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Climate Security Act of 2008--Motion to Proceed--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

CLIMATE SECURITY ACT OF 2008--MOTION TO PROCEED--Continued -- (Senate - June 03, 2008)


Mr. KERRY. I thank the Chair. Let me begin by thanking first Senator Boxer for her unbelievable leadership in this effort, as well as Senator Lieberman and Senator Warner, all of whom have worked diligently on the Environment and Public Works Committee. As everybody knows, there are some shared committee assignments with respect to this issue--the Commerce Committee and the Energy Committee--but I think there has been a superb effort of bringing everybody together under one roof, and that has largely been because of Senator Boxer's determination to get us to this point.

We are here to debate what is absolutely--and it is interesting. We hear it from colleague after colleague on the other side of the aisle. They say: Oh, yes, we have to do a global climate change bill; yes, this is a critical issue. Then they add the caveat: But not this bill, not this time; then not providing a genuine effort or alternative to say this is how it could work.

It is also interesting to note there has been a huge shift in America with respect to this issue. Major Fortune 500 companies support the fundamental underlying precept of this bill. They haven't necessarily all landed on this bill yet, but they support the notion that we put a market-based mechanism in place whereby the marketplace will decide how rapidly and how each individual company will decide to reduce its emissions. What is important here is that we are creating a framework--and not a new framework. This is not something sort of brought out of the sky untested that is a new theory. We have been doing this since 1990 when we passed the Clean Air Act and successfully reduced sulfur dioxide, the cause of acid rain, and successfully reduced it at about a quarter of the cost that most of the naysayers predicted.

So I think our colleagues on the other side of the aisle frankly come here with a particular burden of proof. They have been wrong over the course of 25 or 30 years. They have been wrong when they opposed water treatment facility efforts at the Federal level, when they opposed air quality treatment at the Federal level, and each time when we have proceeded forward because we had forward-leaning leadership, Republican and Democratic alike--it is important to note that the Clean Air Act was reauthorized under President George Herbert Walker Bush, who understood the importance of moving forward. So we have shown that this mechanism, which was created to deal with acid rain, works. It is the law of our land today. The marketplace is doing it today. Companies are participating in this today. This is a proven mechanism whereby the marketplace--not the Government--will decide at what rate and who bears what burden and people are free to choose within an economic benefit how they proceed.

What is at stake today is whether Washington and this institution can rise above partisanship and break with the old entrenched interests and finally start to come together to solve what is undoubtedly the most urgent and profoundly complex challenge we face--how we protect this planet we live on. We have been down this road before. Twenty years ago I participated in the first hearings that were ever held in the Senate which Al Gore--then Senator Gore--chaired, with several other Senators, and we looked at this issue of climate change in the Commerce Committee. Ever since then, the story at the Federal level has been one of disgraceful denial, delay, back-scratching for specialized interests, and a buck-passing that has brought us perilously close to a climate change catastrophe. We have witnessed a failure of leadership in our time, and here on the floor of the Senate this week, at this moment--now--we Senators have the ability to reverse that.

Today, all of the scientific evidence--I am not going to say too much about it, but I cannot sort of frame this debate for the next days without saying something about it--all of the scientific evidence is telling us we can't afford to delay the reckoning with climate change any longer. All of the science is already telling us we have waited too long. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have increased from 280 parts per million to now 380 parts per million. Today, we know not as a matter of guesswork--we know as a matter of scientific fact, incontrovertible fact--we know the atmospheric carbon levels are higher than they have been at any time in the past 800,000 years. How do we know it? Because scientists have been able to bore down into ice core and measure the carbon dioxide levels that have been preserved in the ice over those years, as well as other time-measuring mechanisms. That accumulation translates into an increase in global temperatures of about .8 degrees centigrade.

Now, because this carbon dioxide that we put up into the atmosphere has a life--it continues to live--as nuclear materials have a half life of thousands of years, carbon dioxide has a life of anywhere from 80 to 100 years. So what we have already put into the atmosphere will continue to do the damage it is already doing, unless somehow, by a miracle of science or a miracle, there is a method discovered in order to go backwards. So we are looking at another .7 to .8 degrees of temperature increase that we can't stop. That brings us to about 1.4, 1.5 degrees of centigrade increase.

