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Ms. CHU. I rise today to bring much-needed attention to a serious threat to our Nation: climate change.
There are those of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that routinely dismiss this threat or brush it under the rug as normal or even false, but the true consequences of climate change are not lost on the American people.
Extreme weather is real. From monster tornados destroying Oklahoma, to Hurricane Katrina destroying the Jersey shore, to wildfires raging out of control in the West, climate change is not an issue that we can put off.
As Environment Task Force chair on the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, this issue is extremely important to me. In fact, it should be important to all of us because we all bear the cost. Climate change does not have geographic boundaries and it does not discriminate on whom it wreaks havoc.
If you do not believe that climate change is a threat or that the costs are real today, let me share with you a few facts:
In 2011 and 2012, there were 25 extreme weather events affecting 43 States.
In 2013, we have already started with an early and intense wildfire season in my home of southern California.
Extreme weather events in 2011 and 2012 caused $188 billion in economic damage and cost American taxpayers $136 billion. That is nearly $1,000 per individual taxpayer, or the equivalent of approximately a 2 percent tax increase. And these are low estimates. Literally thousands of heat, rain, and snow records were broken.
My State of California is particularly vulnerable to wildfires. In the previous decade, the average size of these wildfires was 89 acres. But in 2012, the average size was 165 acres, nearly double. And 9.2 million acres, mostly in the western U.S., were burned. And in the last 5 years, fires have been more damaging and more costly than ever before.
Other regions are vulnerable to floods, droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes. Just recently, while storm waters were inundating homes in one part of our country, ships were unable to navigate the Mississippi River due to extremely low water levels. These are facts we cannot afford to ignore.
It is true that changes in the Earth's climate have occurred cyclically over eons. But human activity has accelerated these changes, fundamentally jeopardizing our environment. And, we do not have eons to fix it. We rely on this environment for water, air, food and so much economic activity. We cannot turn a blind eye to climate change. Instead, we need to start preparing for it and work harder to stop it. That's why I call on Congress to stop the attacks on our environment and finally pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon pollution.