Standout Senators Leading the Climate Crisis Battle Header

5 Standout Senators Leading the Climate Crisis Fight

Few topics are as divisive and as threatening to humanity’s existence as the climate crisis. It is the defining issue of our time.

For decades it has been a hotly debated topic and, much to our dismay, it can still create a continental divide between political parties. While some still believe that the climate crisis is a myth, others, such as oil and gas special interest groups, continue to propagate the understatement of its effects for their economic gain. They say models are unreliable, the climate has changed before, Antarctica is gaining ice, and ocean acidification isn’t serious; the list of qualms rooted in myth rather than science goes on and on

Logic aside, those with ulterior motives still find a voice in our legislative bodies and today we are more than a year away from being able to pass climate legislation. Moreover, the U.S. is not increasing its commitment – much less acting as a global leader – and participating in the global movement at this year’s UN climate summit in New York

The Republican-majority Senate blocked consideration of the Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution that calls for the U.S. to shift away from fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, and replace them with renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power. Luckily, we have a few forward-thinking representatives who are more focused on the fate of humanity than their ability to get reelected (although those two things do not have to be mutually exclusive).

Today, we’re spotlighting five senators, in no particular order, who are championing the fight against the climate crisis. We want to shed light on politicians that are pushing for positive change in society and reducing the effects of environmental degradation. With the 2020 presidential election just around the corner, this topic could not be more relevant. The health of the world and the global economy are at risk if we don’t drastically change the way we approach energy, food systems, innovation, and beyond.

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
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Sheldon Whitehouse

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has been called “The U.S. Senate’s most persistent voice for addressing climate change” – and for good reason. Whitehouse has delivered more than 250 speeches demanding action from his colleagues, speaking weekly on the topic. Since 2007, Whitehouse has been “fighting for years to create green jobs, advance green technologies, and pass legislation to put a price on carbon emissions.”

In his 250th floor speech on climate change, he talked about the impact of climate change on the world and the economy. Watch it here:

Whitehouse is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He also recently introduced a bipartisan bill titled Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act that would protect natural resources and wildlife from extreme weather and climate change.

The Senator is thinking outside of the legislative box when it comes to climate change. After learning that the time spent reporting on climate change fell 45 percent from 2017 to 2018, Whitehouse called on news outlets to increase their reporting on the topic. He has also made public appearances on shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher to create awareness of the global climate crisis and corporate greed’s influence on national politics, which he discusses in his book Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy.

Whitehouse is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He also recently introduced a bipartisan bill titled Safeguarding America’s Future and Environment (SAFE) Act that would protect natural resources and wildlife from extreme weather and climate change.

The Senator is thinking outside of the legislative box when it comes to climate change. After learning that the time spent reporting on climate change fell 45 percent from 2017 to 2018, Whitehouse called on news outlets to increase their reporting on the topic. He has also made public appearances on shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher to create awareness of the global climate crisis and corporate greed’s influence on national politics, which he discusses in his book Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy.

Brian Schatz (D-HI)
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Brian Schatz

Brian Schatz (D-HI) is a leading climate advocate and U.S. Representative from Hawaii, a state that aims to go completely carbon-neutral by 2045. He is also the chair of the new Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. He and nine other senators formed the committee to do the preliminary work in preparation for the democrats regaining the upper chamber. 

The committee is investigating, holding hearings, and issuing findings on the economic and national security consequences of climate change. They are working with environmental, financial, and national security experts to find solutions for communities impacted by climate change and provide oversight on special interests that foster climate denial. They will detail how acting on the climate crisis presents significant opportunities for jobs, public health, and the economy.

“In order to take bold action, we need a broad coalition,” Schatz said. “We have put together a group of people who are leading on climate in different ways. And that is going to be the foundation for our success. With this group, we have the necessary pieces to take this issue seriously — to make real inquiries and real analysis. We are treating this like the planetary emergency it is.

Martin Heinrich
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Martin Heinrich

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) has seen first-hand the economic and environmental effects of climate change. The rising temperatures have negatively affected tourism, reducing the income the state and its local population generates. Farmers and ranchers are experiencing more drought conditions and soil degradation. The realities of climate change are readily apparent.

