Climate Change—(Continued)by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin
Posted on 2014-03-10
CARDIN. Mr. President, first, I wish to compliment and thank
Senator Warren for her comments. Senator Warren has brought up a lot of
issues that I can relate to because our States share the Atlantic
Ocean. We talk about climate refugees around the world, and we are
starting to see those in our own States. As sea levels are rising, we
see dead zones in the oceans and in our bays. We need to take action in
order to protect our people.
In my State of Maryland, you can see firsthand the effects of the rising sea-level. One example is Smith Island. Smith Island is a habitable island in the Chesapeake Bay that is home to many of our watermen who have been practicing their professions for many years. They are at risk.
You need a boat to get from one of the towns to the other. Smith Island only has a couple of hundred remaining residents, but they are losing their land daily as they fight to counter the rising sea level change--I think that is a very visible sign of what we are up against-- and the urgency of dealing with climate change.
I am so proud to be identified with the Climate Action Task force. Many of the leaders have been mentioned, and I thank Senator Schatz and Senator Whitehouse for organizing this opportunity for us to put a spotlight on climate change and the need for urgent action. I thank Senator Boxer, the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, for her extraordinary leadership.
Throughout last night and into this morning, we have highlighted the science, which is indisputable, as to the fact that over millions of years we have seen catastrophic changes on our own planet. Because of our activities and what we are doing on Earth, within a very short period of time--just hundreds of years, and less than that now--we are causing a catastrophic impact on our climate. It is urgent. We have seen firsthand the impacts of climate change.
I was in Beijing, China, last year. I was there 3 days. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, but I never saw the Sun because of the pollution that was in the air--their carbon emissions. We have seen the costs of climate change in lives and in dollars we spend to try to adapt to the new realities of extreme weather conditions.
I will use the few moments I have to talk about the issues that are closer to home in my own State of Maryland. Seventy percent of Maryland's population lives in coastal zones. It is now predicted by the Maryland Climate Change Commission that we will see a 1.4-foot increase in the sea level by 2050 and 3.7 feet by the end of this century. That is going to have a dramatic impact on many Marylanders who live in the coastal area.
I can give another example. Ocean City, MD, is a popular place for Marylanders and people from outside our State to enjoy the beautiful beaches. I must say that I am very proud that this Congress has appropriated millions of dollars for beach renourishment. Those dollars have returned multiple times because they prevent the full force of these nor'easter storms that are more frequent and more severe in Maryland and along the Maryland coast. There is a limit as to what we can do if we don't take action to deal with the sources of climate change. We want to protect our property owners, and the best way to protect our property owners is to do something about the causes of climate change.
We saw the impact of Sandy along the east coast of the United States. I know that the most severe impact was in New Jersey and New York, but in Maryland we saw in Crisfield, MD, the full effect of Sandy. The people there know they are at risk because of the severe storms that are becoming more frequent and more severe.
The Chesapeake Bay itself is at risk. I have talked on the floor many times about the importance of the Chesapeake Bay, and how it is a national treasure. It is important just by the fact that it is the largest estuary in our hemisphere. It is important because of its coastline and its impact. It is also important because of its impact on our economy. The blue crabs and oysters are critically important to Maryland. Yet they are at risk.
The blue crab is a little complicated, but we know one of the factors that is affecting the blue crabs is the ability of juvenile crabs to be able to survive in seagrasses. Yet the seagrass population is declining because of temperature rise in the Chesapeake Bay. That is just one example of the challenges we have because of climate change. It is affecting the economy of my State, and it is affecting the economy of our country.
The Port of Baltimore is the largest single economic factor creating jobs in our community, and the Port of Baltimore depends upon a stable coastal climate.
The tourism industry is directly affected by climate change. People love to come to our State to hunt and fish. One of the most valuable assets we have along the bay is the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
The Presiding Officer has heard me talk about that frequently in the Environment and Public Works Committee. The bald eagles have returned to Blackwater. It is an incredible sight. People go there just to see the beauty of nature and to visit our wildlife and our waterfowl.
Blackwater is at risk. It is important for tourism, and it is important for our environment. It is also the land in which Harriet Tubman conducted the underground railroad, so it has a lot of significance. Yet, between 1938 and 2006, we lost 5,000 acres of marshland to open water, and that is accelerating. It is not slowing down. If we don't reverse the impacts of climate change, we are going to see a more dramatic impact on those types of treasures in Maryland and nationally.
I will also mention the fact that, of course, this is a Federal legislature, and we should be concerned about the Federal facilities as well. In Maryland we have Pax River, which does incredibly important work for our Navy so they can do their research and flight testing on the coast of our State, and that is at risk by the rising sea-level.
I serve on the Board of Visitors at the Naval Academy, and I can tell you I have visited the Naval Academy when it has been flooded because of storms. It is a little below sea level at some of its locations. The rising sea level jeopardizes that iconic institution that is so important to our national defense.
The Aberdeen Proving Grounds is also located on our coast and does critical work in national security. All of these facilities are being jeopardized because of the climate change that is occurring in our community.
I will talk a little bit about some good news. We can reverse what has happened. We can slow down the effects. We can change the course that we are on. We have already done a significant amount. I congratulate President Obama and his policies because he has taken on the major areas that deal with climate change.
The United States has to lead internationally, but it starts with action right here in the United States. We have to lead by example. Other countries are far ahead of us. We have to join with other countries to produce a strategy that works because our environment does not end at our borders. We have to work internationally, but first we have to work at home.
What has President Obama done? He has taken on the transportation sector, which is one of the greatest uses of carbon fuels, with our CAFE standards--our efficiency of our automobiles. We now have standards that would lead to having an automobile get 54\1/2\ miles per gallon by 2025. That is ambitious. They said we couldn't do it before, but we did it. We met those standards, and we will meet these standards. We will significantly reduce the amount of fuels that we need to fuel our transportation in this country.
We are investing in transit facilities, and that reduces our carbon footprint. High-speed rail reduces our carbon footprint. We are committed to those types of solutions that are common sense to help our environment.
The Obama administration is moving ahead on the regulation of carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act. They [[Page S1463]] recognize that the energy sector can help reduce our carbon footprint substantially.
Senator Warren was absolutely correct when she said that we don't have a level playing field today. We subsidize the fossil fuels, but we don't with the renewable fuels. We can expand our renewable energy sources.
Quite frankly, we are showing innovation among all of our stakeholders. Buildings use a lot of energy and generate a lot of carbon. The Federal Government is leading in the LEED certification, as is the private sector, in doing things that are much more energy efficient in the building sector.
Therefore, we have seen progress in transportation and buildings and the generation of electricity. We have been reducing our carbon footprint, which will help the people on Smith Island by reducing the sea level changes.
The Presiding Officer and I saw firsthand the impact of the glacier melts when we were in Greenland. I thank Senator Boxer for arranging that opportunity. We saw very visually the glacier melts and how much has occurred in a very short period of time. We can reverse that by showing leadership in transportation and the way we use our buildings and the way we generate electricity. We can work together with the international community.
The good news is that the solutions for dealing with climate change will help our national security by consuming less fossil fuels. We want to get to zero as far as our need for imported energy in this country.
We can get that. We now know the threats that are made from Russia to Ukraine to the Middle East. We can eliminate that threat to our national security. We can create more jobs. Green energy will give us more jobs in the fossil fuel industry. We need good-paying jobs. We can leave our children and grandchildren a cleaner planet and a better future. That is what is at stake. That is why we have taken this time. I am proud to be identified with so many who have spoken on this issue.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Washington.