National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

By:  John Kerry
Date: July 16, 2009
Location: Washington, DC




Mr. KERRY. Madam President, earlier today, during the Democratic policy committee luncheon, we were privileged to hear from the CEOs of three of America's largest companies: DuPont, Siemens, and Duke Energy. It seems we are reaching that point in Washington where folks are starting to line up to argue ideological and nonfactual points of view with respect to one of the major issues facing our country. This is not unusual. Every great debate in history--certainly since I have been in the Senate and well before that--has always been subject to one interest group's or another interest group's interests. Those are often conditioned by phony studies, by one particular industry's funded study, almost inevitably always not peer-reviewed.

So it is that we are beginning to see this kind of a lineup now as a response to the action taken by the House of Representatives, which passed climate change legislation, and a response to the schedule that the majority leader has put us on in the Senate with respect to this legislation. So I wanted to take just a couple of minutes and come to the Senate floor, and I intend to do this on a periodic basis over the course of the next weeks and months as we begin to think about our own approach in the Senate to this critical issue.

Let me say to the Chair and to my colleagues that I hope we can all keep open minds so we will look at this in the context that it ought to be looked at, which is the national security interests, the security interests of our Nation; i.e, energy independence, the fact that we send hundreds of billions of dollars every year to parts of the world that doesn't wind up being invested in American jobs, in America's direct future and, in many cases, money which winds up in the hands of jihadists in one country or another and works against American competitiveness. That is one reason to think about this issue seriously.

Another is that China, India, and other countries are taking this issue very seriously.

Again, today we heard from the CEO of one of America's largest corporations. I think DuPont is one of the largest chemical companies in the world. The CEO said very directly to us that he is concerned about China's commitment as opposed to our commitment, and the fact that out of the top 30 solar, wind, and battery companies in the world, only 5 are in the United States of America.

We are the country that invented many of these technologies, but because ideology trumped fact and reason in the course of the 1980s, the guts were pulled from the energy laboratory out in Colorado, and the United States lost its lead in photovoltaics, alternatives, renewables, to Japan, to Germany, and other countries.

Ironically, as the Cold War ended and we had invested so heavily in that victory in the beginning of the 1990s, we saw the countries that had been locked in by the Communist bloc--the now Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, other countries that sought to undo the devastation of the command control policies that had spread ash within 50 miles of a powerplant so there was no living plant, and you couldn't grow anything and the rivers were polluted and the lakes and so forth, and they sought to undo that--where did they go for the technology? They went to Germany and Japan. We lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, economists currently estimate, by the blinders we put on that precluded us from buying into the future, from investing in that future.

So I hope colleagues will look carefully at the economic realities that are staring at us right now. China is investing $12 million-plus per hour in a green economy. They are investing six times the amount of money of the United States of America. The Pew Foundation has found that from 1996, approximately, until 2007, the greatest job growth in our country came from the alternative renewable energy sector, from new technologies--about 9.1 percent, as opposed to the growth of about 3.7 percent or so that we saw in the normal job sector.

In a State such as North Dakota, for instance, I think they have had about 30 percent growth in the alternative renewable energy sector, and they rank today 24th in the Nation in terms of wind power production. But the Wind Institute tells us they could be No. 1 because they have the best wind in the world--in the United States, at any rate--and they could produce 10,000 times the entire electricity needs of the State of North Dakota just from wind power alone. That is a huge amount of jobs to be created and a huge amount of money to be gained, a lowering of cost for their consumers, and we could go to other States around the country and find similar patterns, where there are very significant increases in the economic base of the alternative renewable energy sector to the exclusion of a very flat level--if not no growth--with respect to normal sectors of our economy. What is critical is that China--I just spent a week there about a month ago, purposefully going there to meet with Chinese leaders about global climate change.

Obviously, I am as committed as any colleague in the Senate to creating an agreement with other nations that holds everybody accountable. Obviously, if the United States does this all by itself, it is not going to work. But China is sitting there saying the same thing: If we do this and the United States doesn't do it, it is not going to work.

The problem is that the U.S. bona fides on this aren't very good. The fact is, we have been deniers of the existence of the problem, while other countries are proceeding to try to deal with it. The fact is, we were, until last year, the world's major emitter of global greenhouse gases. It is very difficult to go to other countries and say, you have to do this and that, and they look at us and say, what have you done about it?

