Climate Change—(Continued)by Senator Brian Schatz
Posted on 2014-03-10
SCHATZ. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Delaware for his
powerful words and his participation in this great debate.
There is plenty of room for a robust discussion about what set of choices we need to make in order to deal with this very real challenge. We are here tonight to ask for that discussion, for that debate, in the tradition of this great body. Climate change is the challenge of our generation, and the debate of how we confront it belongs here in the Senate.
We have no illusions about being able to reach the number of votes we need to pass significant legislation during this Congress, but we must start this conversation now. We must start now. We are here agreeing it is time for us to find a way to work together to find solutions.
The Senate is supposed to be the place where we address and debate the big issues. I hope we can work with the House on how best to tackle climate change as well. But there is no room for those who deny science itself exists or those who deliberately propagate misinformation and scare tactics because they profit from pollution.
I know people are smart enough to know the difference between today's weather and what is generally happening with the climate. People cannot be misled into thinking that just because winter still exists, the planet isn't warming in totality. We can't possibly believe that because there was a snowstorm last week, there is no such thing as climate change.
Since 1991, scientists have published more than 25,000 scholarly articles on climate change. Only 26 out of the more than 25,000 articles reject the existence of climate change. This is 1 in 1,000. The idea that because scientists, frankly, are scientists and always leave a little room for additional information or for the possibility of revising their projections, assessments, and estimates somehow introduces significant doubt about what climate change is does violence to the very principles on which science operates.
This problem is no longer confined just to our wilderness areas or to those of us concerned with biological diversity or environmental issues. In other words, this is no longer an environmental problem. This is an economic one. All we have to do is look at the extreme weather and the way it has affected both the Nation's fiscal condition and our continuing ability to deal with natural disasters, and the very real possibility that many of our coastal communities will be literally flooded by the end of the century. There is no way we can allow this issue to remain a priority for only one party in American politics. This is everyone's problem. This issue impacts every single American.
Every single Senator should be down here. This is our responsibility for future generations, not just to preserve birds and butterflies but to preserve the American economy and our way of life. Scientists, leaders of States, cities, and counties, the leadership in our Department of Defense, the rest of the world, the business community, the largest insurance companies--which insure actual risk--all agree on the reality of climate change. The only place where we are proceeding as if this is an actual open question, as if the science is not settled, is in the four corners of the U.S. Capitol.
I am not going to point to any one extreme weather event and say it was caused by climate change, but climate change has increased the likelihood of increasingly strong and frequent storms, drought, and floods.
Through the 1980s, the United States experienced an average of two to four billion-dollar disasters per year for storms severe enough to rack up more than $1 billion in damage. But 2011 and 2012 together experienced 25 individual billion-dollar storm events. This is over $25 billion in damages in just 2 years.
I will talk a little bit about what is happening with our Department of Defense. There is growing consensus within the Department of Defense that climate change is shaping the global security environment in new and profound ways which will affect the U.S. military. Climate change is dramatically shaping the U.S. military's strategic operating environment. In its 2010 strategic planning document, the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Department of Defense concluded that: While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.
The U.S. military concluded that it is increasingly likely to be called on to respond to crises which manifest as a result of climate- related instability. These include natural disasters which emanate from extreme weather events, which climate scientists expect to become more frequent and more severe as a result of climate change, because, like many first responders, the U.S. military has an obligation to respond when called for help, and indeed, the U.S. military is often the only organization capable of helping, with its fixed-and rotary-wing lift capacity and personnel to get relief supplies to those most in need.
Admiral Locklear, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, headquartered in my home State of Hawaii, said last year that climate change is the greatest long-term security threat in the Asia-Pacific region, an area covering more than half the Earth's surface area and almost 60 percent of its population. Upheaval and political instability from climate change, he said, ``Is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.'' [[Page S1422]] Eleven retired three-star and four-star admirals and generals in 2007 stated that climate change is ``a significant national security challenge'' which can serve as a ``threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.'' Climate change is also likely to impact the U.S. military's facilities and capabilities. America's military installations may be particularly vulnerable to climate change, and the Department of Defense has dedicated resources to assess the risks. According to a 2008 National Intelligence Council finding: More than 30 U.S. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels.
