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Thousands Gathered For Climate Change Rally In D.C.

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More than 30,000 people from across the country rallied for climate change in Washington, D.C. Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.
Matt Laslo
More than 30,000 people from across the country rallied for climate change in Washington, D.C. Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.

High winds and low temperatures didn't keep thousands of protesters from rallying for climate change on the National Mall on Sunday Organizers say more than 30,000 demonstrators participated in Sunday's protest, making it the largest climate rally to date.

Over a hundred groups, including the Sierra Club and the Hip Hop Caucus helped organize the event. More than 150 buses brought people in from 30 different states across the U.S.

The crowd called on President Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Rachele Huennekens of the Sierra Club says there's a reason this year's protest was the largest she's ever seen on climate change.

"The truth is that the climate crisis has arrived, and people are starting to see extreme weather," she says. "You know, hottest temperatures on record last year, floods, droughts in the Midwest in America's breadbasket, wildfires, super storms like Sandy. This has really brought it home to people that there is a climate crisis. We're starting to see our climate disrupted because of fossil fuel pollution."

A few years ago, environmentalists were asking Congress to pass climate change legislation. Not so much anymore. With Republicans in control of the House, the environmental community is now focusing on President Obama.

"The president needs to reject Keystone," says Mary Ann Hitt, who directs the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "He needs to put a standard in place for pollution from power plants. Those are two of the biggest things he can do right away that will have the biggest climate impact, and two things that everyone who cares about the issue are watching very closely."

Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says in the past, the administration has been too timid when it wrote environmental regulations.

"Be controversial if you need to be, and show the kind of leadership that brings people around to your position rather than going halfway to theirs," says Whitehouse.

Republicans aren't happy with this new approach. They say Obama should consult with Congress before putting in place new regulations that could adversely impact the economy.

Photos: D.C. Climate Rally

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