A picture of Senator Maria Cantwell
Maria C.
Democrat WA

About Sen. Maria
  • Climate Change—(Continued)

    by Senator Maria Cantwell

    Posted on 2014-03-10

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    Read More about Climate Change--(Continued)

    CANTWELL. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Maryland. I thank him for all his work on the Chesapeake and so many important issues as it relates to this issue and for being here up all night with my colleagues on this important climate issue.

    I thank Senators Boxer and Whitehouse and Schatz for organizing this endeavor and for everybody participating. Obviously we are here to talk about climate change, but like my colleagues we know climate change is actually impacting jobs now because it is impacting our climate now. So while we are here to talk about what might happen in the future, I am here right now to specifically talk about what is happening to our economy and why we need to take action because ocean acidification is an economic issue and it affects so many different people in our economy in the Pacific Northwest.

    It affects our shellfish growers, which is a major industry. We have three and four generations of shellfish growers who are threatened now by the impact of carbon in our oceans and the warming of our oceans. So when you talk about climate and you talk about acidification of our oceans, you are talking about an industry that is key to the Northwest that is being affected today.

    Also, our crab fishermen are being affected today, which is an important part of our fishing industry all the way to the Bering Sea. A lot of people do not realize that the Alaska crab fishermen are based in Alaska and in Washington State. They very much depend on making sure we deal with this issue in the future if we want to protect these jobs and the important industry that is there.

    Sea levels are rising and forcing communities to deal with this issue. We want to help ticket these jobs, even jobs for the salmon fisherman. A lot of people watch ``Deadliest Catch'' and understand the seafood industry, but they may not understand that even salmon depend on a food source that is affected by ocean acidification, that it is not just killing oysters and shellfish, but it is also killing these pteropod that the salmon industry depends on too.

    You can see I am here to talk in relation to jobs because commercial fishing in Washington State is a $30 billion coastal economy with 42,000 jobs and contributes about $1.7 billion to our gross economic product. So for us this is the impact of climate that is being felt today, not in the future. It is being felt today. It threatens a key industry. Not only is that industry important to Washington State, it is also important to the Nation. It contributes $70 billion to the U.S. economy and supports over 1 million fishing jobs. So our inaction in Congress, deciding not to do something, basically threatens those 1 million jobs because the climate is impacting our oceans and our oceans are impacting the food supply these fishermen harvest.

    If we do not do something about this, we are going to have severe problems in the future. Why is this? The key point--if we could have just one chart today played over and over, I would have this chart--is our oceans absorb 25 percent of the CO2 emissions. That is right. All of the CO2 emissions, 25 percent of them basically sink into the ocean. So that means carbon emissions from fossil fuels are being absorbed into the ocean. That basically creates a very corrosive environment in our waters.

    So the notion that people think we can continue doing what we are doing and not make the change, I guarantee you the problems we are causing for our oceans is a serious threat. This graph shows you the kind of acidification that is happening in our sea water.

    That ocean acidification has increased 30 percent over the last 200 years. Oceans are on track to be 150 percent more acidic by the end of the century. The current rate of acidification is 10 times faster than anything Earth has experienced in the last 50 million years.

    As you can see, this increase of carbon and an increase of the acidity level in water, an increase in acidification, is what is causing this problem for us. Again, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who think this is just something that we do not have to deal with are ignoring the real science and the state of our oceans.

    What does that acidification cause? I guess if there was another chart here I would make this chart also the star of the show, because this is not a science experiment, this is the current state of oyster larvae. Last night I was at a restaurant here in town and they offered Washington oysters, shellfish on the menu. That is great to see.

    But this is a picture of actual larvae, the beginning stages of these shellfish that are being impacted. You can see here that this is what acidification is doing to that larvae. It is not able to form. We saw in 2005 when shellfish production plummeted on the West Coast, it seemed like a freak accident, but then it happened again in 2006 and in 2007. Then in 2008, more than 80 percent of the oysters at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery died before they could be planted into the shellfish farm. In total, billions of shellfish died because of that acidification. These images from Oregon State University show ocean acidification, what it does to the larvae because that acidification erodes and becomes corrosive and actually kills the oysters.

    As I said, these are third- and fourth-generation jobs in my State. It is very important that we protect them. They have been a big driving part of our economy. But when corrosive sea water increases and then you have a 60-percent decrease in production, you are talking about hundreds of jobs in Washington State that are being impacted. We need to do something right now to act.

    It does not just affect the larvae of oysters, acidification destroys other shellfish. This again is another example of a pteropod, which just happens to be the food source for salmon. Some of these shellfish are what salmon feed off of for a protein source. Yet these same shells are not being able to form. Over 30 percent of the marine life in Puget Sound is a calcifier. So these calcifiers basically are species that are a calcium carbonate shell, just like the oysters and the shellfish, that needs to form. That is 30 percent of our marine life, of our food source.

    So if we do not do something about ocean acidification, these shells are not forming, and we are going to have an even more serious impact to our salmon industry in Washington State.

    My constituents know these are big issues. In fact, the Seattle Times ran a [[Page S1464]] groundbreaking series called ``Sea Change,'' the highlighting of the impact of carbon to the oceans because it could--as this article details--cause a collapse of that huge Alaska crab fishing industry--a collapse. I know my colleagues from the Northeast are here. They understand what a collapse to a fishing industry means. They understand it means a lot of people without jobs, it means a lot of people who depend on the fishing industry as ancillary or related jobs end up without jobs. They understand that a collapse of the fishing industry means a collapse to the economy overall in their region.

