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Public Statements

Climate Security

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

CLIMATE SECURITY -- (Senate - June 04, 2008)


Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, what I wished to share with the Senate is how I come to the table on the question of the climate change bill.

We clearly understand something is happening to the Earth. The Earth is heating up. Obviously, there are interests that are going to be affected--special interests--if we go about changing the way we are doing business, the kinds of pollutants we are putting in the air, and those business interests will claim that, in fact, they are being harmed. I understand that. That is part of the body politic we have to come together and find a solution on what will be the least detrimental to folks as we are trying to change the Government policy of all this stuff we are putting in the air. Indeed, we have been putting this in the air ever since we started changing our society in the Industrial Revolution because the burning of fossil fuels is starting to accumulate carbon in the air. That carbon is acting as a shield in the upper atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect, that when the Sun's rays come in and hit the Earth, and they reflect off; normally, they would radiate out into space. But the fact that we are creating a cap, similar to a greenhouse, with these gases--primarily carbon dioxide--they are trapping that heat and, as a result, the Earth is heating up.

In the course of this debate, we will have a lot more scientific evidence that will come forth and tell us how many parts per million of carbon in the air you can get before it becomes almost irreversible. We certainly wish to avoid that. But that means we have to come back to the political policy and make the decisions that will prevent us from ever getting to that concentration of carbon in the atmosphere that becomes the point of no return, that at that point the Earth continues to heat up to the point that it has all the consequences--the consequences of the ice sheet in Greenland, which I have been on, which is melting, and that in itself is 2 miles thick. It is freshwater because of the hundreds of thousands of years of the rain coming and the rain turning into snow and the snow packing and, year after year, the same thing happening. It is 2 miles thick in the center of Greenland. It is all freshwater.

If that melts, the seas are going to rise somewhere between 10 and 15 feet--the entire seas of planet Earth are going to rise. What happens to Antarctica and the icecaps there? We will have testimony, and we will have scientific evidence on all this. We cannot let that happen. So we are going to have to make the policy changes; that is, we are going to have to have the political will in order to make the policy changes, and the tough thing about this is that it is not just this country. We have to get the rest of the countries to do it.

But America is the one that has to lead, and in the last decade, America has not led.

Let me just show this chart. This is my State. What would happen if the seas rise? If they rise 10 feet, which is the red--here is the State of Florida. We are familiar with it, the peninsula with the Florida Keys. If the seas rise 10 to 20 feet, Florida is going to look like this, just the gray. All of this red and blue is going to be underwater.

Mr. President, I say to my colleagues, most of the population of Florida is along the coast. I don't want that to happen to my State. My State has more coastline than any other State in the continental United States. Only Alaska has more coastline than our State. That is in excess of 1,500 miles of coastline. That is where the population lives in Florida. I don't want that to happen to our State.

In the closing minutes that I have--Mr. President, will you tell me how many minutes I have.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Florida has 2 1/2 minutes.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, I wish to share with the Senate what I saw from the window of a spacecraft. It is very typical that space fliers, on the first day in space, will be looking for things. On the 24th flight of the space shuttle over two decades ago, I was at that window--when you can get time and you don't have much time because every minute is planned--and I was looking for things. I was looking for the cape where we were launched.

By the second day in space, your perspective has broadened and you are looking at continents. And by the third day in space, you are looking back at home, and home is the planet. It is so beautiful, it is so colorful, it is such an alive creation suspended in the middle of nothing, and space is nothing. It is an airless vacuum that goes on and on for billions of light years--and there is home. It is so beautiful.

Yet when you look at it, it is so fragile. You look at the rim of the Earth. There is a bright blue color right at the rim that fades off into the blackness of outer space. And right at the rim of the Earth, you can see the thin little film that sustains all of life, the atmosphere. Even from that altitude, with the naked eye you can see how we are messing it up. Coming across Brazil in the upper Amazon region, the color contrast will show you where they are destroying the rainforests.

I came away from that profound experience of seeing home from a different perspective, with a new feeling that I needed to be a better steward of what God has given us--our home, the planet. If we continue to abuse the planet, Mother Nature will not work in syncopation and in balance.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator's time has expired.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. For that reason, I am supporting this Lieberman-Warner bill.

I thank the Chair.


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