Protesters amass at White House, demanding action on climate

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The White House demonstration was one of dozens of “Fight for Our Future” rallies held across the country.

Demonstrators gather for the Fight for Our Future rally, at Lafayette Park in Washington, on Saturday, April 23, 2022. In Washington, D.C. as well as Phoenix, Atlanta and scores of other cities across the country, demonstrators on Saturday called on the government to enact bold climate action. (Jason Andrew/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Environmental activists, distraught by the government’s slow pace of action on climate change, amassed in front of the White House on Saturday, calling on President Joe Biden and Congress to swiftly pass a climate bill that has been stalled in the Senate since December.

The White House demonstration was one of dozens of “Fight for Our Future” rallies held across the country to press the government to cut the pollution that is dangerously heating the planet, capping a week of events timed to coincide with Earth Day.

“We’re here because in North Carolina we keep getting hit by hurricanes back to back, and we ain’t got nothing fixed,” said Willett Simpkins, 68, a retired nursing home maintenance director from Wallace, North Carolina. “And it’s getting worse every year. It’s time for them to stop talking about it and do something about it.”

Several hundred people gathered in Lafayette Park, chanting, “Climate action! Climate action!” Many worked for environmental organizations.

Biden, who came into office promising urgent action on climate change, has seen his ambitious plans pass the House but get watered down and stuck in the Senate because of unified opposition from Republicans as well as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a powerful swing vote in an evenly divided chamber.

Spiking gas prices because of the war in Ukraine have led Biden to take steps that are anathema to climate activists. He released a record amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and pleaded with oil and gas companies to step up drilling. In keeping with an order from a federal judge, Biden said he would open more public lands to drilling, despite a campaign promise to stop new oil and gas extraction.

The events come at a moment when scientists say the window is rapidly narrowing for nations to avoid tipping the planet into an irreversible future of more deadly storms, wildfires, floods, drought, food scarcity, and mass migration.

If Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority in Congress, do not enact major climate legislation within the next few months, many analysts say the window to meet that goal will slam shut. Republicans are favored to win control of at least one chamber of Congress in this fall’s midterm elections, and their steadfast opposition to climate action would likely doom the prospects for new legislation anytime soon.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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