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Public Statements

Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, this week the Senate has undertaken the beginning of a historic debate on global warming. For the past week we have attempted to pass this important legislation that will reduce the carbon dioxide pollution that causes global warming, while using market incentives to create American jobs. Unfortunately it appears the other side of aisle has no interest in enacting this important global warming legislation. I am disappointed a minority in the Senate are blocking our efforts to move forward on this important bill.

The time for debate about the existence of global warming has ended. We are staring down the barrel of global crisis if we do not aggressively address this problem now, and not 5 years from now or when the oil companies decide the time is right.

The most recent assessment of global climate change published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, in November found that the Earth's climate indisputably has warmed over the past century. Most of this increase is very likely due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations created by humans--primarily from the use of fossil fuels. As we look around us every day and see all of the exhaust gases emanating from factories, buildings, and vehicles, it only stands to reason that human activity now, and for much of the last century, increasingly has become a factor in the quality of the air we breathe and in the natural processes of our environment.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program, CCSP, recently released the first of several climate change reports, and their assessment was stark. They report that even under the most optimistic carbon dioxide emission scenarios, we can expect a host of profound impacts that range from changes in sea level and regional and super-regional temperature hikes, to increased incidence of disturbances such as forest fires, insect outbreaks, severe storms, and drought.

If we do not take aggressive action now to curb emissions, our environmental and economic future is bleak. Even as we speak, our world is experiencing alarming and detrimental changes from manmade greenhouse gases. The Arctic Sea ice melted in 2007 to the smallest coverage since satellite measurements began in 1979--perhaps 50 percent below sea ice levels of the 1950s. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado projects that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer as early as 2030.

As if to highlight the urgency, while the EPA was recently delaying a decision over whether to add polar bears to the threatened species list due to a decrease in their habitat, more than 160 square miles of arctic ice collapsed away from the Wilkins Ice Shelf. If we needed any clearer signal that now is the time to address this problem, the partial collapse of an arctic shelf formed more than 1500 years ago should leave no doubt.

How do we responsibly and aggressively address this problem? According to the Bush administration, we should talk about curbing global climate change on the one hand, while quietly eroding the safety net that had been designed to better protect our environment with the other.

We need only to look at the recent unprecedented intervention by this administration in the EPA's decision to override the institutional advice of the EPA's own experts--not to mention the Clean Air Act--and stop California, Vermont, and 15 other States from setting their own tailpipe emission standards. Even the release of CCSP research on climate change last week had to be mandated by court order--and during the course of this research, scientists left the CCSP alleging the administration was rewriting the science for political purposes.

Add to all of this the auctioning of environmentally sensitive public lands for oil development, the weakening of air quality regulations for corporate polluters, and the billions of dollars of handouts in the form of subsidies to oil companies at the expense of renewable energy, and it adds up to 8 years of an administration that cares more about corporate profits than the public's health and our environment's protection.

This legislation is not a perfect solution, but its goals are positive and its solutions are constructive. The annual reductions in emissions, funding for renewable energy technologies, and a cap-and-trade system designed to reward companies that invest in cleaner energy are innovative solutions to a problem that won't just go away on its own.

Failure to address global warming is a failure to address weather catastrophes that can destroy entire Nations, a failure to address the loss of species that will never return, and a failure to pass along to future generations--our children, our grandchildren, and beyond--the kind of world we want for them.

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