Delaware State News - U.S. Should Lead Fight Against Global Warming
By Sen. Joseph Biden
The physical consequences of global warming are right before our eyes. Those who don't see, or choose to dismiss, the effects - such as the shrinking polar ice cap, the retreating glaciers, the horrific storms - remind me of those who refused to see that the world was round. The science is clear: our world is changing and the U.S. cannot continue on a path of passive indifference. We must cap greenhouse gas emissions here in the United States and restore our position as a leader to a global solution.
Future consequences if we continue business as usual will include rising sea levels, the spread of diseases, abrupt climate shifts. Global warming could shut down the Atlantic cycle that warms Europe or the shrink the Amazon rainforest, which provides twenty percent of the oxygen we breathe.
In February, the United Nations released the most authoritative international review of climate change science. This report showed that the concentrations of greenhouse gases are at historic highs, that they are due to human activity, that global temperatures are rising, and that the consequences will range from costly to catastrophic. We are on a path that could double the pre-industrial levels of greenhouse gases, threatening an increase of as much as 10 degrees in the next century. In April, a second United Nations analysis confirmed what we have seen too frequently reported in the news: the impacts of climate change will alter not only our natural environment, but the political and economic systems we have built up over centuries.
Our national borders, our cities, our cultures, are all built around patterns of rainfall, arable land, and coastlines that will be redrawn as global warming proceeds. By one estimate, 200 million people, in the coastal cities of New York, Tokyo, Cairo, and London, in low-lying countries such as Bangladesh, in the islands of the Pacific and Caribbean, could be permanently displaced by climate shifts.
This is a recipe for global resource wars. Throughout human history, massive population shifts, frustrated expectations, and the collapse of economies, have all led to conflict.
Just as our physical climate has changed, the climate has changed in Washington, where a response to the threat of global warming is now major priority of this new Congress. For too long we have abdicated the responsibility to reduce our own emissions - the largest single source of the problem we face today. It is now clear that our country's retreat from leadership in global climate talks reduces the effectiveness of international efforts to address climate change, and provides an excuse for China, India, Mexico, Brazil, and the other leading emitters of the future to stay with us on the sidelines.
In response to this impasse, I have joined with my colleague Senator Dick Lugar to pass a resolution calling for a return of the United States to a leadership role in the international negotiations on climate change. The effects of global warming know no borders, but rather than leading by example, the U.S. has retreated from meaningful, binding, multilateral international negotiations that help deal with this growing problem. This resolution will turn this retreat into re-engagement.
The resolution is already the first climate change legislation to pass out of any committee this Congress and calls for United States participation in negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed by the first President Bush. The resolution states that the evidence of the human role in global warming is clear; the toll will be costly; and the response must be international.
A recent report penned by eleven retired U.S. Army Generals and Naval Admirals, calls climate change a "threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world." This week in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, we will hear first-hand from three of the report's authors and get their assessment of the national and international security risks posed by global warming. What is at stake here is more than just the environmental health of the planet. If it continues at the current rate, global warming will cause shifts in fundamental building blocks of economic, social and political systems around the world. The United States can no longer be on the margins of an issue with so much potential to threaten international stability. Without U.S. leadership and participation, there is no way to stabilize the effects of climate change before irreparable harm is done.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.