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Public Statements

Paycheck Fairness Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I want to take a few moments this afternoon to do something that has become a bit of a ritual with me; that is, to try to take some time each week to speak about the damage we are doing to our atmosphere, to our oceans, and to our climate with the relentless carbon pollution we are discharging.

As each week goes by, the information continues to pile up about the harms we are causing.

A recent story says rising temperatures could eliminate two-thirds of California's snowpack by the end of this century.

The snowpack that helps provide water for California cities and farms could shrink by two-thirds because of climate change, according to new research submitted to the state's Energy Commission.

Higher temperatures appear likely to wipe out a third of the Golden State's snowpack by 2050 and two-thirds by the end of the century, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found.

Science Daily reports:

Black carbon aerosols and tropospheric ozone, both humanmade pollutants emitted predominantly in the Northern Hemisphere's low- to mid-latitudes--

That is basically us--

are most likely pushing the boundary of the tropics further poleward--

North and south--

in that hemisphere, new research by a team of scientists shows. .....

The lead climatologist, Robert J. Allen, says:

If the tropics are moving poleward, then the subtropics will become even drier. If a poleward displacement of the mid-latitude storm tracks also occurs, this will shift mid-latitude precipitation poleward, impacting regional agriculture, economy, and society.

The American people have not been taken in by the campaign of propaganda that primarily the polluting industries have put out. There have been significant reports in the past on ExxonMobil's funding of essentially phony research agencies so they can offer their opinions on this issue without having it be ExxonMobil's opinion. They either create or take over or subsidize organizations that then put out the message, and they sound legit--Heartland Institute, Annapolis Center.

But the American people are not fooled, it turns out. Seventy-one percent of visitors who have come to the Nation's wildlife refuges say they were personally concerned about climate change's effects on fish, wildlife, and habitat. Seventy-four percent said that working to limit climate's effects on fish, wildlife, and habitat would benefit future generations. And 69 percent said doing so would improve the quality of life today.

One of the original researchers on climate change--I quoted an article earlier, describing how over time the facts have proven his initial predictions accurate--is James Hansen. He wrote an article a few weeks ago in the New York Times headlined ``Game Over for the Climate.'' It begins with these two sentences:

Global warming isn't a prediction. It is happening.

Clearly we see that in measurements and observations around the planet. But what happens if it keeps going? He is talking about the tar sands up in Canada, and he says this:Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I would suggest that it is more than just that we are drifting. I would suggest we are being drifted by politics and by the money in politics, particularly the big money the big polluters can throw into politics, not only directly by giving campaign contributions to people but by flooding money into phony so-called scientific organizations that then parrot their message, but without people being able to say: Wait a minute, this is ExxonMobil telling me; maybe I should be a little more guarded about it. So they launder it through a legitimate-sounding organization--not one, dozens--and we get bombarded with false propaganda. Scientists are not good at propaganda. It is not why they went to graduate school. It is not why they got their Ph.D. It is not what they do when they are out in the field taking measurements. So you put them up against a company such as ExxonMobil with all of its money and its propaganda skills and it is not an even contest.

As the Chairman points out, by the time we are looking around and seeing, oh, my gosh, what have we allowed to happen--now we are awake--we reject the propaganda. We have to do something about this, and it will probably be, as General MacArthur said, too late. That is the great danger.

I thank the chairman for his recognition.

If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas, and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would eventually reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet's species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

That is clearly, as he admits, a long-term outlook, but it is an outlook that deserves our attention, because when he has given us long-term outlooks in the past, as time has marched forward they have been proven over and over to be true.

It is convenient around here to pretend that none of this is happening. And it would be nice if we could wait until the disaster, the wolf wasMr. WHITEHOUSE. I would suggest that it is more than just that we are drifting. I would suggest we are being drifted by politics and by the money in politics, particularly the big money the big polluters can throw into politics, not only directly by giving campaign contributions to people but by flooding money into phony so-called scientific organizations that then parrot their message, but without people being able to say: Wait a minute, this is ExxonMobil telling me; maybe I should be a little more guarded about it. So they launder it through a legitimate-sounding organization--not one, dozens--and we get bombarded with false propaganda. Scientists are not good at propaganda. It is not why they went to graduate school. It is not why they got their Ph.D. It is not what they do when they are out in the field taking measurements. So you put them up against a company such as ExxonMobil with all of its money and its propaganda skills and it is not an even contest.

