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The Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, let me thank my colleague from Minnesota for his courtesy in allowing this time for me when I would otherwise be presiding.

I wanted to respond to the remarks that preceded Senator Franken's remarks, remarks by Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, suggesting that the military's investment in green technologies was an unwelcome imposition on them, and against their wishes, by outside political forces and on the basis of outside political considerations.

I just held a hearing in the Environment and Public Works Committee on the subject of our Defense Department's investment and interest in alternative technologies. We had witnesses from all of the services, and the testimony was pretty clear and diametrically opposed to the point of view just expressed by the Senator from Oklahoma.

I can certainly appreciate the enthusiasm of my friend from Oklahoma for fossil fuels since fossil fuels are a big home State industry in Oklahoma. But the testimony at the hearing was that the military was pursuing alternative fuels for reasons of its own, for reasons that related to protecting the troops, to be more efficient and to protect the strategic posture of the United States around the world.

Perhaps the most striking testimony they gave was that over 3,000 American soldiers gave their lives between 2003 and 2007 protecting our fuel convoys in Iraq. When we get in theater and we have a heavily fossil-fuel-based military presence, the price we pay for that is paid in the blood of soldiers who die protecting the fuel convoys--3,000 young men and women between 2003 and 2007. So to the extent we can do things like the Cooley company in Rhode Island and invest in tents that have their own solar capture built right into the fabric so that the cooling within the tent in the blazing heat of the Middle East can be done without having to truck that fuel in and without having to cost those soldiers their lives--that is not something that is being imposed on the military; that is something they very much want to accomplish as part of their core mission.

In Newport, RI, the Naval War College has a facility, and they are building wind turbines there. They are building wind turbines there because they have calculated that over time they will save money by putting up those wind turbines compared to buying electricity. It is not an imposition from outside. It is not some green agenda coming from Washington or anyplace else. It is the Newport Naval Station saying we save money for our budget by doing this. And when we save that money, we can put it into these other uses such as fighter aircraft, tanks, bullets, bandages, and boots.

The third piece of testimony had to do with the strategic posture of the country internationally, which is something the military is concerned with in a very deep and profound way. They made a couple of points.

The first was that the less dependent the United States is on the international oil market, the fewer vital interests we have to risk shedding our blood and spending our treasure to protect. So it is in our national strategic interest to get off of our fossil fuel dependency and into a broader portfolio of energy sources.

The second is the emerging dangers of climate change, in which we are immersed all around us if we look at the obvious evidence in front of our faces, which creates profound risks for social and civil unrest and violence in other parts of the world as things change, as estuaries flood and are no longer productive agriculturally, as relatively dry areas turn to desert and can no longer sustain life, as the great glaciers in the high mountains dissipate and change the flow patterns of rivers on which economic life for individuals depends.

All of those things create conflict and strife, and the American military is aware that where there is conflict and strife abroad, very often they are called in, and they feel the responsibility to try to avoid that.

I take time every week to speak a little bit about climate change for a number of reasons. As I said, there are a lot of folks in Washington who would like to ignore this issue and it is presently being ignored, which is unfortunate and, in fact, shameful. The messages about climate change we are getting are coming through loudly and clearly and we ignore them at our peril.

Every week for the past 15 months, as the Presiding Officer knows, I have distributed in our weekly caucus an update on some of latest climate science bulletins, the news that is fresh that week. This week the stories are that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in the weather statistics for the month of April 2012 reported warmer-than-average temperatures engulfing much of the contiguous United States during April with the nationally averaged temperature at 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average and the third warmest on record.

Warmer-than-average temperatures were present for a large portion of the Nation for April. Six States in the

central United States and three States in the Northeast had April temperatures ranking among their 10 warmest in history.

Above-average temperatures were also present for the Southeast, upper Midwest, and much of the West. No State in the contiguous United States had April temperatures that were below average.

April 2012 came on the heels of the warmest March on record for the lower 48. January to April 2012 was the warmest such period on record for the contiguous United States with an average temperature of 45.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 5.4 degrees above the long-term average. Twenty-six states, all east of the Rockies, were record warm for the 4-month period, and an additional 17 States had temperatures for the period among their 10 warmest.

These rising temperatures can lead to a number of concerns. For instance, snowpack, and thus drinking water, could be drastically reduced in California and surrounding western States. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography presented a study to California's Energy Commission last month explaining that the warming of 1.5 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit between now and midcentury will reduce today's snowpack by one-third. By 2100, at those temperatures snowpacks would be reduced by two-thirds. That makes a big difference to the agricultural communities that depend on that water downstream of those snowpacks.

Meanwhile, Science Daily reported yesterday that ozone and greenhouse gas pollution such as black carbon are expanding the tropics at a rate of .7 degrees per decade. Said the lead scientist, climatologist Robert J. Allen, assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside:

If the tropics are moving poleward, then the subtropics will become even drier ..... impacting regional agriculture, economy, and society.