Why is that figure important? I will tell you why that figure is important. Because there is a scientific consensus of thousands of scientists across the planet that is telling us that as a matter of public policy, to avoid the potential of a tipping point--they can't tell us with a certainty that the tipping point is at 1.9 degrees or 2 degrees or 2.3, but they are telling us that their best judgment is that to avoid a tipping point of catastrophe on the planet, we must hold the temperature increase of the Earth to 2 degrees centigrade and to 450 parts per million of greenhouse gases. So we are looking at now being at 380, we have a cushion of going to 450; we already know we have risen 100 in the Industrial Revolution, but the Industrial Revolution didn't have China and India and the rest of the world industrializing as it is today. So we are staring at the potential of a much greater input of carbon dioxide, much greater input of greenhouse gases unless we take steps now, with the United States leading, in order to lower the levels of emissions and ultimately stabilize them at a level that is sustainable in terms of the science of our planet.

Two weeks ago I brought several of our country's top climate scientists to brief us in advance of this debate. Now, those scientists--scientists are by profession conservative people. They have to be. If you are going to be accepted as a top scientist, your reports are peer reviewed, they are analyzed, they are looked at by others in the same field and judged as to their methodology and the conclusions they draw. The fact is we have something like 920 peer-reviewed reports, all of which say we have to do what we are seeking to do here on the floor now. And there isn't one report--not one peer review--to the contrary. There is not one report that suggests humans aren't doing what we are doing and that we don't have to stop doing it now or face the potential of catastrophe.

The fact is these scientists also told us that what they predicted 2 years ago, 3 years ago, 4 years ago is completely eradicated now by the rate at which the evidence from Mother Earth herself is coming back. Earth is telling us that we are now seeing a degradation at a rate that is far greater than those scientists predicted. In fact, the science projected a general decline in the Arctic Ocean in 2001. Well, guess what. The 2007 IPCC Report sounded significantly more alarm bells, saying:

Late summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century.

Less than a year after that report, in January of this year, another report found that a seasonal ice-free--ice-free--Arctic Ocean might be realized as early as 2030. I am told that the scientists who study this topic now believe it could even happen sooner, but that is what they are comfortable telling us publicly. Scientists are observing a 30-percent increase in the acidity of oceans with a devastating impact on ocean life, literally destroying the ocean food chain from the bottom up. Scientists project that 80 percent of living corals will be lost in our lifetime. The impact of the acidity--the acidity, for those who don't follow it, comes from the greenhouse gases. We put them up in the air, they travel around the world, they rain, it gets into the clouds, rains and comes down into the ocean, or spills as particulates into the ocean. The result is that acidification reduces the ability of crustaceans in the ocean to form their shells. So starfish, lobsters, clams, crabs, coral reefs, all of these things that rely on their ability to form shell are threatened as a consequence of the increase of acidity in the oceans.

What is more, scientists know that the oceans act as a storage center for carbon dioxide. In the jargon of global climate change, it is called a ``sink'' because the carbon dioxide sinks into it and disappears. What we know is the oceans do this. What we don't know is where is the kickback point in the oceans. When are the oceans full and they start to spit it back out because they can't contain it anymore? Well, I tell you what: Sound the alarm bell. Because scientists in Antarctica found that that is already happening; that there is a regurgitation of carbon dioxide in the Antarctic they didn't anticipate and which now sends warning signals about the rest of the oceans.

Even the Bush administration's own top scientists last week laid out a chilling assessment. They said the following: Floods, drought, pathogens and disease, species and habitat loss, sea level rise, and storm surges that threaten our cities and coastlines are what we are looking at unless we begin to reduce the global greenhouse gases.

