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Elizabeth W.
Democrat MA

About Sen. Elizabeth
  • Climate Change—(Continued)

    by Senator Elizabeth Warren

    Posted on 2014-03-10

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    Read More about Climate Change--(Continued)

    WARREN. Mr. President, I thank Senator Udall.



    I am proud to join with my colleagues in speaking on climate change. Senators have been speaking on this issue since yesterday, all through the night, to add their voices to the millions of voices around the country who are committed to fighting climate change.

    The level of commitment we have seen from these Senators is extraordinary, and we will need an extraordinary commitment here in Congress, around the country, and around the world to address this issue. We will need that commitment because we are on the cusp of climate crisis, a point of no return, which will threaten our health, our economy, and our world.

    We are also on the cusp of innovation in clean energy and energy efficiency which has the possibility of transforming energy production and consumption. In other words, we are at a moment of great danger and great opportunity, a moment where we must make choices about whether we will go boldly into the future, investing in innovation, establishing serious and smart regulations, and committing to address the climate crisis or whether we will continue to subsidize fossil fuels of the past and ignore the risks to our future. It is up to us.

    Doing something new is hard, because when it comes to environmental and energy issues in this country, powerful, entrenched, deep-pocketed corporations are lined up to fight any change from the status quo. These powerful corporations defend policies which poison our air and foul our water with little regard for the well-being of future generations. These powerful interests work hard to tilt the playing field so energy entrepreneurs and innovators have a hard time getting a foothold in the market. These powerful interests too often have a stranglehold on our political system, blocking not only bold change, but even conservative, market-based reforms.

    When it comes to environmental and energy policy, the system is rigged--it is rigged against our families and it is rigged against our future. Let me give one example.

    In 2012, the five biggest oil companies--ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips--made combined profits of $118 billion. At the same time, they sucked down billions of dollars in tax subsidies from the American people. Over 10 years, oil and gas companies will receive $40 billion in taxpayer subsidies. And if the Republicans have their way, these companies will get even bigger breaks in their taxes.

    Think about what $40 billion could mean for our future: a serious investment in research to figure out the [[Page S1461]] problem of energy storage and to develop better incentives for wind and solar installation; certainty and predictability for investors and entrepreneurs who have a big idea in green energy or energy efficiency and want to build a new business. And here is the point to underline: We can invest in research and develop new markets without spending any new money, if we just shift our priorities from old fossil fuel energy to new clean energy.

    A tax policy which protects these powerful interests of the past is a tax policy which is rigged against the entrepreneurs, small businesses, and innovators of the future. It is rigged against families who want their children to live in a world where they can drink the water and breathe the air.

    In preparation for the speech I am giving this morning, I asked Americans to write in and talk about how their lives will be affected if we do not get serious about climate change. My question was a simple one: If we don't do anything at all to stop climate change, what do you think the world will look like 25 years from now? I would like to read some of the responses for the record. These are just a few of the more than 5,000 letters I received on this issue. It is obvious to me the people of Massachusetts and the people of our great Nation are worried about this problem. So let me read from some of their letters.

    Blake Cady of Brookline, MA, writes: I served on a US Navy icebreaker in the Arctic from 1959- 1961 and saw th[at] relatively pristine region with intact permafrost and heavy sea ice well into the summer off Baffin Island and further north. Now, much of the Arctic Ocean ice cover is disappearing and is predicted to be entirely gone by the end of the 2030 summer season. . . .

    Currently there is open water across the Northwest Passage in the summer, and shipping has become routine, [which is] a profound change already. There will be untold alterations-- from the warming Arctic Ocean to accompany the rapidly melting Greenland ice cap--which have the potential to change global currents and further escalate global warming trends.

    There is still a narrow time window to address this looming climate disaster, but action must be forceful and rapid to escape its worst aspects. I fear for my children's and grandchildren's future.

    A letter from Susan Timberlake of Florence, MA: I used to be a clinical chemist. We made up ``buffers'' as part of our tools that kept a solution at the pH [that is, relative acidity] that you desired even as you added things that would upset the pH.

    Really good buffers have really good capacity. CO2 dissolved in water as a bicarbonate has pretty good buffering capability. Once all the buffering capacity is used up the pH change is precipitous. The pH shifts radically and directly as anything else is added to the solution. You lose any control you had over the chemical reaction(s).

    And here is where she makes the connection.

    The oceans are where much of our excess CO2 is going. . . . So far the oceans have been absorbing the CO2. . . . But the coral reefs and the starfish on the west coast of America don't lie. We have no idea . . . how much buffering capacity is left (or not). If we keep this up we will have a well carbonated, acidic--and quite dead-- ocean.

    [That's] [n]ot something I can bear leaving for my children and grandchildren. (And I am a registered Republican--[a] conservationist in the real sense.) A letter from Nilan M. MacDonald of Scituate, MA: I live in Scituate, MA, on Boston's South Shore. We are about two miles from the coast. In 25 years we could be flooded out. Also, storms are worsening, and we have been left without power for days at a time, which has endangered our health ([and] we are seniors).

