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Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, several weeks ago, before the end of the 112th Congress, the Senate voted to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy with a supplemental appropriations bill. The $60.4 billion supplemental emergency bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 62-32. Unfortunately, the House did not pass the bill before the end of the 112th Congress, and we must pass this bill again.
This aid is desperately needed. Hurricane Sandy ranks second only to Hurricane Katrina in terms of damage. Insurers estimate that the damage will make the storm the sixth costliest in the world for their industry.
In New York and New Jersey, more than 651,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, 463,000 businesses were hurt and need assistance. Hundreds of miles of roads and rail were damaged and will need to be repaired. We have a responsibility to help our fellow Americans recover from this disaster. Congress has always stepped up and helped States and communities deal with natural disasters.
Hurricane Sandy is also a time for us to be honest, face facts, and state the obvious: the climate is changing. The weather is getting worse extreme weather events are happening with increased frequency and intensity. It's time for Congress to get serious about addressing the causes and effects of climate change we can no longer afford to ignore this issue.
The vast majority of Americans view the recent extreme weather events as evidence that the problem of global warming is no longer some vague or distant threat. In a recent poll, nearly 4 out of 5 Americans stated that they now think temperatures are rising and that global warming will be a serious problem if nothing is done about it. The existence of manmade climate change is not a debatable issue for the overwhelming majority of scientists more than 98 percent of all working climate scientists believe that human activities have led to climate change.
Over the previous decades, scientists have measured a consistent increase in global temperatures, which has led to rising sea levels, warmer air and, as a result, more extreme weather. The National Climatic Data Center just announced 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental United States. Our changing climate means that the storms and heat waves we are seeing will become stronger and more extreme in the future causing greater amounts of damage.
The insurance and defense sectors have looked at this scientific data and are making some changes. They are adjusting their operations to prepare for worse weather and bigger losses. Nationwide, the financial consequences of weather-related disasters and climate change hit a historic new high last year U.S. disasters caused over $55 billion in damages.
The federal government needs to re-think how we protect federal assets and provide disaster assistance to communities on a more regular basis. And right now, passing this bill for supplemental appropriations for Sandy victims is a great first step. Because in addition to providing aid to help re-build houses, schools, and business, the bill also includes billions for mitigation programs. Mitigation programs help us rebuild in a way that's smarter than the first time, adding defenses against storms and protecting property by moving it out of flood zones or rebuilding with flood protection features.
These policies make sense. They better prepare us for the next big storm, and they will save a lot of taxpayer money by reducing the damage of the next disaster.
After that, we in the Senate need to face the reality of greenhouse gas emissions and create energy and environmental policies that reduce their destructive impact, including investments in renewable energy and pollution control technologies.
The President challenged all of us in his inaugural address to respond to the threat of climate change, ``knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.'' We need to answer the President's challenge by passing this bill now and passing climate change legislation soon that will help us leave a sustainable planet to our children and grandchildren.
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