The Department of Defense's own QDR acknowledged that the U.S. military's operational readiness hinges on continued access to land, air, and sea training and test space, which means ensuring that climate change does not prevent the military from accessing these critical training and range areas. This may require costly intervention to adapt to sea level rise and other climate impacts that might otherwise undermine defense readiness and preparedness.
The Department of Defense is already working to map out its vulnerabilities with offices like the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, helping installation planners develop the tools they need and to plan accordingly. Climate change has become an urgent national security challenge that our military cannot and will not ignore.
Secretary of State John Kerry was right when he said that among the global challenges ``know no borders''--``terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction''--``the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.'' Let me talk about the insurance industry. I make this point about the Department of Defense not because this admiral or these generals are members of the Sierra Club or the National Resources Defense Council. It is because when they do their defense review, they have a single- minded objective: To analyze what they see as their strategic challenge. They are not grinding an ideological ax. They are talking about what is real.
Insurers are risk experts in a different way. They are not paid to care about the environment or conservation or future generations or to steward resources. If insurers have personal environmental opinions or whether they voted for President Obama or Governor Romney, they do not bring that point of view to the table when it comes to risk assessment. They can only think about and quantify risk. Their goal is to figure out what is going to happen and how much it is going to cost to cover it. What they are saying about global climate change is it is happening. Climate change is presenting real risk. They have determined that climate change is underway already and is causing economic damage and therefore needs to be insured and underwritten. From their standpoint, when billions and trillions of insurance and reinsurance dollars are in play, they recognize what is real, which is the threat of climate change.
When it is the highest stakes, projections, and assessments, these people look at the world with very clear eyes and say climate change is real. It is happening now, and it is already causing economic damage. When money is on the line, whether these people are Democrats, Republicans or Independents or do not vote, they are looking at the facts and measuring the risk. They have determined that this risk is already upon us. It is not imaginary.
Let's talk about big business. Big businesses, from Nike to Coca-Cola to Starbucks, and insurers like Lloyds of London, recognize the economic threat of climate change as well because it affects their bottom lines. For them it is simple numbers. Their motivation is simple: Protect the bottom line. With billions and trillions of dollars at play, risk experts such as Lloyds are making high stakes risk projections to protect their business models. These projections are telling them that the risk is increasing.
For many multinational companies, climate change has moved from a corporate social responsibility issue to a bottom-line issue. They are starting to see the impact of unpredictable and extreme weather and realize that investing in environmental protection means investing in the economy. Climate change affects the supply of key inputs, disrupts factories, demolishes infrastructure, and drives up prices. The economic calculus is shifting for them.
Major companies doing business in America have signed the climate declaration, which acknowledges that tackling climate change is one of America's greatest economic opportunities of the 21st Century, and it is the right thing to do. These companies include Apple, Avon, eBay, GM, Ikea, Intel, Levi's, Mars, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Owens Corning, Starbucks, Swiss Re, Symantec, The North Face, and Unilever. If we do not make serious changes, the only thing we can be certain of is that uncertainty will increase. Extreme weather events, drought, floods, spreading infectious diseases, resource wars and other tests of human civilization will test us repeatedly. Our economy thrives on certainty. Climate change increases uncertainty. The pragmatic, conservative approach requires us to take action.
We have heard the argument tonight, earlier in the evening from the Senator from Oklahoma, from some in this body at other moments, about climate change today, that there is either nothing we can do or that action will be too expensive. Regulations will kill jobs and hurt the economy, driving up prices on everything from gas to bread. Opponents of the Clean Air Act, vehicle efficiency standards, energy efficiency, and removing lead from gasoline all used the same arguments. They denied it was happening, they spread misinformation, and they sowed fears of economic destruction. In every case they were wrong.
