Activists focus candidates’ attention on global warming

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(Host) Environmental activists hope to make global warming an issue in this fall’s elections. They’re planning a walk from Addison County to Burlington to call attention to the issue. On Thursday, environmentalists will take their case directly to the candidates by marching on their campaign headquarters.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Back in 1987, author and activist Bill McKibben published the first book for a popular audience on global warming. Twenty years after the publication of The End of Nature, McKibben says he still stays in touch with many of the scientists he interviewed. He says the climatologists and atmospheric scientists are in a much gloomier mood these days.

(McKibben) “The new science that we get month after month about what’s happening to the ice caps over Greenland and the west Antarctic, what’s happening to our understanding of storminess. On issue after issue, the science is coming back at the upper, upper end of our worst predictions. They understand that we have to take action quickly.”

(Dillon) McKibben says it’s time for the public to take action as well. The author is now a visiting scholar at Middlebury College. And he’s inviting activists to take a long walk with him from Ripton though the Champlain Valley to Burlington over the Labor Day weekend. The goal is to get politicians to focus on global warming.

(McKibben) “Something has to happen. Most of the people who will walk along this walk have changed their light bulbs by now. Some of them may have bought hybrid cars. But we understand that that kind of stuff by itself isn’t going to get what needs to be done done on climate change. Washington has been a hopeless logjam and it’s time to make sure our federal candidates are all on board with doing something about global warming that’s on the scale of the problem.”

(Dillon) McKibben’s walk starts at Robert Frost’s writing cabin in Ripton on August 31, and continue through several Addison County towns on the way to Burlington. He says the Labor Day rally in Burlington could be the largest demonstration in the country so far on global warming. He’s hoping that the candidates running for U.S. House and Senate take notice.

That’s also the goal of a Greenpeace campaign called Project Hot Seat. The environmental group is focusing on six congressional districts around the country to highlight the issue of climate change. Rebecca Sobel is a Greenpeace organizer.

(Sobel) “Global warming is the defining issue of our time, and we know we have a decade right now to enact action that will really halt the effects of global warming. If we don’t do that now, it might be too late.”

(Dillon) Project Hot Seat will take its message directly to the campaign headquarters of U.S. House candidates Peter Welch and Martha Rainville. Welch is a Democrat, and he says that one of the first bills he’ll introduce if elected will be the House counterpart to a global warming bill introduced by Vermont Senator James Jeffords.

The legislation is considered the most sweeping proposal yet to control the pollution that contributes to climate change. A spokesman for Republican Martha Rainville says the candidate supports the goals of the bill, but is not sure yet whether she would actually sign on to the legislation.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

Related link:
Vermont climate walk

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