstrators will dip their index fingers in green ink to demand that Congress take climate change seriously by banning new coal plants, and approving 80 percent cuts in U.S. carbon emissions by 2050.

"We unlocked a pressure cooker of public concern in April by simply calling for local action," said the campaign co-coordinator May Boeve, amid hopes that Saturday's action will prove to be a wake-up call for politicians.

Boeve may be right. This week's events on Capitol Hill indicate that a change in Washington's climate change policy may be in the offing, though it will likely take some time.

On Thursday, for instance, a 7-member Senate panel approved a bipartisan bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions, launching the much-anticipated legislation down the arduous road to becoming law.

The move has been welcomed by some of the nation's leading environmental policy advocates.

"This is much more than a milestone," said Elizabeth Thompson, legislative director at the Washington, DC-based independent group Environmental Defense, which has thousands of supporters across the nation.

"With this bill we have a real chance of enacting a mandatory cap on emissions in this Congress," she added in a statement. "Today the U.S. Congress begins its leadership on climate at home and abroad."

The bill, known as "America's Climate Security Act," would put the United States on a path that is consistent with achieving the roughly 80-percent reductions in carbon emissions scientists say is needed by the middle of this century.

The bill is likely to be taken up by the Senate committee on environment and public works in the next two weeks. It would put a mandatory cap on emissions from the electric power, transportation, and manufacturing sectors of the economy.

The bill contains energy efficiency provisions that, when combined with the cap, would help reduce carbon emissions up to 19 percent by 2020, and 63 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

It contains "a sensible and important" provision for managing costs -- without busting the emissions cap like alternative "safety valve" proposals, according to Environmental Defense.

"(This) Act would allow companies to bank and borrow emissions allowances for future compliance, without compromising the integrity of the overall emissions limit," the group said in a statement.

Those who are leading this Saturday's protests say they will continue their mass action campaign until Congress finalizes concrete and serious legislative steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

"Americans are demanding real solutions that will stop global warming before it is too late," said campaigner Jamie Henn.

"From melting ice caps to erratic weather, we already see the impact of global warming," added McKibben. "But while global warming presents our most pressing challenge, it also presents our most inspiring opportunity."

Organizers said demonstrations will be held in all 50 states, and many will take place at historic places, such as the Lincoln Memorial, to symbolize the need for genuine political leadership.

Cyclists in Massachusetts will trace the route of Paul Revere's historic "revolutionary ride" before holding a "Revolutionary Energy Rally" at the iconic Old North Bridge in Concord.

At least 71 members of Congress are expected to attend events, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Congress' newest member, Massachusetts' Niki Tsongas.

Also expected are seven presidential candidates, including Democratic front runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; John Edwards is scheduled to speak at the culmination of a "second line" parade through New Orleans.

None of the Republican candidates, including front runners Rudolph Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Fred Thompson, has indicated their intention to attend, though all have been invited by organizers and other attendees.

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