Prominent participants in this year’s plunge, sponsored by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, included Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Prince George’s County, leading U.S. climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, one of the first scientists to alert the American public to the dangers of global warming, and Reverend Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus.
Gathering on a beach at National Harbor on a morning when temperatures hovered in the 20s, “plungers” from ages 9 to 71 and from all walks of life splashed into the chilly Potomac together while music played and coffee and hot chocolate waited on shore.
“The past year’s unpredictable and dangerous weather highlights just how urgent it is that we respond to global warming,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “We can’t stand by as massive storms flood our cities and towns, causing billions of dollars in damage, and watch as temperature records fall across the country year-round. Now is the time to act, at all levels of government.”
In 2012, the United States saw 11 extreme weather events—from crippling drought to record-smashing heat waves to searing wildfires to Hurricane Sandy—that each caused more than $1 billion in losses, according to preliminary estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Tidwell noted that the Maryland General Assembly is poised to take a landmark step forward on clean energy solutions this year by passing legislation to spur development of offshore wind energy in the state. However, in Virginia, Tidwell said, legislators are poised to move backwards if they approve proposals to dismantle, rather than strengthen, the state’s only broad clean energy law and to punish hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicle owners with an extra tax. Finally, he said, President Obama must take the first step toward fulfilling his inaugural commitment to address climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.
The 2013 Polar Bear Plunge was co-sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light, the Sierra Club, the Seventh Principle Committee of All Souls Unitarian Church and Clean Currents. Business sponsors included Northern Virginia Magazine, Sister Eden, Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company, Perfect Settings, Waste Neutral, and Main Event Caterers.