In attendance, and willing to risk arrest, will be former coal miners, ministers, mothers, students, and climate activists from Arizona to Appalachia who have united to demand bold and far-reaching action on the climate and energy crises. Also attending will be leaders from the scientific and environmental community, such as Dr. James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry, Gus Speth, Vandana Shiva, former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, as well as Grammy winner Kathy Mattea and actress Daryl Hannah. More than 90 advocacy groups across the nation have endorsed the action.
This is a critical year for strong U.S. leadership on climate and energy, with a major domestic policy debate around the corner and a deadline for international action set for the Copenhagen UN climate talks in December. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has cautioned that the United States and other industrialized countries need to reduce their global warming pollution by 25 - 40 % below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst impacts of severe climate change.
Leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, who will join the protest and is willing to get arrested, has testified before Congress that the world must begin phasing out coal immediately to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, including severe economic impacts. The climate crisis, if left unaddressed, is projected to put a serious billion drag on the U.S. economy by 2025.
"This is just the moment to up the ante," said Bill McKibben, professor and founder of 350.org. ""Barack Obama--an organizer himself--has asked us all to give him the political backing he needs to make the change that science requires. When civil disobedience works, it demonstrates a willingness to bear a certain amount of pain for a larger end - a way to say, 'coal is bad enough that I'm willing to get arrested.'"
The Capitol Power Plant, which is owned by Congress, burns coal to heat and cool numerous buildings on Capitol Hill, and has become a powerful symbol of coal's stranglehold on the environment and public health. Coal is the country's biggest source of global warming pollution. In addition, burning coal cuts short at least 24,000 lives in the U.S. annually, inflicts severe damage to the landscape and water supplies, and jeopardizes the lives of miners.
"It's way past time for civil disobedience to stop mountaintop removal and other coal abuses and to move quickly toward clean, renewable energy sources," said Judy Bonds, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch of West Virginia, which works to stop mountaintop removal and rebuild sustainable communities. "For over a century, our Appalachian people and communities have been crushed, flooded and poisoned as a result of the country's dangerous and outdated reliance on coal."
There are clean and safe alternatives to coal, like wind and solar power, which will create at least 5 million jobs and help curb global warming. A recent University of Massachusetts study found investing in clean energy projects like wind power and mass transit creates three-to-four times more jobs than the same expenditure on the coal industry. The wind power sector has grown to employ more Americans than coal mining as demand for clean energy has jumped over the past decade. Investing in wind and solar power would create 2.8 times as many jobs as the same investment in coal; mass transit and conservation would create 3.8 times as many jobs as coal.
"As Indigenous Peoples of the Black Mesa region we have come to DC to stand in solidarity with many other communities affected by coal mining and with all those who object to the continued dependence on coal," said Enei Begaye, Co-Director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition. "It is of the utmost importance for people throughout the country to take action. We must demand a national energy policy without coal."
On March 2, to follow the Capitol Climate Action online through live blogs and streaming videos and photos, visit www.capitolclimateaction.org. You can also follow the Twitter, www.twitter.com, text loop at @climateaction.
For a list of sponsors and more information about the Capitol Climate Action (including videos about the event), visit www.capitolclimateaction.org
VVPR info: Nell Greenberg, Communications Manager, Rainforest Action Network, 510-847-9777; Mike Crocker, Greenpeace USA Media Officer, 202-319-2471; Anne Havemann, Communications Director, CCAN, 240-396-2022