Largely as a result of government regulations between 1970 and 2011, total air pollution dropped 68 percent while the U.S. gross domestic product grew by 212 percent, more than doubling.
Well designed solutions to environmental problems can, in fact, contribute to a healthier and growing economy. America can innovate its way out of this problem. Inaction comes with financial costs. Climate change is absolutely right now hurting our economy. It is affecting individual fishermen everywhere from my home State of Hawaii, to the Presiding Officer's home State, to the lobstermen in Maine--which my good friend from Maine has already discussed.
A 2012 study commissioned by 20 governments which was written by more than 50 scientists, economists, and other experts found that climate change is already contributing to multiple deaths per year costing the world $1.2 trillion in 2010, and reducing global GDP by 1.6 percent.
The study also said by 2030 the cost of climate change and air pollution combined could rise to 3.2 percent of global GDP with a 2 percent hit to the U.S. GDP. Similar effects could cost China $1.2 trillion. Every time we try to move forward with environmental or public health legislation there are people who will say that the U.S. economy will collapse as a result. This happened with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Almost every time they are proven wrong.
The American economy is an innovation economy. Whenever we require our American companies to innovate, whether in the interest of public health, the environment or the economy, they have thrived. They step up to the plate. Climate change is a challenge where America can once again be the global leader. We have to believe in our ability to innovate our way out of this problem.
When the U.S. economy and our businesses are presented with opportunities to innovate, they thrive. During the debate on the Clean Air Act we heard those standards would destroy the economy, but since 1970 every dollar invested in compliance with the Clean Air Act standards has actually produced $48 in economic benefits. It is not just that the American economy and business can innovate and thrive in this context, it is also that we are still the indispensable Nation. America is still the Nation where other countries look to see whether real leadership will be displayed. For that reason we need to act.
On this issue that affects every single American and the entire planet, we cannot afford to give up on American leadership. We have to believe in our [[Page S1423]] ideas and the power of our ability to innovate, in the strength of our economy and in the American ideal that whatever problem our generation is faced with, we will meet it.
The idea--and we have heard it before on this floor from climate change deniers--that we shouldn't do anything because China won't do anything misses the point. If we do something, China will do something.
Some are saying let's not do anything because of China and India. I am saying let's do something because of China and India. If we lead here we will have the economic advantage.
In fact, China has already begun the work to fight pollution and to transition to a clean energy economy. Last week at the opening of China's annual meeting of the parliament, the Chinese Premier said that China will declare war on pollution in the coming years. China faces a two-fold threat of extreme local pollution and the effects of climate change, and it recognizes that transitioning to clean energy sources is an economic and political stability imperative.
In January the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change said that China is ``doing it right'' as it begins to tackle climate change. She said that the Chinese are ``not doing this because they want to save the planet, they are doing it because it is in their national interest.'' The Chinese State Council's September Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Action Plan set specific goals: A reduction in the construction of new coal-fired power plants, a goal of generating 13 percent of its electricity from clean energy resources by 2017.
Last year China installed 12 to 14 gigawatts of solar panels and is expected to do it again this year. Prior to 2013 no country had ever added more than 8 gigawatts of solar in a single year. A price guarantee for utility-scale solar projects known as a feed-in tariff, as well as low-cost panels drove this dramatic growth. China is taking decisive action. I, for one, do not want to give up on American leadership here.
We have to believe in our ideas, in the power of our ability to innovate, and the strength of our economy, and the American idea that whatever problem our generation is faced with, we will address it.
