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Occupying McConnell's Office, Hurricane Survivors Demand Action Over Denial

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Occupying McConnell's Office, Hurricane Survivors Demand Action Over Denial
350.org / Flickr

By Andrea Germanos

Rebuking Republicans' climate denial, survivors of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma occupied the office of Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday morning to denounce the fossil fuel industry's impacts on their communities and demand a just transition to a clean energy future.


Led by leaders of two organizations from recently hard-hit states—the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and the New Florida Majority—the group held a banner reading "Fossil Fuels → Stronger Hurricanes," and delivered almost 200,000 petition signatures demanding Congress take urgent climate action.

Explaining why they were targeting the Kentucky Republican, Yvette Arellano of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services said from the occupied office that McConnell "is not only the leader of the majority. He's also the leader of climate change denial."

The activists are there "not as victims," she said. "We stand here as survivors, as champions in the climate justice movement because our communities are the most vulnerable. Our communities are those that are disproportionately impacted by the effects of the fossil fuel industry and all of its infrastructure."

"We stand here demanding a transition over to 100 percent renewable energy, for a just transition," she said.

"Mitch McConnell, you can no longer ignore us," Arellano added. "Climate denial is not climate change policy."

Valencia Gunder with the New Florida Majority also spoke, and described the situation of frontline communities thusly: "First world country, second class citizens, third world problems."

"We want change when it comes to climate justice issues," she declared.

The time for debate, she said is over. Political leaders should "simply do your job, and stand up for what the people need."

"100 percent renewable energy ... is the only way our world will survive," Gunder said.

To those in Washington, DC, she warned, "We will not be quiet. We will not be pushed out."

Climate mobilization 350.org captured scenes of the action on Twitter:

"We'll never be prepared for disasters like Harvey, Irma or Maria while climate deniers are still in office, pushing dangerous fossil fuel projects forward," added 350.org executive director May Boeve in a press statement.

"Public officials like Mitch McConnell have been putting profits before people from the start, leaving communities in the path of destruction," she said. "The fossil fuel industry has a hold on our government, and we are taking it back. Today is a line in the sand, drawn by communities dealing daily with the impacts of the climate crisis. Real climate action isn't just saying the right words, it's standing up to the fossil fuel billionaires and building a clean energy future that works for all."

The "climate champions," meanwhile, appeared to leave McConnell's office peacefully after chanting, "We are the masses, the might mighty masses, fighting for climate and for our people everywhere we go."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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