The effects of climate change are now apparent on every single continent. It is being witnessed in very tangible and unexpected ways. For instance, if you are a hunter in South Carolina and you like to go duck hunting, today the only reason South Carolina has real duck hunting to offer is because of farm ducks, not because of the migration that used to take place. It is the same thing in Arkansas, with the population of the waterfowl that is significantly reduced. The Audubon Society has reported a 100-mile swathe of migration of vegetation, of growth. In Alaska, we are seeing millions of acres of spruce destroyed by beetles that used to die because of the level of the cold, but Alaska has warmed more than any other part of the United States, and the result is they now infest those trees. There are consequences that none of us can even properly define or imagine. But prudence dictates that, knowing this is the course we are on, we need to do something about it. We need to do something about it now.

The instability of the permafrost, increasing avalanches in mountain regions, and warmer and dryer conditions in the Sahelian region of Africa are leading to a shortening of growth seasons. Yesterday, there was a huge meeting of the U.N. to discuss food shortages taking place in various parts of the world. Up to 30 percent of plant and animal species are projected to face extinction if the increase in global temperature exceeds 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius.

The impacts are not limited to species and ecosystems. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new study projecting that the rise of concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere will significantly disrupt water supplies, agriculture, forestry, and ecosystems in the United States for decades to come. By midcentury, anticipated waterflows in much of the West is going to decline by an average of 20 percent. Already in the West--to listen to our Senators from the West talk about the drought and the problems they have of lakes that are now drying up--all these are concerns we need to address here.

The same report says that, by 2060, forest fires and the seasonal severity rating in the Southeast is projected to increase from 10 to 30 percent and 10 to 20 percent in the Northeast. The impact on infrastructure will be severe. In March, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that the projected sea level rise in the gulf coast would put substantial portions of the region's transportation infrastructure at risk. Storm surges in the gulf coast will flood more than half the area's major highways, almost half the rail miles, 29 airports, and virtually all ports.

The question before the Senate now is, How do we turn this prediction of danger into opportunity? And it is opportunity. I don't think to anybody it is ``pie in the sky'' when they think about the possibilities of what we can do for our health as a nation, for our environment, for our obligation to future generations, for our security, for our energy policy, and for the price of gasoline. All these things can be driven in the right direction if we make the right choices in the Senate in this next week.

The fact is the Climate Security Act that Senators Boxer, Lieberman, Warner, myself, and others bring to the floor is a bill that puts us on the right path. No one agrees with every compromise that is made in this bill. We all understand that. We all agree on the importance of action, though. We all agree on the importance of getting something done now.

This is a strong and flexible piece of legislation. It will reduce the emissions, the gases, the carbon dioxide that creates global warming by 19 percent by 2020 and 71 percent by 2050. That will lead to an overall reduction that meets targets well within the range of the reduction that scientists tell us is necessary to avoid catastrophic impact on climate change.

In the next days, I hope we can work with our colleagues. If you have an objection to the bill and you have a better way of coming about it, that is what we are looking for. That is legislating in the best tradition of this institution. What we don't want to do is have people come to the floor and say this is the most important issue, we have a better way of doing it, but the better way never appears. It is never framed in an appropriate amendment that seeks to do other than kill the bill. We have the ability to be able to frame this in a responsible way.

I have concerns and others have concerns that the cost-containment auction, when coupled with the borrowing and offset provisions--I wish to make sure it has the potential to lower the target in the early years of the program. I don't want to see us avoid responsibility for years to come. So I hope to work with the bill's authors, and maybe we can develop a mechanism to make sure we maintain the short-term targets as directed by the scientists, while at the same time providing adequate cost certainty. But the overall structure of this bill provides important incentives to create a clean energy economy in our country. It directs auction proceeds--and this is important to understand. This is not a bill that goes out and taxes Americans and says you have to pump a whole bunch of money into the Federal budget so the Government can do something. That is not what happens here. This bill creates a marketable unit of reduction of carbon dioxide. By providing that, people will be able to buy and trade in those units. The money that comes from that purchase and trading is money that is then directed to help States make the transition, to help soften the transition for companies, to help provide the technology and the research and development that speeds us down the road to the creation of alternative and renewable fuels.

There are only three ways to deal with global climate change. One is to move to alternative and renewable fuels. Two is to come up with a way of having clean coal technology quickly. Three, it is through energy efficiency mechanisms.

