Climate activists scuttle plans for ice-melting protest on Capitol Hill

A climate advocacy group has canceled plans to unveil an ice sculpture next to the Capitol Saturday that was meant to counter global warming skeptics in Congress, citing concerns it would be insensitive to West Virginia residents still without power.

The group 350.org had planned to unveil ice forming the word “hoax?” on a day when Washington, D.C. temperatures are expected to reach almost 105 degrees, which would break the daily record and approach the city’s all-time high.

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The fast-melting ice would have been a jab at Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has claimed global warming is a hoax, and other Republicans who disagree with widely held scientific views on climate change.

But 350.org founder Bill McKibben, in a message to supporters Saturday, said “I think I screwed up,” and explained that the event was off.

From his message:

The idea was simple enough: if this epic heatwave gripping the nation has one small silver lining, it's that its reminding people that global warming is very very real. And the response was strong -- we raised the $5000 it would have taken to pull off the event, and far more than that for relief efforts.

But we also heard from old friends, especially in nearby West Virginia, who asked us not to do it. The sight of ice melting while they sweltered would be too hard to take; their region, they pointed out, is as hard hit as any in the country by the heat wave, and it would make people feel like their plight wasn't being taken seriously.

Nearly 160,000 West Virginia customers remained without power as of Friday evening, a week after violent storms tore through the region, according to The Charleston Gazette.

McKibben said the money collected will go for heat and drought relief, but added that contributors could also get their money back if they wish.

The cancellation comes as activists are using this year’s heatwave – which is shattering records across the country – to call attention to what scientists predict will be increasing bouts of extreme weather as the planet warms.

But the effort is not without its pitfalls. The Hill explored the politics of extreme weather and climate change in a story on Friday morning.

Update: It appears the Capitol ice-melting plans had drawn the particular ire of Bob Kincaid, a prominent West Virginia activist who battles mountaintop removal coal-mining.

Kincaid, on his Twitter feed, bashed the ice plan in a stream of tweets directed at 350.org Friday. For instance, he called it “nasty and elitist” when people need ice and water in West Virginia, and wrote that it amounted to “slapping suffering, struggling ppl in the face.”

But Saturday he applauded the group for nixing the event, saying over Twitter that 350.org showed “compassion & mindfulness” and that people battling mountaintop mining have “tremendous allies” in the group.

This post was updated at 11:34 a.m.