For countries in Africa and in the less developed world--Indonesia, parts of South Asia, and other places--they look at us and say: Listen, for the last 50 years, you guys have been creating this problem. We have not been able to develop, we are not a developed nation, and you are sitting there telling us we have to make up for the problem you have created, and now we have to spend a lot of money for it.

The fact is, they are willing to be part of it, they are willing to be part of the solution, but the United States has to step up and show leadership and take action. The bottom line is this: If the United States doesn't step up and take action and show leadership, we are not going to get an agreement in Copenhagen and things will get worse. Some people will say: So what; maybe we will do it down the road. I have news for you--and this is absolutely substantiated in science, as well as in technology and economic modeling--if we don't do it now, every year we delay, it gets harder and more expensive and it gets more dangerous.

If you really want to look out for the citizens in your States, do it now because it will be less expensive to do it now than it will be in the future. The real taxpayer protection effort here is to do climate change now. That is why, as I said, CEOs of major corporations in our country are saying: Give us certainty in the marketplace and give it to us now so that we know what our investments will be as we go forward and we can put together a business plan that is intelligent, thoughtful, and based on the realities of where the economy is going to go.

Huge fluctuation in natural gas prices or in the price of coal or what is going to happen with respect to sequestration--all those things create enormous uncertainty. If you are a coal State, a coal interest--and we have plenty of them here--you ought to step back and look at what is happening in the marketplace.

Coal is under pressure now. We had Jim Rogers of Duke Energy tell us today that they have had a whole bunch of coal plants canceled. They have had them canceled on them by States that are refusing to proceed forward using coal. The fact is, a lot of States are turning away from coal. They are doing that because of the price issues but also because of the pollution issues.

If you are a coal State and you want a future for coal, the way to protect that future is not to wait until the EPA regulates on its own, without coming to the table with help for the transition costs; the way to protect it is to recognize that you have to develop a clean coal capacity. The only way to develop a clean coal capacity is to get the allowances that come through a cap-and-trade system to be able to provide for a transitional support system that allows those companies to transition for the future.

The fact is, in the bill that passed in the House--I don't know what the level in the Senate will be--there is a billion dollars a year for 10 years for clean coal efforts.

So the best way to protect coal and protect America, ultimately--because we have a lot of coal, and it would be wonderful if we were able to burn it but do it cleanly--is to commit now to a system where we are able to provide the support necessary to develop clean coal. The truth is that we know what happens if you don't make this a mandatory structure.

In 1992, President George Herbert Walker Bush committed us to a voluntary protocol in Rio, at what was called the Earth Summit. I went there, together with other Senators, including MAX BAUCUS, FRANK LAUTENBERG, Larry Pressler, John Chafee, Tim Wirth, and Al Gore. We went as a delegation. The President came and gave a speech there, and we committed to a voluntary framework to deal with global climate change in 1992.

Here we are, years later, and it hasn't worked. During the last 8 years, America's emissions of global greenhouse gases went up four times faster than during the 1990s. We have gone backward. While we are going backward, the science is coming back more and more compelling by the day.

The Siberian Shelf Study, just released a few months ago, shows columns of methane rising from the ocean floor because the permafrost lid of the floor is melting, as it is on dry land in Alaska, where they voted recently to move the Nutak Village 9 miles inland. There are dozens of villages in Alaska that are now moving as a consequence of what is happening to the ice shelf and the rising sea levels. As the permafrost lid melts, methane is being released in Russia, the Arctic, and other places where it is exposed. Methane is 20 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. On the ocean floor, you have the columns of methane visibly rising through the ocean, and when they burst out into open air, if you lit a match, it would ignite. That is how potent it is. That is an uncontrollably dangerous potential threat to everybody unless we tap into it or learn how to do that or commit to some other methods of controlling this.

The fact is, a 25-mile ice bridge that has existed for thousands upon thousands of years, which connected the Wilkins Ice Shelf to Antarctica, shattered, fell apart a number of months ago as a consequence of what is happening. A number of Senators have been up to Greenland and have seen the level of icemelt taking place on the Greenland ice sheet. That Wilkins ice sheet is floating in the ocean, and the Greenland ice sheet is on the rock. Many scientists worry that the river melt that is occurring underneath the ice sheet might, in fact, create a slide effect for massive amounts of ice that might break off and fall into the ocean. If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts and the Greenland ice sheet melts, that represents a 16- to 23-foot sea level increase. That is beyond comprehension in terms of what the impact of that would be. Just a meter of an increase, which is currently predicted for this century--and we are on track to actually meet or exceed that--just a meter means the disappearance of Diego Garcia, the island we use to deploy important supplies to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and to deal with other issues. That will disappear. Countries such as Bangladesh and many islands will disappear, including the coast of Florida. The threat is enormous. The piers in Norfolk, VA, are all cemented to the ocean floor. If that rises a meter, that will be a cost. You can run down the list of things that will begin to happen.