The United States is literally the worst of all participating nations at this point, in terms of energy efficiencies. You can travel to Europe or to Asia and go up to an escalator and it is not working and you think you have to call somebody to fix it, but when you get near it, the escalator starts to move. When you get off and nobody else is coming, it stops. That is energy efficiency. We don't do that. Ours turn 24 hours a day, no matter whether people are there--unless they are turned off. It is the same thing with lights. When you walk out of a hotel room in some other places and it is dark and you shut your door, the lights go on. As you walk down the hallway, lights go on in front of you and off in back of you. When you get onto the elevator, the lights go out. We don't do that. There are countless efficiencies we can put into buildings, fleets, automobiles, and into the use of energy. The McKinsey report--that company is a well-respected profit-making company in America--tells us that we can get anywhere from 40 percent to 75 percent of all of the savings we need in order to deal with this crisis just from energy efficiency.

What are people waiting for? If we moved down that road, we would be doing better than by doing nothing. This bill provides very important incentives to capture and seek restoration of carbon itself. It targets $14 billion to expedite the near-term development of these facilities. It focuses on the need to support communities here and abroad, in order to adapt to the problems of climate change.

I wish to highlight the fact that $68 billion in this bill is devoted to reducing emissions from deforestation. A lot of people don't realize that cutting down forests is one of the biggest contributions to carbon dioxide. Deforestation and forest degradation is an enormous contributor that we have to turn around. Many of us wish the number was more, but we think it is enough to be able to get moving and start down that road and have an impact.

My colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee hope to address this issue in greater depth because deforestation accounts for 20 to 25 percent of global emissions. We need to help other countries move in the right direction.

When you look beyond the details of the allocation formulas and the offset verification procedures, this bill sends a critical message to our economy. I have spent a lot of time, as have the chairman and Senator Lieberman, meeting with businesses across the country. I have talked to the Business Roundtable. I have met with the U.S. Climate Action Partnership companies. These are Fortune 500 companies, such as Dow Chemical, DuPont, British Petroleum, American Electric Power, and Florida Power and Light. While they don't all agree with every piece of this bill yet, they all agree they want the Congress to pass a program where we are helping the marketplace to solve this problem by creating a system where you trade these units of carbon dioxide reductions and where you have a cap on the total level of emissions in order to push people to go out and adopt this program.

What this program does is provide certainty to the marketplace. If you talk to those on Wall Street today, they will tell you what they want is certainty. They want to know what is the pricing of carbon. This allows the marketplace to adjust and set the price of carbon. It allows the marketplace to come up with the mechanisms and indeed drives a lot of venture capital money into the efforts to create the alternative renewable fuels that are the better long-term economic responses to global climate change and to the imperatives to reduce emissions.

In addition, let me say my colleagues, with all due respect, have continually overestimated and overstated what the costs of doing this would be. I wish to refer back to the acid rain debate. I was part of those negotiations. I remember sitting in a room off the Senate floor with former Senator George Mitchell, Bill Reilly, John Sununu, and others, and we negotiated. The very people who today stand up and say don't do this, it is going to cost too much, are the same people who, in 1990, said don't do it, it will cost too much. They came in with industry-driven figures. The industry-driven figures said it is going to cost $8 billion and will take 8 years, and you are going to bankrupt America. To the credit of George Herbert Walker Bush, he didn't buy into those figures; he accepted the figures of the environmental community, which came in and said it is not going to cost $8 billion; it will be about $4 billion and it will take about 4 years. To the credit of President Bush, we did it. They were all wrong because it cost $2 billion or so and took about 2 1/2 years. It was 25 percent of the cost that was predicted. Why? Because nobody is able to predict what happens went the United States of America sets a national goal and we start to target our technology and innovation and move in a certain direction.

What I am hearing from our venture capitalists and scientists is they are already moving in that direction. They are already exploring unbelievable alternative fuels. If this passes, we will create much more incentive and energy behind that race to find those alternatives. I predict there will be two or three ``Google'' equivalents created in the energy field in the next 10 to 15 years if we pass this bill and start moving in this direction.