I would like to talk a little bit about our Hawaii experience. I have seen firsthand from our experience in Hawaii that with commitment and specific goals, real progress can be made. We have led the way to building clean energy infrastructure, producing renewable energy, and reducing our petroleum dependency. I know we can achieve this kind of change across the Nation. As Lieutenant Governor, I led our efforts toward Hawaii's 70-percent clean energy goal by the year 2030, and we have made encouraging progress. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Partnership has the enthusiastic support of our business community, the U.S. DOE and DOD, the State government and even our monopoly electric utility company. By 2013 it would surpass our 2015 goal of 15-percent clean energy while having one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Nation. Hawaii's progress has taken creativity, collaboration, and innovation, the same qualities that have helped America overcome other seemingly unsolvable problems.
Transformation did not come easily and would not have occurred without collaboration between Federal, State, county, and private sector partners. But because of their hard work, we are now on track to achieve the highest renewable energy portfolio in the Nation, with 40 percent by the year 2030. Not everything we are doing in the State of Hawaii will work in all states, but we are learning that some policies have broad application. We know that climate change is a real problem, and that it is caused by humans, but we also know that it is a problem that we can fix, and we know what to do.
The challenges of climate change won't disappear overnight if Congress acts, but for the U.S. or the world to fight climate change while Congress sticks its head in the sand is like trying to fight with one hand tied behind their back. Americans agree that climate change is real and caused by humans. They agree that something must be done. Congress is a necessary but not sufficient part of this problem, for we face the biggest collective action problem in the history of humankind--bigger than war, bigger than disease, bigger than poverty.
America must continue our role as a leader that does not shy away from the big problems. Climate change is an economic issue, a health issue, and a national security issue.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the many professionals who have made tonight possible. The Senate stands out as the greatest deliberative body in the U.S. and, in my opinion, the world. Even in our disagreements, our remarks are generally at least collegial and usually friendly. The reason is simple: Respect. Respect for one another as representatives of the concerns of our home States, respect for the diversity of experiences that qualify us to serve as Senators but, most of all, respect for this institution, which is so much more than the physical infrastructure.
Even for the short time I have had the honor of serving, what I see is an institution built on people. The Capitol may be made of bricks and mortar, but the Senate lives and breathes through the people who work here. Often in the course of our daily business, we thank the people we work with for their help. But in light of the unusual demands that our event requires tonight, I would like to thank not only the individuals but their offices and departments. Without them, we would be unprotected, we would be in the dark, and we would be unable to function.
I would like to start with the Sergeant at Arms and all of its departments: doorkeepers, capitol facilities, media galleries, executive office, recording studio, printing and graphics, direct mail, the fleet office, and the U.S. Capitol Police. You keep our Senate orderly, safe, and functioning smoothly, and we thank you for that.
We almost must recognize the Secretary of the Senate: the executive office, the office of the Bill Clerk, the Captioning Services office, the Daily Digest office, the office of the Enrolling Clerk, the office of the Executive Clerk, the office of the Journal Clerk, the Legislative Clerk, our Parliamentarians, and the Official Reporters of Debates. You maintain order in the legislative process and record our actions so this body's work can be transparent and accountable to the American people, and we thank you.
The cloakrooms help to preserve order on the floor so that our deliberations perpetuate the rule of law in our great Nation, and we thank you.
The Senate librarians and CRS make it possible for us to make informed statements based on the best information available, and we thank you.
The Senate pages stepped away from their usual classrooms and schoolmates to support our actions here and participate in American democracy. We thank you.
While all have roles to keep tonight moving smoothly, I would like to call special focus on the Official Reporters of Debates. These folks transcribe every word we speak here tonight for the Congressional Record, which is then distributed the following day to more than 20,000 subscribers.
In 1956, then-Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson explained the importance of the Congressional Record: Locked in its pages are the debate, the resolutions, the bills, the memorials, the petitions, and the legislative actions that are the reason for the existence of the Senate. Without them, our words tonight would be lost, so I offer on behalf of all the Members who have helped to coordinate tonight our sincerest thanks.
I am happy to yield to the Senators from New Mexico and New Jersey if they are ready; otherwise, I would be happy to continue to speak.
Does the Senator from New Mexico need a few minutes to prepare or would he like to start? The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Whitehouse). The Senator from New Mexico.