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Public Statements

Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KING. Madam President, in the 1930s there was a looming threat from Germany to the peace of Europe and to the existence of England. That threat was real, and there were multiple signs. There was data. But there were very few people who wanted to do anything about it because it would have caused disruption--economic and personal disruption.

There was one politician in England who understood this threat, understood its dangers, and understood that if gone unmet it would engulf his country into a destructive and potentially catastrophic war. Of course, that politician was Winston Churchill. He saw the danger based upon data--the size of the German air force, the building of munitions, the invasion of other smaller countries, the expansion of Germany and their armed forces. He was ignored and ridiculed by his own party and by the leadership of his own party, but he kept talking. He kept raising this issue. He kept trying to raise and awaken the people of England. It was a very difficult task. In fact, our own great President John F. Kennedy wrote his thesis as a student about this period in English history, and the title was very provocative and forward-thinking: ``Why England Slept.'' Churchill tried to wake them up. Had he been heeded, World War II could have been avoided.

There were multiple times when Hitler could have been stopped by the slightest bit of resistance on the part of the European powers. Instead, the war came, and 5 years later 55 million people had died. Not heeding warnings has consequences, and we can always find reasons for nonaction. Churchill acknowledged this. The British had been through the trauma of World War I less than 20 years before. They couldn't face the possibility of another devastating war. That is totally understandable, and that is human nature.

To capture the flavor of Churchill's warning, which I think is very relevant to us here today, here is what he said in a speech to the Parliament on November 12, 1936:

The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now.

He understood the resistance of the people in England. He said:

We recognize no emergency which should induce us to impinge on the normal course of trade. If we go on like this, and I do not see what power can prevent us from going on like this, some day there may be a terrible reckoning--

That reckoning was World War II--

and those who take the responsibility so entirely upon themselves are either of a hearty disposition or they are incapable of foreseeing the possibilities which may arise.

He then went on to talk about the responsibility of a parliamentary body. And I will conclude my comments on Churchill with this quote:

Two things, I confess, have staggered me, after a long Parliamentary experience, in these Debates. The first has been the dangers that have so swiftly come upon us in a few years. ..... Secondly, I have been staggered by the failure of the House of Commons to react effectively against those dangers. That, I am bound to say, I never expected. I never would have believed that we should have been allowed to go on getting into this plight, month by month and year by year, and that even the Government's own confessions of error would have produced no concentration of Parliamentary opinion. ..... I say that unless the House resolves to find out the truth for itself, it will have committed an act of abdication of duty without parallel in its long history.

CLIMATE CHANGE

Madam President, I rise today because we are entering a period of consequences. It is 1936. It is August 2001, when we had warnings that Al Qaeda determined to strike in the United States.

I actually carry this chart around in my iPhone, but I blew it up for today's purposes. It is a chart of the last million years of CO2 in the atmosphere. I believe this chart answers two of the three basic questions about global climate change.

The first is, Is something happening? And occasionally we hear people say: Well, climate change happens in cycles, and CO2 goes up and down, and we are just in a cycle and it is no big deal.

This is 1 million years, and for the past 999,000-plus we did have cycles. The cycles were between about 180 parts per million in the atmosphere up to about 250--I think 280 was the highest--back 400,000 years ago. But this has been the cycle since before human beings started to actively impinge upon the environment.

Then comes the year 1000. We go along here at a fairly high level, and then around 1860 it starts to go up. What happened in 1860? That was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. That was when we started to burn fossil fuels in large quantities, whether it was coal, later oil, gas. But that was when it happened.

So this answers the second question, which is, Do people have anything to do with it? Of course they do. It would be the greatest coincidence in the history of the world if this change just happened to begin at the same time as the Industrial Revolution.

Then you see where it has gone since 1960. This chart is actually a couple of years out of date. This point is just below 400 parts per million. We passed 400 parts per million this summer. We are now here.

I don't see how anyone can look at this chart and conclude anything else. A, something is happening to CO2 in the atmosphere, and B, people are involved in causing it. I just don't see how you can escape that.

I believe this is the other piece about this 400. The last time we had 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere we know from ice cores was 3 million years ago, during the pliocene period. I knew someday my sixth grade geology would come to the fore. And when we had 400 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere 3 million years ago, sea levels were 60 to 80 feet higher than they are today. As the distinguished Senator from Rhode Island said, this isn't argument. This isn't theory. This is data. This is fact.

Remember I said there are three questions about global climate change. One is, Is CO2 really going up? The answer is yes. Two is, Do people have anything to do with it? The answer is yes. The third question is, So what? So what if CO2 is going up?

Here is an interesting chart of the past 400,000 or 500,000 years. You have a red line and a black line. The black line is temperature and the red line is CO2. As you can see, it is an almost exact correlation. I don't think anybody could argue, looking at this, that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has nothing to do with the temperature on the Earth. Is it causal? Is there a correlation? There are a lot of things going on here about feedback loops, and it is very complicated. Climate science is one of the most complicated sciences there is. But I don't think you can look at this chart and say there isn't some relationship between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and temperature. This is what has been happening as CO2 and temperature move essentially in lockstep.

I should mention that often when we are talking about these things--and the Senator from Rhode Island knows what I am saying--people tend to think that we are talking in long periods of time, we are talking about geologic time, thousands of years. No. Climate change often happens abruptly. That is a word that ought to strike fear into our hearts. Abruptly. Almost overnight.

This is temperature and size of the ice field in Greenland. You can see it going back 5,000 to 10,000 years. Here it is going along, temperature goes along, starts to drop, and then it drops in a decade. It is as if someone throws a switch. So this isn't something where we can just say: Oh well. We will do a few little things now and maybe it will be OK, and then 100 years or 500 years from now somebody else will worry about it. There could be a catastrophic event within years, certainly within decades.

The University of Maine has a center that talks about climate change. When I went up to see them last spring, they said: Senator, you have to understand, we are talking about the possibility of abrupt climate change, not just climate change. I think that is a very important point to realize.

So what difference does temperature make? If it gets a little warmer, Maine will have a longer tourist season. That will be OK if it is warmer. I don't think anybody will complain if it is warmer in Maine in February--maybe the ski industry. But what difference does it make?

It makes a lot of difference. It makes a lot of difference to species, but it also makes a lot of difference to people.

Here is a chart that shows what would happen to many of our coastal communities with a sea level rise that is reasonably modest. The dark red out here is a 1-meter rise. It goes up to 6 meters. That is about 20 feet. But remember the last time we were at 400 parts per million, it was 60 to 80 feet. So this is conservative. This is a smaller example of what can happen if we let this happen to us.

Boston essentially is gone. A good deal of downtown Boston, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, the Outer Banks--gone. Southern Florida, Miami, the eastern coast of Florida all the way up into Tampa--gone. By the way, there is no more fresh water in Florida during this period either because of the intrusion of seawater into the water table. New Orleans is all gone. This is at 20 meters. In fact, it is not even that. This is about a 3-meter rise. Going up, Savannah and Charleston, New York City, Long Island, the New Jersey shore--all gone.

This isn't academic. This impacts billions of dollars of expenditures to try to fight this off and to hold it at bay.

What about species? In Maine we talk about lobster. The lobster is an iconic product of Maine. It is a huge part of our society, it is part of our culture, it is also a big part of our economy. Well over $1 billion a year in Maine is attributable, in one way or another, to the lobster. The lobster population in Maine was pretty steady for an awful long time. When I was Governor--and that was 10 or 12 years ago--we harvested roughly 50 million pounds of lobster per year. That was the way it had been, between 40 and 50 million. In 2008 it went to 69 million pounds; in 2009 it went to 81 million; 2010, 96 million--last year, 123 million pounds, more than twice as much as what was harvested 10 or 12 years ago.

I am sure you are saying to yourself: What is the problem, Senator? The lobsters are doing great.

They were doing great in Rhode Island and Connecticut until the temperature started to kill them off. It makes a boom and then there is a danger--we certainly hope it will not happen--but there is a danger of a collapse. That is what happened. The lobster fishery in southern New England has essentially collapsed.

The lobster makes up about 70 to 80 percent of our fisheries' value. What is happening in Maine is as the water gets warmer the lobsters go north. Is the water getting warmer? Here is Maine--Boothbay Harbor, ME, a great town. If anybody wants to visit, it is a wonderful place to visit. I have to get in that little bit of promotion.

Here is the water temperature in Boothbay Harbor over the last 10 years. It is going up. It is getting warmer. There is no indication--in fact, if you follow the curve here, it appears it is headed into an accelerating mode, the famous hockey stick.

Anything above 68 degrees of water temperature is very stressful to lobsters. The University of Maine says:

While warmer waters off the coast in recent years have probably aided the boom in lobster numbers, putting us right in the temperature sweet spot ..... we're getting closer and closer to that point where the temperature is too stressful for them, their immune system is compromised and it's all over.

``And it's all over,'' that is a frightening phrase, it is all over. In the 1980s lobster fishing was concentrated in southern Maine, along our coast, in what is called Casco Bay, which is down around Portland. Then it moved up into what is called the midcoast, Lincoln County near where I live. The bulk of the lobster fishing moved up into Penobscot Bay and now the bulk of the lobster fishing is in what we call Hancock County, the village of Stoning, ME. At least that is where it was last year. In other words, the lobsters are moving north because the temperatures are getting warmer. That is what is happening.

I have a young man on my staff whose father is a lobster buyer in the midcoast of Maine. His father has been buying lobster since 1975. This past summer he bought 200 crates a night of lobsters; 10 years ago he was buying 100. So it has doubled. But what we are worried about is that when the lobster line passes, this industry is gone. We saw it collapse in southern New England, Rhode Island. In 1999 lobstering in Long Island Sound collapsed totally without warning, in part because of an infection that was brought about by the warmer water temperatures.

I use lobster as just an indication. You can substitute your own issue, local issue. Whether it is lobsters in Maine or flooding in Colorado, the impacts are real.

So what do we do? I hate raising problems and not talking about what to do. By the way, I have to say I am puzzled about why this has become a partisan issue. I do not understand it. Maybe it is because Al Gore invented it? I don't know. But I don't understand why this became a partisan issue because it is a scientific issue, it is a data issue. The data is overwhelming.

So what do we do? By the way, I should mention when I was a young man working in and around the legislature in Maine, the leaders of the environmental movement in Maine who passed the major legislation to protect our environment were all Republicans--not all, but most of them were Republicans and they were great names in Maine history.

OK, what do we do? The first thing we have to do is admit there is a problem. If you do not admit there is a problem, by definition you cannot address it. That is No. 1. I think the data is becoming overwhelming.

The second thing you have to do is gather all the facts and information you can. Gather all the information. It has been my experience in working on public policy most of my adult life, if you have shared information, if the people working on the problem have the same facts, generally the conclusion, the policy, is fairly clear. It may be controversial, it may be difficult, but usually it becomes pretty self-evident if everybody shares the same sets of information. Once we can agree on the facts, the solutions become clear.

What are some things we can do in the near term? We have to talk about mitigating the impacts. We have to talk about the fact that fisheries are made up of both fishermen and fish. As climate change alters these coastal economies, we have to work to preserve both. We have to work with groups such as a nonprofit in Maine called the Island Institute that is working to preserve Maine's working waterfronts, and we also have to make sure our Federal fisheries management laws take cognizance of what is going on here and manage ecosystems, not just single species. We have to take cognizance of the fact that the fish are in fact moving.

In the long term, it seems to me, it is pretty simple. The big picture answer is we have to stop burning so much stuff. That is what is putting carbon in the atmosphere. Whether it is in our automobiles, our homes, our factories, our powerplants--it is burning fossil fuel that is putting CO2 into the atmosphere. That is why the efficiency bill we are on this week is an important bill, because it cuts back on the use of energy altogether and saves us in terms of putting CO2 into the atmosphere.

The President has proposed a carbon agenda that I think is an important first step. But this is hard. Dealing with this is a hard issue, just as dealing with the prospect of World War II was a hard issue in England in 1936. It is hard because it is going to require changes that are going to be, perhaps, expensive, and significant modifications--because our whole society is based on burning stuff. That is what makes our cars and trucks go, that is what makes our transportation system work, that is what keeps us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and creates the electricity for all the products we use. It is hard because of the internal impacts.

It is also hard because it is an international problem. The Senator from Rhode Island talked about this being national. You know, Maine and Rhode Island can't fix it. He says the Federal Government has to step in. I would take it one step further. This has to be an international solution. We cannot take steps which would compromise our economy at the same time China and India are becoming major polluters. Air doesn't respect international boundaries. CO2 is the same whether it is coming up from China, India, Europe, or the United States. I believe this is a case where we absolutely have to have international cooperation.

We have to do something. We have to do something. The generation that nobly woke up to World War II and fought it and preserved this country and Western civilization for us has often been referred to as the ``greatest generation.'' The reason they were the ``greatest generation'' is they were willing to face a problem and make enormous sacrifices in order to deal with it, to protect us and our children and grandchildren and our ability to function in this new world. They were the ``greatest generation.''

I have to say, if somebody were going to characterize us, we would be characterized as the oblivious generation, the generation that saw the data, saw the facts, saw the freight train headed for us and said: That is OK, it is business as usual, don't bother me, I don't want to be inconvenienced.

To go back to Churchill:

The era of procrastination, half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. ..... We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now.


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