People are noticing the changes around them. Outside of the Halls of Congress--where we have blinders on to this obvious issue--regular people see the changes, and they are concerned about them. The United States Geological Survey recently polled more than 10,000 visitors to the Nation's wildlife refuges, hunters, fishermen, and families alike, and found that 71 percent of those polled said they were ``personally concerned'' about climate change's effects on fish, wildlife, and habitats. Seventy-four percent said that working to limit climate change's effects on fish, wildlife, and habitats would benefit future generations.

These special interests who deny that carbon pollution causes global temperatures to increase--and who have such a profound and maligning effect in this Chamber--deny that melting icecaps will raise our seas to dangerous levels, denying that all of these visible changes are taking place.

The myth that these special interests propagate in the face of so much evidence is that the jury is still out on climate change caused by carbon pollution so we don't have to worry about it or even take precautions. This is false. It is plain wrong.

Virtually all of our most prestigious scientific and academic institutions have stated that climate change is happening and that human activities are the driving cause of this change. They say it in powerful language, particularly for scientists who are specific about what they say and guarded in the way they say it.

The letter said:

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 here is the final crescendo--and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

That is an awfully nice way to say it, but in a nutshell they are saying anybody who disagrees is making it up.

These are serious organizations: the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Society of Agronomy, and on and on.

It is not just them. It is also the military services--as I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks--it is also the intelligence organizations of the country, it is also most of our electric utilities, many of our biggest capitalists and investors, and of course it is our insurance industry that has to pay for the damage that ensues. A recent article said: The worldwide insurance is huge, three times bigger than the oil industry.

Right now these companies are running scared. Some are threatening to cancel coverage for homeowners within 2 miles of the coast where hurricanes are on the increase, and in drying areas of the West where wildfires have wreaked havoc. Marsh and McClennan, one of the largest insurance brokers, called climate change ``one of the most significant emerging risks facing the world today,'' while insurance giant AIG has established an office of environment and climate change to assess the risks to insure us in the years ahead.

The industry's own scientists are predicting that things could get a lot worse in the years ahead.

I am indebted to the Presiding Officer, the junior Senator from Minnesota, for the following observation, which is that 97 percent of the climate scientists who are most actively publishing accept that the verdict is in on carbon pollution causing climate and oceanic changes. The example he and I have discussed--and I can't help, since he is presiding right now, referring to it again--we are being asked in this body to ignore facts that 97 percent of scientists tell us are real. Now, translate that into our personal lives. What if a child of ours was sick and we went to a doctor and said: Is there something I need to do about it? Is there a treatment that is necessary? What is the deal here? And we got an opinion, and then we said: I am going to be a cautious, prudent parent because a treatment might be expensive. I want to make sure I am going down the right path, so I am going to get a second opinion, and the parent gets a second opinion. Then the parent got a third opinion. You are a really prudent parent, and you got a third opinion. Let's say you kept going. You got a fourth opinion, a fifth, a 15th, a 45th, a 75th, a 95th--you got 100 opinions. People would think that was a little odd, but never mind. And then let's say that 87 percent of those professional opinions came back saying: Yes, your child is ill and needs this treatment. Would you then responsibly say: The jury is still out on the question of why my child is sick. Let's not take any action now. These 97 percent of the doctors might be alarmists. We don't really want to go there, and, after all, it will cost money to buy the medicine.

Would any responsible parent do that? No. It is a ludicrous proposition, and that is just how ludicrous the proposition is that climate change is not real.

The underlying facts are ancient ones. The guy who discovered that climate change is caused by the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, John Tyndall, discovered this in 1863, at the time of the Civil War, 150 years ago. This is not a novelty. This is old established science, and it has become clear since then that there is a change that is happening.

We pump out 7 to 8 gigatons a year. A gigaton is a billion--not a million, a billion--metric tons. We pump out 7 to 8 billion metric tons a year of carbon dioxide, and that adds to the carbon load in the atmosphere. This isn't something that is a theory, it is something that is a measurement now.

For 8,000 centuries mankind has existed in an atmospheric bandwidth of 170 to 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide--170 to 300--for 8,000 centuries, 800,000 years. We have been an agricultural species for about 10,000 years, to give my colleagues an idea. For 800,000 years we were picking things off of bushes. Our entire history as a species falls essentially in that 800,000 years. All of our development as a species has happened in the last probably 20,000 years. So it has been a long run in that safe bandwidth of 170 to 300 parts per million. We have shot out of it. We are at 390 parts per million and climbing. The record in history as to what happens on this planet when we spike out of that range is an ominous one. It is a bad trajectory. It takes us back to massive ocean die-offs that are in the geologic record. So this is something we need to be very careful about and we need to take action.

The suggestion that it is not happening is false. The suggestion that we can wait it out is imprudent, reckless, and ill-advised. And the notion that our professional career military who have lost 3,000 men and women defending fuel convoys in Iraq are engaged in trying to get off fossil fuels because of some outside political agenda that they don't share is a preposterous allegation to make about the men and women who run our military, who make these decisions for our military, and who are seeking to defend the soldiers out in the field against these consequences.

With that, I yield the floor, once again thanking the distinguished Presiding Officer for allowing me this time, and I would have otherwise been sitting there and presiding. So with appreciation to Senator Franken, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


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