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Bernard S.
Independent VT

About Sen. Bernard
  • Keystone XL Pipeline

    by Senator Bernard Sanders

    Posted on 2015-01-07

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    SANDERS. Mr. President, the truth is that despite our rather big egos, much of what we do in the Senate is pretty quickly forgotten. People have a hard time remembering what we did 2 months ago or yesterday, let alone last year. But I have a feeling that the Keystone Pipeline bill we are now discussing and decisions that will be made about that bill will not soon be forgotten--not by our children or our grandchildren and not by people throughout the world and, in fact, not by history. I believe that decades from now our kids and our grandchildren will scratch their heads and they will say: What world were these people--Members of Congress--living in in 2015 when they voted for this Keystone Pipeline? How did it happen that they did not listen to the overwhelming majority of scientists who told us we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions, not increase them? I think our kids and our grandchildren will be saying to us: Why did you do that to us? Why did you leave this planet less habitable than it could have been? The issue we are dealing with today is of huge consequence. I fear very much that a majority of the Members in the Senate and in the Congress are poised to make a very dangerous and wrong decision. In that light, I am more than delighted that President Obama has indicated he will veto this Keystone Pipeline bill if it is passed.

    Climate change is one of the great threats not only facing our country but facing the entire planet. It has the capability of causing severe harm to our economy, to our food supply, to access to water, and it raises all kinds of international national security issues.

    Let me read an excerpt from a letter sent to the Senate back in October 2009: Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

    Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment. For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires, and a disturbance of biological systems throughout the country. The severity of climate change impacts is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.

    This statement was signed by virtually every major scientific organization in this country, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, and many other scientific organizations.

    Scientists are not the only people warning us about the danger of climate change. Hear what the Department of Defense has to say about the impact of climate change on international and national security. What they point out--and I think what every sensible person understands--is that when people are unable to grow the food they need because of drought, when flood destroys their homes, when people throughout the world are forced to struggle for limited natural resources in order to survive, this lays the groundwork for the migration of people and international conflict. That is what the Department of Defense tells us.

    Now, given all of the scientific evidence and given the concerns raised by our own Department of Defense and national security experts all over the world and given the fact that the most recent decade--the last 10 years--was the Nation's warmest on record, one would think that when the National Climate Assessment warns us that global warming could exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the United States by the end of the century--can we imagine this planet becoming 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer and what this means to the planet? When sea levels have already risen by nearly 7 inches over the last century and are expected to rise another 10 inches to 2.6 feet by the end of the century--when all of that is on the table, one would think this Senate would be saying: All right, we have an international crisis. How do we reverse climate change? Instead, what the debate is about is how we transport some of the dirtiest oil in the world and thereby cause more carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

    I suspect our kids and our grandchildren will look back on this period and say: What world were you living in? Why did you do that to us? It would seem to me that what we should be debating here is how we impose a tax on carbon so that we can break our dependence on fossil fuel. That is what we should be discussing, not how we increase carbon emissions. We should be discussing what kind of legislation we bring forward that moves us aggressively toward energy efficiency, weatherization, and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, and geothermal. That is the kind of bill that should be on the floor. We should be having a debate about legislation that makes our transportation system far more efficient, that expands rail and helps us get cars and trucks off the road. We should be having a debate about how we can create the kind of automobiles that run on electricity and make them less expensive and how we can get cars running 80 to 100 miles per gallon. Those are the kinds of debates and that is the kind of legislation we should be having on the floor, not how do we expand the production and the transportation of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet.

    In my view, the U.S. Congress in a very profound way should not be in the business of rejecting science because when we reject science, we become the laughingstock of the world. How do we go forward? How do we prepare legislation if it is not based on scientific evidence? And to say to the overwhelming majority of scientists that we are ignoring what they are telling us and we are going to move in exactly the wrong direction I think makes us look like fools in front of the entire world. How do we go forward and tell China and India and Russia and countries around the world that climate change is a huge planetary crisis at the same time as we are facilitating the construction of the Keystone Pipeline? So I am delighted the President will veto this legislation if it happens to pass the Congress. Our job now is not to bring more carbon into the atmosphere; it is to transform our energy system away from coal, away from oil, away from fossil fuel, and toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy. That should be the direction of this country, and we should lead the world in moving in that direction.

    With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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