The Arctic ice sheet had previously, a few years ago, been estimated to disappear by 2030 or so. Scientists are now telling us that we will have the first ice-free Arctic summer by the year 2013--4 years from now. That means a lot of different things. It can mean the change of ocean currents and clearly a change in the ecosystem. It means simple things like as more ice is melted and the ocean is opened up--the ocean is dark, the ocean absorbs sunlight. As the sunlight comes down directly onto the Earth, that is absorbed into the ocean rather than reflecting back up, as it used to, off the ice and snow. The result is that the ocean warms even faster, which accelerates what is happening in the Arctic and what is happening in Greenland. So there is a boomerang effect to all of this.

It is ultimately what scientists call the ``tipping point.'' That brings us to the issue of urgency here. Why is this urgent? It is urgent because for years scientists have been telling us that you have to hold down the level of greenhouse gases to--originally, they said 550 parts per million. Then they revised that as new science came in and people realized things were happening faster than we thought. They revised it to 450 parts per million. Now scientists are revising again, and they are revising again because the rate at which the science is coming back tells us this is happening a lot faster than we thought and to a greater degree. Now they are revising it from 450 parts per million to 350 parts per million. Not everybody has accepted that, but that is going on. Why is that alarming? It is alarming because we are at 385 parts per million today.

With the current rate of coal-fired powerplants coming online, the rate of increased emissions through new buildings and the lack of adequate standards on automobiles, and other things, we are pouring emissions into the atmosphere willy-nilly as if there is no tomorrow. Well, that could happen, the way we are going.

The fact is, what is up there already--this is scientific fact. There is nothing that any opponent of global climate change has ever said or done or produced to indicate that this is not fact: Greenhouse gases live in the atmosphere for 100 to 1,000 years. As they live in the atmosphere, they continue to do the warming. So the warming we have done already has warmed the Earth by .8 degrees centigrade. So we can absolutely anticipate a compounding of that warming because the same amount or more is up there, and it is going to continue to do the damage. We don't know how to take it out of the atmosphere. So we are looking at a certainty of another .8 degrees. That takes you up to 1.6. And scientists are telling us the tipping point is at 2 degrees centigrade.

I ask my colleagues to go look at the modeling that has been done by countless different groups around the world. This is not an American conspiracy somehow. This is not a Democratic or Republican thing. It doesn't have that kind of label on it. There are thousands of scientists who, for 25 years or more, have been drawing conclusions based on scientific analyses, and scientists--if you are a good scientist, you are also conservative, because all of the proclamations or findings you make are subject to peer review if you are a good scientist, if you are a legitimate study. The fact is, there are thousands of legitimate peer-reviewed studies that document what is happening in terms of the impact of global climate change. There are zero--not one--peer-reviewed studies that deny those thousands--not one. For all the industry studies you hear, all the scary tactics, like Chicken Little, saying the sky is falling, and the numbers that are put out, no peer-reviewed study supports an analysis that what the scientists say is not happening. We are looking at the potential here of catastrophic implications, which is why the United States needs to move.

The science is one thing; you can put it over here. But what is happening is that other countries have committed to this.

Their presidents, their prime ministers, their environment ministers, their finance ministers--all of these people have come together and made a commitment for those countries. They are moving. They accept the science. They also accept the dynamics of the marketplace. They want to be leaders in solar, leaders in wind, leaders in alternatives, renewable, biofuels--you name it. The fact is, unless the United States seizes this economic opportunity, we are going to lose the chance to be leaders in one of the greatest markets in history.

The market that led us to great wealth during the course of the 1990s in the United States was the Internet and data management systems. That market was about a trillion-dollar market and about a billion users at the time during the 1990s, at least when we saw great wealth created.

The energy market is a $6 trillion market with about 4.5 billion users, many of whom are potential users in places such as India, where solar could light a small village and run electricity pumps where they have no water today and no pumps and no development. There are countless things that could happen as a consequence of this that would have profound consequences on elimination of poverty, which has profound implications on eliminating jihadism in places all around the world.