    In 25 years, populations who live at sea level will become climate refugees as sea levels rise. This will affect people worldwide. Crops will be threatened by droughts and floods. Diseases now in check will become rampant as the planet warms. Mosquitos are the deadliest animal vector for human diseases--and their numbers and range will greatly increase with climate change.

    Dorothy Bagley of Hudson, MA writes: If folks think that this has been a bad winter in New England and weird all over the world, [consider] how much worse it will be in 25 years. Areas of concern to me [are]: weather changes affecting crops, water supplies, flooding, etc. Our whole style of life is in danger . . .

    I am a retired Chemistry Teacher and I know what the effect of temperature is on chemical reactions. Our World is one big chemistry experiment . . . with so many variables which compound the problems.

    We can take steps, however small they may seem, like lessening pollution due to carbon-containing fuels, lower speed limits, increase[d] use of alternative fuels, chang[ing] the Nation's attitude about recycling . . . chang[ing] our transportation by . . . mak[ing} our cars more efficient, etc.

    Education and focus are the keys. People need to know that they can effect a change both positively and negatively. Unless citizens' attitudes change toward any of the above, nothing will help to minimize what will be in 25 years.

    A letter from Mon Cochran of Orleans, MA, who writes: Dear Elizabeth, I am 72 years old and living on Cape Cod, where I grew up. When I was a kid back in the 1940s my parents and other very old people used to tell scary stories about the Hurricane of 1938, and how it knocked down all the trees and blew the roofs off houses. We saw pictures of boats smashed on the shore or carried up into the streets by the flood tides.

    As I grew up in Orleans, we experienced a series of hurricanes, starting with Carol in 1954 and then Diana the next year. Each time our parents remember 1938--and each time I remember being very, very scared as the storms barreled across the bay like furious freight trains while we cowered in the basement. In 1960 Donna came through, and even though I was 18 years old by then the fear that the house would be destroyed brought nightmares.

    Now I am a grandfather, and know much more about what causes hurricanes and why they can be so destructive than my parents did back then. For the past twenty years or so we have been lucky on the Cape--most of the really bad storms have been confined to the Caribbean or turned inland before reaching us.

    My grandchildren Tom and Kay and I have been learning about global warming together, and we have noticed, in particular, how our bay, and the ocean it connects to seems to be warmer every year. The ocean water over at Nauset Bay is so warm in the summer that we can boogie board indefinitely without getting cold. What we have been reading about hurricanes is that the warmer the water is, the more energy that is available to the storm and the stronger it becomes.

    Kay and Tom were very scared by the pictures of Superstorm Sandy they saw on TV and were worried that a storm like that, or worse, might hit us here in South Orleans. As for me, I think it is just a matter of time, but I don't tell them that. They live in Boston and have visions of a great wall of water roaring into Boston Harbor, knocking down all the buildings in the waterfront and surging up into the neighborhood where they live in Roslindale.

    From what I have been learning, we have already pumped so much extra carbon into the air, that these much more extreme storms are likely to occur no matter what we do. If we redouble our effort to switch to clean energy--solar, wind, hydro, tidal, geothermal, and biofuels--the way they are doing now in Europe, and even in countries such as China and India, then 25 years from now Tom and Kay will know that a sustainable lifestyle is possible and their children can look forward to a much safer and more secure second half of the 20th century.

    From Ken Marien of Westminster, MA: [I expect to see] [m]ore severe weather patterns, colder colds, warmer warms, dryer days, wetter floods, bigger storms, higher winds, more dust, more mud, loss of marginal growth plant and animal life.

    I have many more letters. As I said, I received more than 5,000 letters from people in Massachusetts and across the country. I wish I could read every one of them. I don't kid myself. We are up against an army of lobbyists, and we will not win all the fights ahead. But here in the Senate we have leaders who will fight as hard as we can to protect our environmental future.

    The Senator from Rhode Island, Mr. Whitehouse, has shown dedication to addressing climate change and his commitment to ocean issues and the coastline has been visionary.

    My colleague from Massachusetts, Senator Markey, has committed his long career to protecting and preserving the environment.

    Senator Boxer, from California, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee in the Senate has been a force to fight to protect our environment. Senator Schatz, from Hawaii, organized Senators to speak through the night on this issue and is quickly distinguishing himself as a leader in the fight against climate change.

    In a few minutes, Senator Cardin will come forward and continue this important discussion.

    I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with such dedicated public servants and with all of the Senators who have held the floor for so many hours to draw attention to our urgent need for climate change.

    We are on the cusp of a climate crisis, a point of no return. We can continue to subsidize polluters and ignore [[Page S1462]] the warnings all around us or we can invest in a future that can create jobs, a future that can strengthen our national security and, most of all, a future that can save our planet.

    This is our moment in history. We can act, we must act, and we will act.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Udall of New Mexico). The Senator from Maryland.

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