Heinrich wants his state to be a leader in combatting the effects of climate change and modernizing the nation’s electrical grid to be powered by renewable energy sources. Throughout his tenure, he has helped pass critical legislation providing tax credits to clean energy industries, preparing the workforce for good-paying clean energy jobs and is actively supporting innovation in this sector.

Heinrich, a member of the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, announced on September 20, 2019, the same day as the global climate strike, that he supports the Green New Deal. 

“I’ve spent my entire adult life working to protect some of the wildest public lands in New Mexico—places I truly love,” Heinrich said in a statement. “And I’ve seen them change in the face of a warming planet. I’ve spent decades working to build a renewable energy economy. But the progress that we’ve made simply hasn’t kept pace with the speed and the scale of the warming that threatens our very existence.

“I’m supporting a Green New Deal because this rising generation of activists understands what we’re up against, and is willing to propose the kind of bold changes that equal the scale of that problem. Unlike previous generations who have delayed and denied climate change, I strongly believe that these young people are going to be the critical catalyst for solving this issue.

“I stand in solidarity with the students and activists around the world today who are demanding action on climate change, because you are the most powerful tool that we have to make this right.”

Kirsten Gillibrand
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Kisten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), U.S. Senator from New York, and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. According to her website, “[Kirsten Gillibrand] is determined to make sure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to reach their potential, and she has consistently been a voice for the voiceless across New Tork and all around the country.” 

With the climate crisis posing a serious threat to New York City, the economic epicenter of the world, Gillibrand continues to support legislation that would fight to help New York’s businesses and families protect themselves. Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene were two devastating examples of growing climate change effects.

Senator Gillibrand is leading the effort to demand cleanup and compensation from the companies that polluted the water supply with PFOA and toxic chemicals.

“Restore U.S. climate leadership with ambitious and immediate action to enact the Green New Deal, mobilize $10 trillion in public and private funding over the next decade and set us on the course to achieve net-zero carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions,” Gillibrand said. “I’ll make climate polluters pay, transform our economy with good-paying green jobs, and protect clean air and clean water as fundamental human rights.”

Michael Bennet
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Michael Bennet

Although there is a slim chance he’ll win the candidacy for President, Michael Bennet (D-CO) has been hard at work to rid Washington of special interest money and encouraging action against climate change. In his home state of Colorado, wildfires, droughts, and a looming methane cloud are of huge concern.

In the Senate, Bennet fought rollbacks of climate policies and championed “forward-looking measures to combat this growing threat,” according to his U.S. Senate website. For example, Bennet recently introduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act in partnership with Rep. Joe Neguse which would protect 400,000 acres of land in Colorado and includes protections from oil and gas development for natural areas around the state.

Bennet released his approach to climate change that he would enact as President titled “America’s Climate Change Plan” in May 2019, calling for “bold action and enduring solutions.”

“America’s Climate Change Plan will reduce emissions in line with the most aggressive targets set by the world’s scientists and achieve 100 percent clean, net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050,” Bennet said. “Our plan will drive economic growth for the 21st century and create millions of high-paying jobs.”

“For many reasons – most of all, the corruption of money in our politics – Republicans in Washington refuse to treat climate change as a serious issue,” Bennet said. His plan, should he become president, calls for a “Climate X Option” that would require utilities to provide “zero-emission energy to every household and business,” a new national conservation initiative and a “Climate Bank” to spur private investment. A net-zero goal would require any greenhouse gas emissions to be offset by reforestation or other techniques.

Washington DC in Spring
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Climate change affects everything. From our national security to the health of the environment and its delicate ecosystems, to agriculture and our economy. For us to change course, we must do so on an individual, community-wide and legislative level. We must support our representatives in government when they’re doing the right thing, and vote the nonsense out.

It’s time to change how we approach climate change; embrace it as the national emergency that it is and take action. These are just five senators who are fighting the climate crisis but there are many more; more local, state and national leaders who can be your voice in government. Use the tools below to see who your leaders are and what they’re doing for you.

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