    So if we do not do something to address acidification, we are talking about climate change impacting a key jobs sector and causing huge job losses. That is what this chart shows. Basically it shows how the crab harvest industry is being impacted by ocean acidification and that it could cause a very precipitous decline.

    We cannot afford that. I will show you why we cannot afford that. We just recently--people might have caught it on the west coast. You might think what I just showed you is about oysters and about the pteropod for a salmon source, but scallops, we just had I think 1 week ago a massive die-off, another canary in the coal mine. Basically it shows that 10 million scallops died off the coast of British Colombia. Acidification was to blame. So acidic water was blamed for west coast scallop die-off.

    It shut down a processing plant and one-third of its workforce. You can see these things basically are killing jobs. So ocean acidification kills jobs. Us doing nothing about ocean acidification or about CO2 in the atmosphere is going to cause us economic problems.

    I urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to make sure we support measures that will allow us to mitigate now the impact of this and plan for the future because we cannot have what is happening now.

    We have a buoy system that we have deployed all across the United States. That buoy system helps us identify acidification levels and helps the fishermen come up with alternative strategies about when to do their planting. Let's just say it this way: They figure out when is a perfect moment to actually have the seeding. If you have too much CO2 and a warming of the oceans, then figuring out that very moment where it might not be so acidic or challenging and then actually doing the planting is giving us some problems.

    But these are high-risk tactics. We actually have to reduce the level of CO2. We are here this morning to talk about how this issue impacts the industry in my State. But this last chart shows a picture that is irrefutable. This is ocean acidification's effects on coral. Here is healthy coral. You can see it is vibrant, colorful. If you have ever been off our coast or walking on the beaches, you can see the shell life that exists in a healthy coral reef.

    This is the same coral reef years later with an unhealthy effect. We are here this morning to talk about jobs, to talk about climate and its impact on our economy today. It is important that we address this issue. I have sponsored bipartisan legislation with my colleague on the other side of the aisle called the CLEAR Act. It is just one idea, but the premise of that is that we have to not only reduce greenhouse gases now, we have to mitigate the impact and plan for a more diverse energy source in the future.

    That is what we are talking about. We are talking about trying to save jobs in the United States of America by doing a better job of planning on this important issue.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from New Hampshire.

    Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, I wish to agree with Senator Cantwell, our colleague from Washington State, because in New Hampshire we are also seeing the impact of climate change on our traditional industries. It is contributing to sea level rise, it imperils businesses and homes in coastal communities such as Portsmouth. New Hampshire's very popular Hampton Beach is experiencing greater storm surges and beach erosion. The outdoor recreation community is facing shorter winters, less snow, and that results in fewer tourism dollars.

    Wildlife and public health are becoming increasingly vulnerable to diseases. In New Hampshire, tourism is our State's second largest industry. It accounts for $9.3 billion in the State's economy. It provides jobs and economic growth throughout the State, but climate change could put some of New Hampshire's best attractions in jeopardy. The fall foliage in New Hampshire is a main draw for visitors from around the world who spend millions annually to see our beautiful landscape. As climate change continues, those warmer temperatures are causing dulling and browning of climate-stressed unhealthy trees.

    Another driver of tourism in New Hampshire is our State's outdoor recreation activities, such as downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. As temperatures increase due to climate change, the ski industry has to make more snow, and that increases their expenses. In fact, the EPA has predicted that by the end of the century, summers in New Hampshire could be as warm as summers in North Carolina, which would drastically shorten fall foliage without cooler temperatures starting in September. We are already seeing it in terms of fewer snow days in New Hampshire and earlier ice out on our lakes.

    Maple sugar production is being affected. It depends on prolonged cold temperatures with freezing nights and warm daytime temperatures to create the optimal sugar content and sap production. With warming underway, maple sugar producers in New Hampshire tell me they are already seeing an impact on production. According to a report by the New Hampshire Citizens for a Responsible Energy Policy, ``Current modeling forecasts predict that maple sugar trees eventually will be completely eliminated as a regionally important species in the northeastern United States''--that is, if we fail to act on climate change.

    New Hampshire's seacoast is facing rising sea levels along our 18 miles of shoreline. The coastline is one of the most developed parts of the State, and flooding could devastate coastal towns and their economies. Ted Diers, who is the administrator of the Watershed Management Bureau of the NH Department of Environmental Services, recently said: Sea level has been rising at 6 to 8 inches a century. What we're seeing right now is a tripling of that.

    Climate change is expected to cause widespread tree deaths, which could cause extensive wildfires. We are already seeing that in the West. There are large increases in pest and pathogen outbreaks and a lag in the establishment of new forests for several decades. It is also a threat to animals and their habitats.

    The moose population in New Hampshire is declining due to warming trends in winter and summer. The fact is that New Hampshire's moose population is down 40 percent this year, and it is the result of ticks. We have not had winters that are cold enough to cause those ticks to die off, and so we are seeing that across our wildlife population.

    What is happening in New Hampshire is happening around the world. We must take action now to slow these harmful trends, and we can make progress. We should be looking at all kinds of ways to make progress, to address what is happening to our environment.

    I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to find smart and sensible solutions because New Hampshire's economy, the health of our citizens, the U.S. economy, the world's economy, and our health all depend on it.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida is recognized.

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