This weekend, the Senate will vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which officials unveiled this week. The bill includes new spending for climate measures like electric vehicle charging stations and public transit. But compared to what’s needed to take on the climate crisis, it’s a drop in the ocean. Surprise, surprise.
If they choose to, there’s a way Democratic senators could get another shot to fund climate action: Using budget reconciliation, a complex process that would allow a simple majority of the Senate to pass a bigger, better climate bill. At least some senators will need to be convinced to do that, though. In an effort to make it easy for constituents to put the pressure on, there’s now a simple way to bug their elected officials: the Call4Climate dialer.
Call4Climate was launched last month by Leah Stokes, an energy researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, along with Duncan Meisel and Jamie Henn, co-founders of the Clean Creatives campaign.
“There are so many people out there who are freaked out about the climate crisis right now,” said Henn. “They’re seeing wildfires, heatwaves, flooding, and wondering what they can do about it. We wanted to provide a simple, direct way that anyone in the country could make a difference.”
To that end, the three created a dial-in number—(202)-318-1885 if you want to put it on your speed dial—that people can use to easily hit up their senators. Once you call the number, a voice asks you to punch in your zip code. When you do, it reminds you to make four demands for a bold climate bill. Those demands include a Clean Electricity Standard that puts the country on a path to 100% clean power by 2035, ensuring 40% of green funding goes to frontline communities, ending fossil fuel subsidies, and creating a Civilian Climate Corps. Those demands are explained in detail on Call4Climate’s website, which also has a script if you’re not ready to adlib the demands. Then, it patches you through to your senators’ office lines so you can bring them the message yourself.
Max Moinian, co-founder of the digital climate education platform Future Earth, first called the number two weeks ago when the project launched. She’s based in New York, so she called Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand.
“I sat down, I had the website up on my phone, I read through the script before I called, and I agreed with the calls to action,” she said. “Then I called, and I embellished a little bit because I just feel like it’s good to make things more personal ... but I mostly I stuck to the script and made the four asks.”
Moinian found the dialer to be so useful that she and her Future Earth co-founder put the call button on their Instagram profile for their 306,000 followers to see.
“People can just click on our Instagram and call directly that way. It should be easy,” she said.
Call4Climate’s founders have spent the past two weeks pushing for as many callers as possible to use the dialer before Friday, Aug. 6, the last official day of the Senate session. But since senators weren’t able to reach an agreement on the infrastructure bill, the senate will remain in session through at least this weekend. Democratic senators are reportedly planning to take up a $3.5 trillion budget resolution as soon as the infrastructure bill passes the Senate and begin the reconciliation process to push it through without Republican support. That means this is a crucial time to push for climate priorities in that effort.
There’s a certain elegance to the whole thing. Call4Climate has four simple asks. It doesn’t require you to rummage around senator’s websites looking for contact info. And the script makes it easy if you have phone anxiety.
“We felt like these were four really important asks that are top issues for grassroots climate activists across the country,” said Stokes. “These are accessible ideas for people that may be things that they’ve heard of it if they’re part of the climate movement at all.”
Of course, though these are topline demands, the details are also important. Regarding the Clean Electricity Standard, debates have broken out about what exactly should count as clean energy. And though calls for a Civilian Climate Corps have been widespread and popular, critics have noted that even Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal would have funded the project at far too small a scale.
But Stokes said the project’s demands are simple for a reason. She and the other founders wanted to make the process as accessible as possible.
“Some people need to be on the inside making sure the details are good,” she said. “But for everyday people who want to come, do something, and pitch in ... all we want to do is provide them with a really easy tool. That helps put the pressure on in the inside negotiations and lets senators know people are watching them.”
She added that those using the dialer shouldn’t feel constrained by these four asks, though. Callers can riff all they want, and the project website lists 10 other climate policies that they can demand, including investments in clean buildings, transit, and grid upgrades.
“There are some talking points on the website for those other priorities, too,” she said.
Moinian plans to use the dialer for the second time on Friday and is considering asking for funding for clean transportation this time around. She said she’s grateful that the dialer exists and that its website includes such easy-to-grasp information.
“I live in the [climate] space, and even I sometimes don’t have the time to buckle down and read everything about these issues,” she said. “But that shouldn’t stop people. This is a crisis that affects everyone, so we need everyone and everything, we need all hands on deck. The more we give people opportunities to get involved, the more we’ll see people turning out.”