As the Chairman points out, by the time we are looking around and seeing, oh, my gosh, what have we allowed to happen--now we are awake--we reject the propaganda. We have to do something about this, and it will probably be, as General MacArthur said, too late. That is the great danger.

I thank the chairman for his recognition.

at the door and then do something about it, but there is a strong likelihood that by the time we take action, it will be too late.

In September of 1940, there was an American living in the Philippines with his wife and son. He looked at what was happening over in Europe. He looked at the threat to Britain. He cabled back to the United States his recommendation. He said:

The history of failure in war can almost be summed up in two words--``too late.'' Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy. Too late in realizing the mortal danger. Too late in preparedness. Too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance. Too late in standing by one's friends.

The author of that cable was GEN George MacArthur. He continued later on in the cable:

The greatest strategic mistake in all history will be made if America fails to recognize the vital moment, if she permits again the writing of that fatal epitaph ``too late.''Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I would suggest that it is more than just that we are drifting. I would suggest we are being drifted by politics and by the money in politics, particularly the big money the big polluters can throw into politics, not only directly by giving campaign contributions to people but by flooding money into phony so-called scientific organizations that then parrot their message, but without people being able to say: Wait a minute, this is ExxonMobil telling me; maybe I should be a little more guarded about it. So they launder it through a legitimate-sounding organization--not one, dozens--and we get bombarded with false propaganda. Scientists are not good at propaganda. It is not why they went to graduate school. It is not why they got their Ph.D. It is not what they do when they are out in the field taking measurements. So you put them up against a company such as ExxonMobil with all of its money and its propaganda skills and it is not an even contest.

As the Chairman points out, by the time we are looking around and seeing, oh, my gosh, what have we allowed to happen--now we are awake--we reject the propaganda. We have to do something about this, and it will probably be, as General MacArthur said, too late. That is the great danger.

I thank the chairman for his recognition.

Of course, General MacArthur was talking about what was becoming World War II, he was not talking about climate change. Yet his warning rings very true against this threat as well. ``Too late'' will be the epitaph if we do not prepare now. And I very much regret that we are in a situation in which we do not seem able as a body to take this threat seriously. The House shows no indication whatsoever of taking this threat seriously. Even the White House has dialed back its expressions of interest and concern on this issue, probably for the practical reason that the Republican-controlled House does not want to deal with this issue at all. Period. End of story. But it is happeniMr. WHITEHOUSE. I would suggest that it is more than just that we are drifting. I would suggest we are being drifted by politics and by the money in politics, particularly the big money the big polluters can throw into politics, not only directly by giving campaign contributions to people but by flooding money into phony so-called scientific organizations that then parrot their message, but without people being able to say: Wait a minute, this is ExxonMobil telling me; maybe I should be a little more guarded about it. So they launder it through a legitimate-sounding organization--not one, dozens--and we get bombarded with false propaganda. Scientists are not good at propaganda. It is not why they went to graduate school. It is not why they got their Ph.D. It is not what they do when they are out in the field taking measurements. So you put them up against a company such as ExxonMobil with all of its money and its propaganda skills and it is not an even contest.

As the Chairman points out, by the time we are looking around and seeing, oh, my gosh, what have we allowed to happen--now we are awake--we reject the propaganda. We have to do something about this, and it will probably be, as General MacArthur said, too late. That is the great danger.

I thank the chairman for his recognition.

ng out there. It is happening out there.

People see the dying forests of the West as the pine bark beetle works its way more and more north because winters are no longer cold enough to kill off the larvae. People see the habitat of quail, of trout, of pheasant, of game animals, change in their lifetimes.

They see the places where they used to be able to go to fish with their grandchildren no longer available. Farmers see changes. Gardeners see changes. Plants that could not grow in certain zones now can. Tropical plants can grow in northern areas because of changes. In Rhode Island we have had winter blooms of some of our fruit trees because it has gotten so warm.

