It remains to be seen whether Joe Biden’s sweeping climate directives can make a meaningful difference, but a critical threshold has been crossed.
Nine years ago, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had a sign made up that showed a photograph of the Earth as seen from space. “time to wake up,” it urged, in large, unevenly spaced letters. Every week that the Senate was in session, Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, would tote the sign to the chamber, set it on an easel, and, before a hundred chairs—most of them empty—deliver a speech. Though the details changed, the subject of the speech remained the same.
“It is time—indeed, it is well past time—for Congress to wake up to the disastrous effects of global climate change,” Whitehouse said on May 16, 2013.
“My trusty ‘time to wake up’ sign is getting a little battered and showing some wear and tear, but I am still determined to get us to act on climate before it is too late,” he said on November 29, 2016.
“I rise to call this chamber to wake up to the threat of climate change,” he said on July 24, 2019.
Last week, Whitehouse hauled his beat-up sign to the chamber for the two-hundred-and-seventy-ninth time. He propped it up and announced that this speech would be the last in his long-running series. “A new dawn is breaking,” he said. “And, when it’s dawn, there’s no need for my little candle against the darkness.”
During the 2020 Presidential campaign, Joe Biden insisted that he took seriously the threat posed by global warming. Within hours of being sworn in, he had signed a slew of climate-change directives. One recommitted the United States to the Paris climate accord; another revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. A third charged the Secretary of the Interior to restore the borders of two national monuments in Utah—Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—which the Trump Administration had shrunk…
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