There are plenty of economists out there to document what I said. Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank, said the investment of 1 percent of GDP can stave off a 5- to 20-percent loss of GDP. So when colleagues say to us don't do this because it is going to cost too much, they don't ever tell you it is going to cost more not to do it. It is going to cost us much more not to do it. Every year we delay and wait, we drive up the curve of what we have to grab back to reduce in order to meet the target goals. So, in effect, delaying will make it more dangerous, as well as more expensive, because you are going to have to grab back more and faster in order to make up the difference. Frank Ackerman at Tufts recently updated the Stern model. He found that four global warming impacts alone--hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs--will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, or almost $1.9 trillion annually, by the end of the century. Bill Nordhaus, at Yale University, and Robert Samuelson, of the Washington Post, might take issue with some of Stern's methods, but the larger point is there; that those are huge figures, much bigger figures, being quoted on the downside of not doing anything rather than the cost of doing something.

In the end, addressing global climate change is going to be good for American business, and those businesses that are supporting it understand it is going to be good for American business. We can actually market our technologies. We can get involved in technology transfer with other countries. We can rejoin the global community in an effort to act responsibly. Once we put a cap on carbon, we can expect an explosion of new technologies which will take advantage of that new market.

The fact is, I think that is one of the most exciting things I have run into. I met recently in Massachusetts with 45 Massachusetts green energy companies. We have companies that are taking construction waste right now and they are turning construction waste into clean fuels and selling electricity. That could spell the end of dumpsites as we have known them in America, of landfills if we take that product and turn it into energy that is clean.

We have a battery manufacturer in Watertown, MA. That battery is powering a car for the distance of 40 miles of travel. The length of the average American commute is 40 miles. So if we were to push these batteries out in the marketplace, the average commuter in America could go through the entire day barely touching a drop of gasoline. People today who cannot fill up their tank completely because their credit card shuts off would all of a sudden be filling it up once a month or more. That is the future of America.

The price of fuel is going to go down because, in fact, this bill lowers our imports by almost 8 million barrels a day. If we do that, it is inevitable that we will be paying less money and lowering the price of gasoline. The fact is, to not do it is to see a continued increase at a rate the American people cannot afford.

I mentioned this in the caucus earlier today. I met a week ago with Dr. Craig Venter, who is the person in the private sector who did the mapping of the human genome. They are taking the knowledge they now have from the mapping of the genome and are using that to apply it in biology, to synthetic biology where, through certain microbio processes as well as through photosynthesis, they are now taking carbon dioxide and using it as a feedstock for the creation of new fuel. If that works, that is just a total game changer--a total game changer--if we can actually take carbon dioxide, which is the biggest problem we face with respect to global climate change, and turn it into something that is positive in a fuel alternative.

There is more to say on this issue. There will be more to say in the next days. I look forward to this debate.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for 5 additional minutes.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, in 2006, the renewable sector of energy in America generated 8.5 million new jobs, nearly $970 billion in revenue, over $100 billion in industry profits, and more than $150 billion in increased tax revenues at all levels of government.

One study found that with a serious commitment to an aggressive clean energy strategy, we could create 40 million jobs and $4.5 trillion in revenue by the year 2030, which is not even the end of the period this bill seeks to address in terms of reductions. We can create millions of jobs at every single level of our economy. We can create jobs for scientists, jobs for professors, jobs for people in the software and computerware business, jobs that come all the way down the food chain in terms of every aspect of American life and particularly in the infrastructure and construction industries where we would be building the new plants and new facilities and the new delivery systems for all of this technology.

This is the future. This is the future we can see because we have been there before. The United States has transitioned in fuels before. We used to do everything by burning wood, and then after we burned all the wood around our cities and learned we could not do it anymore, we discovered oil. We used to use whale oil from Nantucket, MA, and lit most of the streets in New England. Then we moved to a mix of items, including hydro, coal, even nuclear ultimately.

We are in that next transition now. I remind my colleagues that one of the sheiks who helped organize the oil cartel years ago said the stone age did not end because we ran out of stones, and the oil age will not end because we have run out of oil. The oil age will end because global climate change and global warming are sending us a message about what is happening to this planet.