My wife did her dissertation on the species called the winter flounder, which was a very significant cash crop for the Rhode Island fishing industry. It was not very long ago. She wrote her dissertation about it because it was such an important part of the Rhode Island fishing industry, and because it had an interesting connection with a shrimp, Crangon septemspinosa, in which one fed on the other until it got big enough, and then the predatoryMr. WHITEHOUSE. I would suggest that it is more than just that we are drifting. I would suggest we are being drifted by politics and by the money in politics, particularly the big money the big polluters can throw into politics, not only directly by giving campaign contributions to people but by flooding money into phony so-called scientific organizations that then parrot their message, but without people being able to say: Wait a minute, this is ExxonMobil telling me; maybe I should be a little more guarded about it. So they launder it through a legitimate-sounding organization--not one, dozens--and we get bombarded with false propaganda. Scientists are not good at propaganda. It is not why they went to graduate school. It is not why they got their Ph.D. It is not what they do when they are out in the field taking measurements. So you put them up against a company such as ExxonMobil with all of its money and its propaganda skills and it is not an even contest.

As the Chairman points out, by the time we are looking around and seeing, oh, my gosh, what have we allowed to happen--now we are awake--we reject the propaganda. We have to do something about this, and it will probably be, as General MacArthur said, too late. That is the great danger.

I thank the chairman for his recognition.

cycle reversed itself and the winter flounder began to eat the shrimp instead of vice versa.

Well, landings of winter flounder in Rhode Island have crashed catastrophically. The reason? The mean winter water temperature of Narragansett Bay is up about 4 degrees. That is enough of an ecosystem shift that the winter flounder is gone. Fishermen now catch scup instead, which is a far less remunerative crop and frankly not as good a fish to eat, in my opinion anyway.

So these changes are happening. It is regrettable that we are unable to address them. The science has been discredited by propaganda campaigns that are deliberately and strategically designed to create doubt in the minds of the public where no doubt should exist. The fact is this science is rock solid.

The notion that when you put lots of carbon dioxide up into the atmosphere it warms the atmosphere has been around since the Civil War. The scientist who discovered it was an English-Irish scientist named John Tyndall. He first reported this phenomenon in 1863. For 150 years we have known this. This is nothing new. We can measure the gigatons of carbon that we are discharging into the atmosphere. Of course, it is going to make a difference. The notion that it does not has been a public relations and propaganda campaign by well-heeled special interests to protect pollution, because it makes money for those companies. But with the damage it is doing to our future, it is very hard to honestly look my children in the eye and say I am doing my job for them here in Washington while we do nothing on carbon pollution.

In fact, we continue to subsidize the biggest polluters. ExxonMobil makes more money than any corporation has in the history of the world and they still claim a subsidy from the American taxpayer. It is a ridiculous subsidy. And yet we subsidize them. I see the distinguished chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is here on the floor. I want to conclude my remarks and thank him for the amazing work he and the ranking member, Michael Enzi, did on the FDA bill we just passed with such a strong vote, virtually a unanimous vote. There was a lot of very good work that was done there, so that proves there are areas where we can do good work.

I hope the day comes when we can begin to do good work on the damage we are doing to our atmosphere and to our oceans with our relentless discharge of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with our relentless subsidy of the polluters. One day we will be called into account for our inaction, and we will have earned the condemnation of history.

I yield the floor.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I would suggest that it is more than just that we are drifting. I would suggest we are being drifted by politics and by the money in politics, particularly the big money the big polluters can throw into politics, not only directly by giving campaign contributions to people but by flooding money into phony so-called scientific organizations that then parrot their message, but without people being able to say: Wait a minute, this is ExxonMobil telling me; maybe I should be a little more guarded about it. So they launder it through a legitimate-sounding organization--not one, dozens--and we get bombarded with false propaganda. Scientists are not good at propaganda. It is not why they went to graduate school. It is not why they got their Ph.D. It is not what they do when they are out in the field taking measurements. So you put them up against a company such as ExxonMobil with all of its money and its propaganda skills and it is not an even contest.

As the Chairman points out, by the time we are looking around and seeing, oh, my gosh, what have we allowed to happen--now we are awake--we reject the propaganda. We have to do something about this, and it will probably be, as General MacArthur said, too late. That is the great danger.

I thank the chairman for his recognition.

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