Global Warming and Climate Change Legislation
Madame President, I rise today to talk about one of the most important issues facing our country, our world, and our children. The issue is global warming due to climate change. I know the Presiding Officer has a strong interest in this issue. We talked about it, and she has with many of her constituents in Minnesota and beyond. I appreciate that commitment.
The problem, as you know, is so serious that it could physically and irrevocably change the world in which we live. I think we are confronted today with a moral duty to preserve the environment, not just so we can have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink, but because this world that we live in is in our care for our children and our children's children—God's creation itself.
In the State of Pennsylvania we have always held the environment in high regard. In our State, as in many States, we put it right in our constitution. Article I, section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads as follows:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
That is what our State constitution says. As a public official from that State, albeit in a Federal capacity, I feel an abiding obligation to give meaning to that constitutional directive through my work in the Senate. For all these reasons I firmly believe we must take action to slow, stop, and reverse our greenhouse gas emissions. The United States must stand up as a leader in the international arena to stop global warming.
I am not a scientist, and I do not claim to be an expert on scientific theories. But I do know something about some of the literature that has been written the last couple of years. One thing I remember in particular, and this had a profound impact on me, is a very simple statement, but it tells what we are dealing with here.
I remember reading back in 2005 that the percent of the Earth's surface which has been subjected to drought has doubled since about 1970. So in just about 35 years the percent of the Earth that had drought has doubled. That alone should tell us what the stakes are. We know what drought leads to. It leads to poverty and hunger and starvation and death and darkness.
We know it from our recent history, the catastrophic storms and flooding, Katrina being an example of that; changes in habitat that threaten species and the potential of a mini ice age in northern Europe if melting ice sheets disrupt ocean currents; major ecological changes translating into major sociopolitical changes. We know various committees in this Senate—the Foreign Relations Committee being one—are dealing with this issue as well, focusing on the implications of global warming to national security and the military readiness of our troops.
There are so many examples. Even in Darfur, a terrible horror that we see unfolding every day—part of that was caused by changes in our environment. Drought caused people to move into new areas, causing conflict.
Consider the implications of widespread global drought, storms, coastal flooding, and crop failures among others.
Inflicting this future on the children of the world and the children of America is unimaginable, and I think unforgivable. Yet that is exactly what we are doing if we do not take action, the action we must take. The evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming. Global warming exists, and human activities are a major factor.
The evidence—rising average temperatures, melting glaciers, shifts in migratory bird patterns—is telling us something. It is telling us that we are failing in our duties as stewards of God's creation.
What shall we do about it? It is a question I have asked and so many others have asked over the course of many months in this Senate and many years. I spent, as did a lot of my colleagues, many hours talking with what we might call stakeholders. People in the manufacturing field, people who might own businesses, labor unions, environmentalists, scientists—all the way down the list of people and groups that have an interest. They are all determined that a national climate change program that we develop to combat it must accomplish a number of basic goals.
I will read quickly through about 10 of them:
Making mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.
The operative word there being "mandatory," not voluntary.
No. 2. Reduce greenhouse gases at rates and levels identified by international scientists at 80 percent by 2050.
No. 3. Take immediate actions to reduce emissions in the short term.
No. 4. Reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
No. 5. Use a market-based approach to reduce emissions while providing some stability in the market, specially in the early years.
No. 6. Balance regional differences in the sources of greenhouse gases and the solutions.
No. 7. Position the United States as a global leader on climate change while bringing developing countries like China, India, and Mexico to the table.
No. 8. Hold States accountable for their own carbon consumption.
No. 9. Make major Federal investments in carbon capture and storage research and clean coal technologies.
No. 10. Continue reducing other pollutants that pose threats to public health.
Guided by these 10 principles, I am a cosponsor of three global warming bills. The first is the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act introduced by our colleagues, Senator Sanders and Senator Boxer. I commend my distinguished colleagues from Vermont and California for drafting such an important bill. I believe their bill will be the starting point for the Senate's work on global warming. This legislation makes strong and significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. The near-term goal of reducing emissions levels by the year of 2020 to 1990 levels is a good start, as is the long-term goal, meaning reductions of 80 percent from 2006 levels by 2050.
We know the scientists must guide us in this work. We must not do any less than what the scientists tell us we need to do to prevent the catastrophic changes in the Earth's atmosphere.
The second bill I am cosponsoring, the Low Carbon Economy Act, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Specter—I applaud them for their work in putting together a comprehensive and detailed piece of legislation. Many of the things we will debate in this Senate will be critically important to my home State of Pennsylvania. Any climate change program must include a number of things: First of all, a detailed proposal for a cap-and-trade program for carbon credits; second, measures to keep our manufacturers competitive—we must again bring our international trading partners to the table—and a commitment to provide some measure of stability to the new carbon economy.
The third and final bill I am cosponsoring is Senator Carper's Clean Air Planning Act. This legislation keeps other hazardous air pollutants at the forefront of our decision. Nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury continue to have deleterious effects on the health of Pennsylvania and America, in terms of asthma in our children, harmful impacts of mercury on early childhood development, and women's reproductive health.
All of this compels us to take action. Each of these bills does. Each of these bills has strengths that must be included in any climate change proposal developed by the Environment and Public Works Committee and the full Senate.
I have discussed with Chairman Boxer her legislation. I appreciate her longstanding commitment to getting a climate bill to the Senate floor. I commend, as well, I must say, her leadership on a wide range of environmental issues over many years. I thank her for her continuing commitment to work with colleagues like me so we will be at the table to work on priorities for our country, as well as Pennsylvania's priorities in any chairman's mark on a climate bill.
I urge all of my colleagues to join the call of the thousands of people who have visited Capitol Hill and come to our offices to talk to us about global warming, not to mention the millions of Americans who care very deeply about this issue—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike, east and west, north and south. We have no time to waste when dealing with the problem of this magnitude and gravity for our world.
Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that I be made a cosponsor of the following legislation: S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act; S. 1766, the Low Carbon Economy Act; and, S. 1177, the Clean Air Planning Act.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).