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Barbara B.
Democrat CA

About Sen. Barbara
  • Climate Change

    by Senator Barbara Boxer

    Posted on 2013-03-04

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    BOXER. Now I wish to talk about climate change. It is one of the most serious threats facing our Nation. All you really have to do is look out the window to see it is already happening.

    I would like to talk about a great thing that happened recently. When USA TODAY, the Nation's largest newspaper in print form--more people read that paper than any other. They announced in a front-page story last Friday, on March 1, that they are going to spend a year looking at the issue of climate change.

    This is the front page. They show that the temperatures are going up. They talk about more asthma. But let's look at what they say because I am appalled that with all of this going on around us, we seem to have no way forward on this issue. I am going to be here every Monday after votes to talk about this, and I urge every Member of the Senate, Democratic or Republican, who cares about this issue to join me. We have to wake up the American people to the fact that this Senate is doing nothing. Even though I believe there is a majority for doing something, we don't have the 60 votes. So let's talk about it.

    This is what USA TODAY says: "Why you should sweat climate change.'' More American children are getting asthma and allergies, and more seniors are suffering heat strokes. [Already] food and utility prices are rising. Flooding is overrunning bridges, swamping subways and closing airport runways.

    We know this is true.

    People are losing jobs in drought-related factory closings. Cataclysmic storms are wiping out sprawling neighborhoods. Towns are sinking.

    And Congress does nothing.

    USA TODAY: This isn't a science-fiction, end-of-the-world scenario. . . . these scenes are already playing out somewhere in the United States, and they're expected to get worse in the years ahead.

    People need to act quickly.

    Climate change is not a place and time distant--it's here and now.

    That is a quote from Kim Knowlton, who is a health professor at Columbia University, and this was shown in USA TODAY.

    The most recent decade was the Nation's hottest on record.

    This isn't a guess, this is the truth.

    The most recent decade was the Nation's hottest on record, and 2012 was the hottest single year. The average U.S. temperature has risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since reliable recordkeeping began in 1895--80% of that has occurred since 1980.

    The economic costs of all these changes are enormous--not only for those directly affected but for the nation's taxpayers, who are stuck with the bills for disaster relief, national flood insurance and drought-related crop losses.

    Now, what are we supposed to do about this? Clearly, scientists tell us there is too much carbon pollution in the air, and I will show you where it is coming from. The electricity sector gives us 34 percent of the carbon; the transportation sector, 27 percent of the carbon comes from there; the industrial sector, 20 percent; the agriculture [[Page S1084]] sector, 7 percent; residential and commercial building, 11 percent.

    We know President Obama has done an amazing job in leading us, with Members here in the Senate, bipartisan. Senators Snowe and Feinstein worked so hard on this. He said it is time for us to get better fuel economy. Fuel efficiency is going to take carbon out of the air, and we are moving toward 55 miles per gallon. That is excellent. And we can continue to make great progress as we move toward plug-in hybrids--I drive one of those myself--and eventually electric cars. I can tell you, when you drive those cars, you don't visit those gas stations. It saves you money. It is a win-win. The environment gets cleaned up. You save money. It is all good.

    We know the electricity sector is complicated, but what we want to do--many of us here--is to say: If you put a price on carbon, it will move us away from the dirtiest types of electricity production toward clean, clean electricity.

    That is what we are trying to do. So Senator Sanders wrote a very strong bill of which I am a cosponsor. It would put a price on carbon and we would take the funds we get from that price on carbon--I think it is $20 a ton when you start--and it will bring in many billions. What we will do with it is 60 percent of it will go to the people to soften the blow of higher electricity prices until we have moved to clean energy. We have to move on this.

    On residential and commercial buildings, I have a bill to move forward through the GSA, the biggest landlord in the country, and we can move forward with economies to those buildings by making sure the windows do not let in all that air or let all that heat escape, we can make those weather-related improvements and we can encourage them to move to solar and other ways. The industrial sector is the same. Once there is a price on carbon, they will move toward putting solar and the rest.

    In closing, we have one self-inflicted wound called the sequester. We can get out of it easily by working together on deficit reduction in a balanced way and stop these mindless cuts that hurt the people of our Nation, the children of our Nation, the seniors of our Nation, law enforcement of our Nation--our busiest airports, trains, and the rest. We can avoid all that if we are smart and we say we want a balanced approach.

    I believe if we recognize what USA Today is saying, which is we should sweat climate change because it is happening now, if we can come together we can move forward and do our part. We just heard, in the Environment and Public Works Committee--I am proud to chair it--we heard from four scientists. They were asked if we do nothing what will happen. They said parts of our Nation will not exist anymore. Imagine hearing people say no more Atlantic City, no more New Orleans. In Florida--you wouldn't recognize it. That is the first answer. We did not even get to what happens in the West.

    We know from Senators such as Tom Udall what would happen to that beautiful State of New Mexico. It would become a desert environment; no more green, and the fires have already been starting. I am sad to say we have done little to nothing. I can only say this President has done whatever he could do. Any progress we have had has come from his executive orders and, I might add, the States.

    My home State of California is moving forward, creating jobs in clean energy, moving forward, being a model, and I am going to support them and our Governor, Jerry Brown. He gets this. It doesn't take a degree in climatology to see what is happening to our climate--and it is happening. We understand it.

    I saw a movie, ``Chasing Ice.'' O God, if you have not seen it, I suggest you watch it. This is a great photographer who goes to four different places, including Montana, Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska. He puts these cameras up there to watch the glaciers. You see what happens over 2 years. These glaciers are disappearing. This is not some kind of cry for attention on my part. I love my grandkids, and I want them to have a planet that is habitable for them. They deserve that. They are going to look back to this time someday and say: My goodness, what were they thinking? It is not too late for us. With USA Today leading the way, I think we can turn public opinion around and get going on this issue.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New York.

    (The remarks of Mrs. Gillibrand pertaning to the introduction of S. 443 are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'') Mrs. GILLIBRAND. I yield the floor.

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