PROVIDENCE — On Jan. 27, 2021, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered what was supposed to be his final “Time to wake up” speech on climate change, wrapping up the 279th installment with the flourish of a mic drop.
On Wednesday, however, it is only about a year After he ended a nine year streak of near-weekly climate addresses, he was now able to address the climate once more.Whitehouse was seen back at the podium, urging action on the issue for which he is most identified.
Whitehouse’s decision to end the speeches last year came on the heels of President Biden’s inauguration. With a commander-in-chief advocating for climate policies and both chambers of Congress in the hands of Democrats, Whitehouse figured the conditions were right for change to happen.
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There have been no results in the past year
But in the 12 months since there has been much promise but yet concrete results again have been few and far between as policies such as the Build Back Better Act have stalled.
“We just aren’t making progress, not by the only measurement that matters: greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “We are one year in with no bill, no carbon regulation and no litigation, and look at the climate havoc.”
He cited the global warming trend, in which the past seven years have been the most extreme on record. He said that the average ocean temperature is higher than ever before, which causes seas to rise, and fuels more severe storms. While some parts of the country are experiencing heat waves, wildfires, others are being affected by hurricanes and flooding.
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Whitehouse stood beside the worn green poster board with an image of the Earth next to the words “TIME TO WAKE UP” that accompanied him during His speeches before. He stated that he was asked by the Smithsonian Institution to donate the poster after his last speech, as it was the most used in Senate history.
“I came pretty close to turning it over to them, but something made me hesitate,” he said. “And well, here it is, back again.”
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Whitehouse was unsparing in his criticism of those he holds responsible for the lack of action: the fossil-fuel industry that has caused the problem, corporate interests that he accused of being indifferent to it, and Republicans who he described as beholden to special interests.
“To be blunt, the fossil-fuel industry controls the Republican Party the way a ventriloquist controls a painted, wooden dummy,” he said. “The rest of corporate America lets them get away with it.”
Whitehouse advocated for a series of policy changes that included accelerating the development of renewable energy. He said that the price on carbon is the key to any solution. This has been discussed for years in Congress, but has never gained any real momentum.
“We have a moment here to measure up to,” he said. “We are failing catastrophically.”