WASHINGTON, D.C.– We pull all-nighters when we’re up against a deadline. Whether it’s the result of procrastination, or an unexpected responsibility, we usually reserve the midnight oil for moments of crisis. This week a group of democratic senators dedicated an all-night session to the most pressing issue of our time: climate change.
Climate change’s impact on the world is already profound, but the scientific community fears that we are only just in the beginning phases of what could be a devastating trend.
Naturally, climate change affects the entire world, but it will be especially hard on the poor. Partly because developing nations are the most reliant on dirty energy and old technology, and partly because they are less equipped to adapt to and manage a rapidly changing climate.
The developing world is hurt even further by the fact that the developed world does not seem to be taking global warming as seriously as scientists urge they must. The issue of climate change has been, as of yet, divisive and politicized in such a way that some lawmakers in the U.S. doubt its reality.
While the political divide is discouraging, the Senate’s all-night session might signal an important move for the U.S. as a potential leader in the global effort to fight climate change. The senators, calling themselves the “climate caucus,” took to the floor in order to advocate for governmental action and set a new agenda.
However, the all- night session, which was full of impassioned presentations by a group of 30 senators, was only part of their larger efforts. The New York Times reports that the group has begun meeting regularly and advocating for a climate change agenda on House and Senate floors. The NYT also suggests that these increased efforts are connected to Tom Steyer’s—a hedge-fund billionaire—pledge to support candidates who advocate for climate change legislation.
Some are looking at the session as just a political move in order for democratic senators to bankroll their mid-term elections. In seeming confirmation of this supposition is the fact that no specific legislation was put forward during the session. Some argue that this belies the group’s serious posture.
For those in the developing world, it is crucial that climate caucus stays true to their convictions. If developing nations are to adapt to changing energy needs and the standards of environmental responsibility, they must first see that it can be done. They also must have some hope for the U.S., as the world’s largest economy, to move markets toward responsible uses and disposal of the Earth’s resources.
In this sense, it might be appropriate for Congress to see the issue of climate change not simply as a domestic issue that divides the parties, but as a foreign affairs issue where the U.S. can demonstrate leadership and empower responsible development.