Paris Climate Change Talksby Senator Jeff Merkley
Posted on 2015-12-10
MERKLEY. Mr. President, a huge thanks to my colleagues who have
been presenting so many important dimensions of this battle against a
major threat to the health of our planet. Indeed, Henry David Thoreau
asked, ``What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable
planet to put it on?'' That was an excellent question decades ago but
an even more important one today, when we have a significant threat
that endangers our forests, our farming, our fishing, and human
civilization on this planet. This is the challenge of our generation,
to bring human civilization together to address carbon pollution and
While in Paris something very exciting was going on--150 world leaders came together to kick off the final negotiations. That is unprecedented in human history. Why were so many leaders there? They were there because they are seeing the impacts in their own individual nations that are coming from the rising temperatures. They came together not just with their voice but with their pledges. In fact, more than 180 countries put forward pledges about how they were going to reduce the trajectory of their carbon pollution footprints. They know what is at stake.
We certainly know in Oregon what is at stake. We see the pine beetle devastating forests, creating a red zone of dying trees. We see the longer forest fire season having a big impact, with more intense blazes and more of them over more months. We see the impact of the loss of snowpack in the Cascades impacting our streams and impacting the water supply for agriculture. The Klamath Basin, along with California, is locked into a deep drought with devastating consequences. We see it over on our coast, where the more acidic Pacific Ocean is creating problems for our shellfish industry because the baby oysters have trouble making their shells. How is this connected? Because the carbon pollution in the air is absorbed into the ocean via waves and creates carbonic acid, and that more acidic water is eroding the ability of our shellfish to operate as they have for a millennium in making shells.
We know this is not just something in Oregon, not just something in Maryland, and not just something in this State or that State but worldwide, where 2014 was the warmest year on record. In fact, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have happened in this century. Now we see 2015 on the trajectory, and it is going to be warmer than 2014.
There is nothing disputable about the facts: rising carbon dioxide and methane pollution, rising consequences for our States across America, rising consequences for the world. Scientists tell us it will get worse. We have only had a 0.9-degree centigrade increase. If we get to 2 degrees, it is catastrophic. It is pretty bad now. We must come together as an international community and address that.
In Paris we know we need to have a more ambitious agenda than the one we have laid out, even with these wonderful pledges, and we need to come back every 5 years and keep driving the process forward. We know we have to lower the costs for renewable energy so we can come back together and increase the pace at which we pivot from a fossil fuel energy economy to a renewable energy economy.
We know we need to invest in solar deployment, and there is the International Solar Initiative that India is going to host a secretariat for and work to deploy a trillion dollars in solar panels. We know innovation matters, and mission innovation with the United States and other nations doubling their investment over the next 5 years will do a lot more to lower costs and increase the efficiency of technologies in clean power and clean power storage.
Well, it is a big challenge, and I am so delighted to be able to be part of a community of legislators. One of those legislators who has led on this in the House for decades, brought his expertise to the Senate, is my colleague from Massachusetts Senator Markey.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts.