Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Subcommittee on Near East and Asia- International Climate Change Negotiations Panel I


Location: Washington, DC

SEN. KERRY: This hearing will come to order. I appreciate enormously all of the witnesses for our two panels being here. This is a topic which some of us -- former Senator Worth is here and he will testify. He and I and Al Gore and Jack Heinz and John Chafee and a group of people were deeply involved in this issue back in the 1980s.

In fact, I think Senator Gore and I had the privilege of sharing the hosting of the first hearings on global climate change in the commerce committee -- subcommittee back then, and since then we -- all of us traveled to Rio for the so-called Earth Summit and the original United Nations framework convention on climate change. And subsequently I attended a number of the COP conferences, specifically Buenos Aires and The Hague, and went to Kyoto for those negotiations which Senator Worth played such an integral role in with Stu Eisenstadt and the vice president and others.

So this is a path well journeyed, so to speak, and what strikes me is as remarkable in a sense is that back in 1992 in Rio, a hundred and whatever it was -- 50 something, 60 something -- nations came together and agreed then that we had to do something about it but agreed that it would be voluntary at that time, and indeed there was much to learn about the science and much to learn about the modeling.

Since then, we have learned a great deal. This topic has earned its way into the G-8 discussions. It's earned its way into the highest level of U.N. discussions. President Bush held a major economies meeting only weeks ago here. It has seen Al Gore become the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. It has seen an enormous awareness grow on a global basis, and nation after nation after nation, president after president, prime minister after prime minister, finance minister, environment minister, trade minister, economic ministers are all in the same place having made a decision that they buy in to the latest conclusion of the IPCC of the U.N. -- that anthropogenic manmade causes are the primary -- not the exclusive but the primary cause of the climate impacts that we see -- the warming that we see taking place, and there is no question scientifically whatsoever that that warming is taking place.

I have spent a lot of time talking to and meeting with scientists -- from Jim Hanson, who is one of our premier scientists on this topic, to Bob Correll to John Holdren and others -- and to listen to these people whose lives are dedicated to science who are by nature as scientists conservative because a scientist is conservative in that they don't draw conclusions that are speculative -- they draw them based on scientific experiment and input, and they are all increasingly alarmed.

The latest report of the U.N. cuts off at 2005. Since that 2005, there's been a significant increase of scientific reporting, almost two years of it. And indeed in Valencia this week they will be meeting to sort of put forward the final summary, if you will, of those reports that will help us all digest where we're heading as we go to the Bali conference. I would just quickly comment that each and every one of those reports shows a greater level of alarm by scientists than previously -- alarm that is expressed not in their conclusions but in what Mother Earth is demonstrating to us in what is called feedback. All of the feedback from Earth itself is occurring at a greater rate and at a higher degree than those scientists had predicted, and therefore they are alarmed.

Ice is melting faster. The Greenland ice sheet that was stable in 1990 is now seeing about 100 billion metric tons of melt-off a year. There are astonishing changes in migration patterns. The head of the Audubon recently reported to me that they now -- and their gardeners -- gardeners from, you know, Nebraska and from Kentucky and from Tennessee and elsewhere are reporting to them a migration of growth patterns -- a sort of, you know, the crops that grow, the trees, the bushes, the flowers, all those changes that are taking place --a 100-mile swath of migration pattern now evidenced in the United States -- changes in species migration.

In South Carolina there would be no duck hunting today if they didn't have farmed ducks. It's one of the great duck hunting states of our country. Arkansas -- population of ducks apparently dropped from 1.23 million down to about 125,000 or so. You can run the list. Perhaps the most alarming are two reports -- one about the increased impact of tropical deforestation, which adds about a quarter of the world's CO2, a second report by Russian scientists that says that in Siberia and we know this in Alaska the pockets of methane that have been frozen for several hundred thousand years that are now melting is releasing, and has the potential of releasing, unbelievable amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Methane, as we know, is 20 to 30 times more potent than CO2.

And finally, the CO2 storage that has been accumulating for as long as the oceans have been there but most recently in the Industrial Revolution they've provided a sink -- a storage place -- for almost a quarter of the Earth's CO2. And now we see reports from scientists that -- and I was chairman of the ocean subcommittee for a number of years -- we used to hear these reports 15 years ago -- that they didn't know when the regurgitation point is reached. They didn't know when there was a, you know, sort of a sign that goes off, "We're full. We can't take any more." Well, now there's evidence that that is already happening in the Antarctic and a few other places where they're measuring it as at full capacity.

So we're witnessing dramatic, stunning, unbelievable changes in the atmosphere around us, and globally we're going to have a unique opportunity in a few weeks at Bali for the United States to regain a position of global leadership -- for the world to come together and do what we were unable to do with Kyoto. Kyoto, many of us knew, was a flawed agreement at the time that it was drafted. I managed it on the floor of the Senate. I was the manager when that 95 to 0 vote took place, which has always been misinterpreted. It was never a rejection of global climate change as some wanted to interpret -- never a rejection of the concept of a multilateral treaty.

It was a rejection of the notice -- of the notion that there can be an adequate solution that isn't global -- that just industrial countries, given the rapid rate at which the less developed world is coming online and the Annex B countries particularly are coming online, that we all have to be part of the solution but as Kyoto recognized and the framework recognized at different levels conceivably in different ways. That's the test. That's what we're here to think about here.

This treaty expires in 2012. Most European nations -- Europe as a whole -- is going to be at the 8 percent below level -- different countries contributing to that in different ways. But we've remained outside it. We didn't sign it. We didn't -- I mean, we didn't ratify it. It isn't a treaty for us. So the question is here today to talk openly about where we go at Bali, what will the position of the United States be, and I will be privileged together with Senator Boxer on this committee, and who's chair of the environment public works committee, to lead a delegation that will go to Bali in order to help contribute the Senate's thinking on these issues, and my hope is that today we can get an outline from both the administration itself as well as people who've been deeply, deeply involved in this issue for a long period of time about what we ought to be looking for, what we could hope to achieve there, and how we can advance this cause. Senator Lugar?


SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. We really appreciate it.

And what we'll do is have seven-minute rounds and we'll try to get through as much as we can.

First of all, let me just quickly put on the record that we have heard through sources that in Valencia the administration is sort of working behind the scenes to tone down a little bit the urgency that the IPCC folks want to give to this summary agreement. Can you tell us whether there's any reality to that? Are we, somehow -- I mean, as you know, there's been an unfortunate record here of EPA and other reports and science being somewhat stomped on over the course of the last few years. So are you expressing today a State Department view or an administration view? And are there any efforts you know of to sort of reduce the impact of what comes out of Valencia?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: I'm part of the State Department but I'm part of this administration. With regard to any toning down, I'm not aware of any toning down. We have a delegation that is there, a delegation that also participated in the three working groups that were held previously as part of the IPCC process. The United States welcomed the reports of each working group. Dr. Susan Solomon of NOAA has been co-chair of one of the working groups. We certainly have not only welcomed but strongly supported her work and the work of many of the American scientists who have been part of this.

I might just add that the United States has been one of the largest contributors to the work that is done under the IPCC. We welcome the work that has been done. It informs us and will continue to inform us.

SEN. KERRY: To the degree that it informs you, have you accepted or do you accept the now revised scientific consensus that no longer believes we can tolerate a three degree increase Centigrade in the Earth's temperature but only a two degree and that we can no longer tolerate a 550 parts per million increase or level of greenhouse gases but rather we have to stabilize it around 450? Is that the starting working premise of the administration with respect to what we need to do?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Senator, we welcome the findings of the IPCC and specifically the language that is used in the report is it doesn't precisely give one figure, one degree or another degree. It provides a range. And as you know as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, we're very committed to this goal. In fact that's one of the reasons why we have put forth the -- and joined other countries in the importance of establishing a long-term global goal that needs to be identified.

SEN. KERRY: Well, here's the conundrum and this is what I'm trying to get at -- I mean, this is not an issue where you can be half pregnant. You can't accept the science and say, yes, it's happening; yes, it's having these consequences; yes, it's moving more rapidly than we had anticipated with greater consequences than were originally predicted. You can't accept all of that and then just discard at whim the accompanying targets that those same scientists give us as to what is tolerable or not, particularly when measured against what is happening at the rate of pulverized coal-fired plant construction in China and India and here.

If we proceed as we are in the next few years with those coal- fired plants being built without sequestration and capture, we're looking at somewhere between 600 and 900 parts per million of a greenhouse gas concentration -- way outside of what the scientists tell us is the tipping point, the catastrophe point for Earth.

So the question is not a -- it's not a theoretical one -- it's a really practical one. Are we going to Bali accepting these targets and will that guide what we think have to be the policies? Or are we going to be sort of rhetorically pregnant and kind of play around here?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: I would say we're going to Bali accepting as indicated the findings of the IPCC and the outcomes in the products of the different working groups. And toward that end on the specific question, there was a range that was provided --

SEN. KERRY: And what do you understand the range to be?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: -- that the scientists in fact put forth. They did not precisely pin down one degree over another.

SEN. KERRY: What do you understand the range to be?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: The range is as was stated in the report --

SEN. KERRY: What is the range?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: -- which was -- it was a general range.

I will let my colleague -- would you like to -- because you were there?

MR. REIFSNYDER: Well, I don't know, Senator.

Sorry. I don't know, Senator, what the actual range that the IPCC has projected this go around has been, but I know that it's been -- it's not that dissimilar from that which has been projected for a long time by the IPCC since the first assessment report in 1990.

SEN. KERRY: Well, the range is what I've just laid out, folks. I mean, the range is, in terms of allowable degrees of Centigrade warming and allowable measure of greenhouse gas -- it's what I just said.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: And I think I indicated, Senator, we do embrace that range. But that was --

SEN. KERRY: Okay, now, if you embrace it --

MS. DOBRIANSKY: -- that's a bit different from citing one particular degree. And I know that the report did not in fact do that.

SEN. KERRY: No, it doesn't. It doesn't do that. But what it does is it sets out parameters that any reasonable person who accepts science has to look at it and say, "Whoa, we've got a big task here." Now how -- you know, you had a key word in your testimony, the word "voluntary." We've had voluntary for the last 20 years. It hasn't worked. How do you heed the warning of the Jim Hansen, who said, "Look, you've got 10 years to get this right"? How do you respond to the notion that one coal-fired pulverized plant per week is going to be built in China, and if we go ahead with what's happening today without U.S. leadership to sort of put the brakes on and to offer alternatives, that we're ever going to meet this challenge? How do you do that in the voluntary scheme?

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Well, first, in terms of our own domestic policy mix, we've had a mix of mandatory, voluntary -- as well as those programs which are supported by tax incentives. There are a variety of mandatory programs. The president poured forth the 20-in-10 reduction on gas consumption. There has also been building an appliance efficiency --

SEN. KERRY: Those are goals.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: -- codes that have been put forth. We have not domestically -- not supported mandatory approaches. That's the first.

But on the second, when you look at it globally, one of our goals and objectives, Senator, is as we go into Bali -- is to look at first and foremost as how we can get a global agreement, a global agreement where all are at the table, ourselves included as well as big emitters. And a challenge here is how do you achieve that? A number of countries have put forward long-term goals that are aspirational -- Japan, Canada, the EU. When we met together in the Major Economies Meeting, we had a discussion about this. One of the things that we then talked about was -- right, how can you then look at on a national basis, looking at the variety of differences among the countries around the table, that we could go forward with medium-term goals and in which countries would put together their portfolio and in which there would be accountability, of which part of that would be on a country-by-country basis mandatory approaches? Maybe a mix of mandatory, voluntary -- but basically all would be at the table so that we would have an effective approach and that there would be results derived from it.

SEN. KERRY: Well, I appreciate what you're saying.

My time is up. I just want to -- I'll close by saying this and I want to continue this dialogue, and it's a very important one.

Most of the foreign -- of the environment ministers and others that we've been meeting with, some of us here, are -- you know, from Europe and elsewhere -- indicate to us that they believe it ought to be mandatory and they believe the United States has to lead on this. We're a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and the most industrial country. And when I talk to the Chinese or the Indians or others, it's very clear that unless we do something with some sort of real goals, they're not going to believe, number one, that we're serious and number two, they know that there's no -- nothing compelling them therefore to sort of come to the table in any mandatory way. And most people don't believe it can happen without mandatory.

Secondly, we have done mandatory. We have a great, great experiment example that we all adopted right here in the Congress and I was part of those negotiations, as I think Senator Wirth was and others back in 1990s when we did the Clean Air Act. We heard the same kinds of arguments. The industry all came in and said, "Don't do this to us. If you do this to us, we're going to be non-competitive. We're going to lose jobs. We're going to fall behind. It's going to cost $8 billion -- take 10 years." The environment community came in and said, "No, that's all industry -- you know, self-interest talk. It's really only going to cost $5 billion and it's going to take about -- you know, five years." Well, guess what? George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Reilly, John Sununu sat at that table with George Mitchell, we put it in place -- acid rain, sulfur dioxide emissions and the Clean Air Act -- mandatory and lo and behold, it took about $2 billion and took about two-and-a-half years. Why?

In fact, the pricing in the auction place on the permits went from about $1,000 down to about $60 and then bounced back up to 100 (dollars). The reason it worked is that no one is capable of predicting what happens when the entrepreneurial innovative spirit of our country is applied economy-wide to the task of meeting one of those goals. And no one can predict how the technology then takes over in the creation of jobs, cheaper ways of doing it -- which is precisely what everybody believes will happen here if we take the lead in doing it. So I'd like to pursue that with you a little bit later. I'm sure colleagues will pursue some of that in the dialogue here, but I think we shouldn't ignore our own history of what happens in voluntary versus mandatory.

Senator Lugar.


SEN. KERRY: Well said, Senator, and that will be placed in the record in full.

And let me just say thank you. Senator Dobriansky and I do thank you. We're very appreciative of you being here. It's a very important dialogue, and you know, this is not a gotcha process. It's really sort of how do we get there process and share our thoughts.

But let me just underscore one thing if I can to you, you know, it is sometimes forgotten in some ways because of the power of the presidency, but we are a separate and co-equal branch of government. And I know that the Democratic majority of this Congress wants to proceed forward and show leadership on this, and it is my hope that we don't have two separate policies in Bali. We're certainly prepared to sit with you and talk about it, but we are also equally prepared to go there to make sure that the rest of the world understands how serious America is about this and how there is leadership in the waiting, if you will.

You will not complete this task; 2009 will have a new administration of one party or the other and a new president, but many of the people up here will still be here and try to move forward on it. So I think that's an important component of how we go at this, number one.

Number two, there really is a kind of disconnect on the leadership issue. I know those countries look to us and we have a discussion with them, and I've heard the Indians and I've heard the Chinese. For 20 years I've heard the Chinese tell us it's a conspiracy against their ability to grow and it's a Western ability to hold them down and that's now transitioned. They got a new line on it; in fact, they're changing quite significantly on the issue because they're seeing the consequences of their own sacred glaciers melting and rivers and other agricultural problems that are ensuing. In fact, China just announced some very significant mandatory steps with respect to their businesses. Now whether they're enforced or not, that's the next measure. But they announced them, and they've set a goal of 36 miles per gallon for their vehicles, which is way ahead of where the Senate bill is.

So other countries are doing things that if we were smart we could just take and measure. Those are the measurements. They can be given credit for those things. This can be worked out in a way that doesn't diminish their ability to grow and speaks to that fear and sense of conspiracy -- all of which can become part of the mosaic of a global agreement that we're moving in the same direction. But if the United States isn't saying to them, yes, we know your reservations, but this is what we have to do, this is the direction we've got to move in, it'll be like Senator Lugar said -- it's just going to kind of drag on and not go anywhere. They're waiting for us to show that leadership.

And I just close by saying this to you, you know, if we're all wrong, if every one of those scientists, everybody's wrong and the figures aren't going to be what they are and you've made the decisions to go down this road, what's the worst that's going to happen? Well, the worst that's going to happen is you're going to have a whole bunch of new technologies, you're going to have cleaner air, you're going to have new jobs; your health of your nation will be better, you'll have reduced hospital visits for kids with asthma; you'll have unbelievably better agricultural practices, kids will be able to fish again in maybe some places in America where they can't. Nineteen states you can't fish, not allowed to eat the fish; 44 states they have warnings against it. You run down the list of these things -- all those things improve not to mention the national security of the United States because to change -- to deal with climate change, you have to deal with energy, and to deal with energy it makes us more secure, less dependent on foreign sources.

So in every respect -- that's the downside if we're wrong; we've done all those good things. But if you're wrong or those who resist this are wrong and don't show leadership, the downside is catastrophe by everybody's measure. So I think as public people we've got a big responsibility here, and I hope we're going to see the leadership both in Bali and ensuing days that we're ready and prepared to meet with you any day, any time, anywhere to work through how we do this.

But I think -- you know, Nicholas Stern made it clear, every economist makes it clear -- you got to measure the down sides of the mitigation. Lisa Murkowski just talked about it; $140 million in Alaska for one village. What happens if that 20 inches to 55 inches rise at the current rate -- that's without the arctic glacier and without the Antarctic and so forth melting -- you know, that's 40 million plus, 50 million people displaced on the planet, just that -- current expectation.

So I really think the urgency of leadership has got to be felt, and it would be so wonderful to have a sense of, you know, the same sense -- everybody knows how the president feels about Iraq, but they sure don't know how he feels about this.

In fact, they think it's to the contrary. That's the distinction Senator Casey was talking about. So we hope this can change in the next two weeks. Maybe it won't, but we sure hope it can.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Senator, may I just make two closing comments?

SEN. KERRY: Absolutely.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: I wanted to read -- you know, I was previously with the Council on Foreign Relations before coming into this job. You gave a speech at the council and you had our primary goal -- at least from your prepared text, our primary in Bali must be to arrive at a mandate for future negotiations to finally reach a truly global agreement on a truly global effort, not one that leaves the world's largest emitter of the past, and the largest emitters of the future, outside the system.

I want to say, in the spirit of what you're saying, we completely agree with that goal, that objective going into Bali. I will look forward to continuing this discussion and thinking about, you know, in trying to reach that objective, how we can go forward in the most effective way, and there are multiple ways of doing that.

The second point I just would like to make is the comment, you know, made before about the president. The president has, I think, shown leadership in ways that I think need to be underscored. The fact that at a time when we didn't have a global agreement and all parties at the table, that we did not go forward with that.

In terms of the scale and the scope of the range, full range of what we're doing, my mandate is international. I may not know everything that we're doing domestically. I have colleagues that do that.

But we are doing a significant amount that President Bush has blessed, has launched, has encouraged. And we want to continue along that path. And as I said in my longer version of my testimony, it fully documents the scale and the scope of how we're using and how we've used some $37 billion toward that end.

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me give you an example of the kind of thing you might grab onto. And I appreciate those comments and I stick by them. I think that's the goal, but I still think we have to lead to get there.

Senator Stevens and I have introduced, on the Commerce Committee, a bill to immediately deploy three to five carbon sequestration burning plants and carbon storage plants. So we have storage and sequestration, three to five of each. We ought to do immediately commercial scale as rapidly as possible.

I think if you went to Bali and embraced that and said the United States is going to immediately do this, and were prepared to share the technology and assist China and other countries in order to implement it as rapidly as we know what's best, there's a step that would have -- go a long way in my judgment to bring people to the table in a serious way. So we hope you'd consider that and some other steps.

We're about to spend $25 billion in the farm bill for a program put in place in the 1980s called, you know, Freedom to Farm, which allows people who don't even farm to get huge payouts. How much are we going to put on the table in Bali to help with this technology development and these other practices? I think those are the issues of leadership here that we need to see, and so we hope.

Senator Lugar, I've monopolized. Thank you.

We really thank you. This record will remain open in the event any senators want to submit some questions, and we do look forward to testimony from the next panel. We're very grateful to you for coming, and I look forward to following up with you before we go there.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Likewise, thank you.

SEN. KERRY: Thanks so much. Thank you.

MS. DOBRIANSKY: Thank you.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top