Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOW on PBS
Civics & Politics The Environment Health Economics Social Issues Full Archive
NOW on Demand
Act NOW
Week of 5.11.07

Stepping Up on Climate Control

Environmental Activists Get Loud, but is Congress Listening?

Earth On April 14, 2007, Step It Up, a nationwide campaign to combat global warming, drew thousands of Americans concerned about climate change, but this was no ordinary protest with the usual placards and marches. Holding 1,400 events around the nation, participants in National Day of Climate Action got creative. In lower Manhattan, protestors formed a line at the place where rising sea levels are predicted to reach. In Wyoming they skied down a disappearing glacier. In Key West, they dove off endangered coral reefs. To see photos of these and other events, check out the slideshow on their website:

The April 14 protests had one clear message for Congress: Cut carbon 80 percent by 2050. The participants spoke out, but is Congress heeding their call?

Congressional Reaction

On May 3, a major piece of legislation on Capitol Hill got a big boost when 2008 Presidential contenders Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Christopher Dodd and Barack Obama signed on to support it. Introduced in January of 2007 by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the bill would reduce global warming pollutants from all major sources—including power plants, manufacturing and transportation—by 80 percent by 2050.

On his blog, Step It Up founder Bill McKibben told participants in his campaign that the growing support for the bill was a "real tribute to your hard work." Both Senators Barbara Boxer and Patrick Leahy are original co-sponsors of the Sanders bill. Others who have signed onto the legislation so far include Senators Daniel Akaka, Ben Cardin, Russell Feingold, Daniel Inouye, Edward Kennedy, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menendez, Barbara Mikulski, Jack Reed, and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Some Republicans vying for the 2008 nomination have also shown concern for the environment, most notably Senator John McCain. Although he hasn't responded specifically to Step It Up, McCain is a strong advocate for taking action to stop global warming. He co-sponsored a bill with Senator Joe Lieberman on the topic in January and cites global warming as an area where he and President Bush disagree. So far, none of the other Republican candidates have made global warming a dominant theme of their campaigns.

A Green Grass Roots Effort

Getting lawmakers and politicians to take climate change seriously is only one of the goals of McKibben's campaign. The April 14 actions were designed to build grassroots support across the country for dealing with the earth's climate crisis. Step It Up is now focused on supporting existing efforts to demand an aggressive response to climate change, including lobbying college campuses and cities to adopt clean energy policies.

Related Links:

NOW: Laurie David Interview

NOW: Sen. Jeff Bingaman on America's Energy Policy

NOW Classroom: Global Warming Lesson Plan

Step It Up: Next Steps

July 7 "Live Earth" concert

Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America

Topic Search: Environment/Energy