Climate Security Act of 2008 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: June 2, 2008
Location: Washington, DC

CLIMATE SECURITY ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - June 02, 2008)


Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I want to thank my colleagues for holding the vote open as long as they could. Unfortunately, both of the trains I hoped would get me here were late, and I missed the vote by 10 minutes. I wish I had been able to get here in time to deliver this statement in support of cloture on the motion to proceed to the Climate Security Act, and to vote aye.

Mr. President, this is a historic moment. For the first time we have before the Senate legislation to slow, stop, and reverse greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

When such a plan is finally passed, signed and enacted, we will look back on this day as the beginning. Let us commit ourselves to that goal.

And let us begin this historic process today by allowing the Senate to take up the Climate Security Act.

In our own country, and among our fellow citizens on this planet, we face a common threat. Now is the time for us to fashion a common response.

I introduced climate change legislation over two decades ago, in 1986, at a time when this issue was just on the horizon. It called for the establishment of national strategy to understand and respond to the emerging threat of global warming.

Even at that early date, this was a bipartisan effort.

I was joined by Senator Mack Mathias, a Maryland Republican. In those early days, Senators Kerry and Gore were also leaders, along with John Chafee.

This remains a bipartisan effort today. In fact, on the legislation laid down this afternoon, the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill, we have all three political parties represented.

This debate would not be happening without leadership from both parties over the years. Senator McCain joined Senator Lieberman in introducing the first Senate cap-and-trade legislation.

Senator Warner has made climate change the issue that will cap his already distinguished career in the Senate.

We would not be at this point today, without the leadership of Senator Boxer, who has made global warming the signature issue of her Chairmanship of our Environment Committee.

Later in this debate, I intend to offer an amendment, with Senator Lugar, along with Senators Kerry, Warner, Menendez, and Snowe, calling for renewed leadership by the United States in international climate change negotiations.

I make these points because we all know that this debate hangs now in a delicate balance between the best, bipartisan instincts of the Senate, on the one hand, and the temptation, so strong at this time in an election year, to score partisan points.

I hope that we do not succumb to that temptation. Global warming is real, it is happening now, and the American people look to us for the political will to fashion a solution.

We know that our physical climate is changing. And we all know that the political climate in the United States is changing, too.

For too many years, the United States has stayed on the sidelines of international efforts to combat global warming.

We have missed the chance to turn the impending threat of catastrophic climate change into an opportunity to reduce the security threat of our dependence on oil, to reduce the health threat from pollution, to reduce the sheer waste and inefficiency in our economy.

And we missed the chance to do what many of the leading businesses in this country know we should do--capture a leadership position in the global competition for the next generation of clean technologies.

With this debate, we are taking the first steps toward meeting our responsibilities and seizing those opportunities.

The physical consequences of global warming are right before our eyes: the shrinking polar ice cap, retreating glaciers, changing growing seasons, animal migration, and rainfall patterns.

In my own State of Delaware, our coastlines are threatened by rising sea levels and the threat of stronger storms from warmer ocean temperatures. Our wetlands, crucial to wildlife, water quality, and fisheries, are threatened as salt water intrudes on the richest biological zones in our State.

The groundwater we depend on is similarly threatened by saltwater. As we draw from our aquifers, rising levels of sea water seep into the water table, accelerating their depletion.

This is not an abstract threat--it is right here at home, where we live.

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.

Even the richest nations, the historical source of the emissions behind global warming, will face huge costs coping with those catastrophes.

The poorest nations, whose economies have contributed little or nothing to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, will be hit the worst, and will have the fewest resources with which to respond.

And now a third category has emerged: the rapidly expanding developing nations which will be the leading sources of greenhouse gases in the future.

Those nations must be part of the solution. But the United States must be willing to lead.

In the course of becoming the wealthiest nation in history, we became the greatest historical emitter of greenhouse gasses now in the atmosphere.

Now, other nations are following our path to wealth, and will become the next generation of major emitters.

It is no answer to say that we must now wait for poorer nations to act before we take steps to lead the way to a global solution.

That is not the leadership this global threat demands, Mr. President.

We must first reach agreement here on our domestic approach to global warming. That is why this debate is so crucial.

There will be honest differences on the best way to move to a low-carbon economy. But no serious analyst of this issue believes that the world can sustain business as usual.

This is a global problem, that demands a global solution. But that solution will be built on the commitments of each individual nation to do its part.

For too long, our differences have been stressed at the expense of the global good. Our constituents look to us to reconcile those differences, to find a way to respond in the name of the common good.

We are now engaged in the search to define and secure a truly global common good. I urge my colleagues to vote for cloture, to join in a constructive debate, in the best tradition of the Senate.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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