We have a God-given responsibility. You can read Genesis or Isaiah or any of the other parts of the prophets, and there are enough references to our responsibilities as individual human beings to be the guardians of the Earth, to protect this creation. That is why many Evangelicals and others are supporting this bill, because they understand that responsibility. Anybody here, whether they are religious or not, ought to understand the fundamental responsibility we have not to see 30 percent of the species wiped out and whatever possibilities of disease cures with any one of those species as yet undefined and untested.

This is the greatest challenge we are to face. We are staring in the face of opportunities where the United States has the ability to strengthen our economy, provide more jobs, save fuel, provide alternatives for people, reduce the cost of day-to-day life, and, in the end, live up to our responsibilities as legislators.

I remind my colleagues of what President Kennedy once said of the race to the Moon when he challenged America to go there. There were a lot of doubters and a lot of people who thought it was a pipe dream. President Kennedy himself was not absolutely certain, did not know for sure we could do it, but he believed in America. He said this is a challenge we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win. And he said we have to do it not because it is easy but because it is hard. That is the kind of spirit this Congress and this Senate ought to show now. This issue is a lot easier, frankly, than going to the Moon, and the United States has proven we can do the former. Now we need to do what we can to reduce the emissions that create global warming and threaten all of us.

I yield the floor.


Mr. KERRY. I ask the Senator, first, is he aware that the National Association of Manufacturers' report allows for zero technological advances; that it has no technological advances taken into account whatsoever? Does the Senator believe, in fact, the United States is not going to make any technological advances in the days ahead?

Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, every study--every study--points to lost jobs and higher energy prices, higher gasoline prices, whether it is the Heritage Association or the National Association of Manufacturers. I have looked at study after study after study. I have read the books and visited with experts around the country and around the world, and everything I am seeing and reading takes me in that direction, and that is that gas prices will be going up and jobs will be lost.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, again, it is not true that every study says that. In fact, the EPA study itself comes out with about a .04 change in GDP at a time when the GDP is going up 97 percent according to our own administration. So it is simply not accurate to say that every report says that.

Secondly, I wish to know on what scientific study the Senator bases the notion that we are going to get the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in time to be able to deal with the predictions of what is happening, which require us to move immediately to deal with emissions. Could the Senator tell us what scientific report says we can get it out in time to meet this challenge? And does the IPCC, the 2,000 scientists who have been working on this for years now, suggest that is an alternative?

Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, that is why I introduced the GEAR Act earlier this year and gave a speech from this Chamber at this desk talking about giving the same kind of prizes that allowed people 500 years ago to understand longitude so ships could sail the seas; the same kind of prizes Charles Lindbergh was searching for when he flew across the ocean. It is those kinds of prizes and incentives that say, Let's get our best minds working on this. I don't know what the timetable is. I have talked to the scientists, and I say, Let's put in incentives, and that is why I brought that bill.

Mr. KERRY. The answer is, there is no study. The answer is, there is no serious scientist who is suggesting we can meet the needs of global climate change and conduct some long-term analysis of whether we can get it back out of the atmosphere. It doesn't exist. It is nonexistent.

Secondly, the analysis used by the National Association of Manufacturers has a skewed oil price which completely cooks these numbers; and it is a report which has no allowance whatsoever for any technological advancement. That is not representative of the United States of America when we talk about the technologies I talked about. Moreover, they are the same people who came in in 1990 with those crazy predictions of what it was going to cost us to do the other.

I think the people who relied on people who were wrong years ago have a bigger burden of proof to come to the floor now and show us they have a study that actually makes sense.


Mr. KERRY. Will the Senator just yield for a question before he yields?

Mr. INHOFE. The problem with that is, as you well know, it is not very reasonable because we are on a schedule to listen to other people, other than the distinguished junior Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. KERRY. With all due respect, Madam President, we are here to have a debate. It is hard to have a debate when you are talking all by yourself. If the other side wants to engage in a good discussion, there are an awful lot of things said that are inaccurate, and I wonder if the Senator wants to discuss them.

Mr. INHOFE. I will be happy to do that after the remarks of the Senator from Iowa. Is that all right?

Mr. KERRY. Terrific.

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