This is an opportunity to change the paradigm, if you will, into which we have been locked. The United States needs to lead. I want those batteries made in Detroit and countless other cities across this country. I named Detroit because we have the skilled workforce. The automobile industry is hurting. We should be building the cars for America's high-speed rail system there. We should be building the batteries there, not in China. We should be developing these technologies. These are ongoing jobs that repeat for the future, and they cannot be exported. What can be exported is the technology itself, which we have an ability to go out and sell to other countries, which is good for the American marketplace.

As these weeks go on, we need to talk about this. I want to come back to one particular component. I want to underscore the national security implications.

In 2007, 11 former admirals and high-ranking generals issued a report from the Center for Naval Analysis saying that climate change is a threat multiplier with a potential to create ``sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those that we see today.''

In 2008, a national intelligence assessment echoed those warnings from inside our own government. GEN Anthony Zinni, former commander of our forces in the Middle East, was characteristically blunt in addressing this threat. He says that without action ``we will pay the price later in military terms, and that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.''

The estimates of the intelligence community and those looking at the national security implications are that we could have in a few years as many as 200 million climate refugees. We have an internally displaced issue today in Pakistan. We have it in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. We can have environmentally displaced people who are forced to move because they cannot produce food because they lose water. The problem of failed states will only be compounded as the instability that comes with those moving populations and the challenges of providing for those people grows.

Believe me, American ingenuity, American military capacity, American lift, American medical capacity, American food aid--all of these things will be called on. And unless we act now, they will be called on to a greater degree than is necessary.

So climate change, in fact, injects a major new source of chaos, of tension, of human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine. I invite my colleagues to talk with the developmental people in so many of these countries about the problems they are having today growing crops, about the change in rainfall, about the lack of water, about the desertification that is taking place in places such as Darfur. Time magazine had a headline a couple years ago: Do you want to prevent the next Darfur? Get serious about climate change. There are linkages here, and it is essential for us to understand the costs.

None of the modeling that has been done to date tries to estimate the cost to the consumer, and that is a concern. In fact, there is an enormous amount of money being put on the table through the allowances to cushion this impact so that American citizens are not paying more for electricity and not paying more as a consequence of these changes.

I believe there is a minimal cost. But the truth is that cost has not even yet been properly represented because no model to this date shows the impact of energy efficiencies in America that will reduce the cost for families. No study properly shows the cost of technology advances that will reduce the cost for communities and families. And no study shows the cost to the American consumer of doing nothing.

If the United States does not do this, believe me, that is a tax on Americans, and it is a lot bigger than the costs that are going to come affiliated with the transition to a new economy which is sustainable for the long term for our Nation.

As we go forward, I want to say to colleagues a couple of concerns people have expressed about cap and trade and other issues. The marketplace: Will the marketplace abuse this? Can we trust the marketplace to function? The answer is, all of us have learned some very tough and bitter lessons as a result of lack of regulatory oversight of the 1990s and the last 8 years. So we are going to have in our legislation in the Senate, which is not in the House, some mechanism by which--I am not going to go into all the details now because we are not going to lay out all the details of what we are going to do. But we are going to address this concern of market regulation in order to adequately guarantee transparency and accountability as we go forward.

There are other concerns people have expressed. As the next days go on, we are going to show day for day exactly what the real costs are, what the real opportunities are, and how we can proceed.

I close by saying that here is the choice, really, for us as Americans and as human beings. Let's say that the people who have no peer-reviewed studies at all, that people who want to be in the flat Earth caucus, or whatever, and argue this is not happening, let's say they are right and we are wrong and we do the things we are going to do because we think they are the right things to do. What is the downside?

The downside is that America would have led the world in terms of technology because every other country is already doing this. Anybody who sits there today and says: What about China, what about China, ought to go to China and see what China is doing. China is determined to be the world's No. 1 producer of electric vehicles, and they are on the way to doing it. China has tripled its wind power goals and targets. China is putting in place right now a 20-percent reduction in energy intensity, and they are ahead of the curve in almost every sector but one and meeting and exceeding that goal. We are not doing that. They are doing that. China is the leader in wind and solar technology. China has a stronger commitment on automobile levels of emissions than we do, and it is going into effect before ours.

I have talked with a number of well-respected observers, both in business and in journalism, who have been to China recently, and they have come back shaking their heads and saying: If we don't get our act in gear, China is going to clean our clock, and we are going to be chasing China in 3 or 4 years.

If you are concerned about holding China accountable to a system, we better put something in place because that is the only way we are going to get a mechanism in Copenhagen that is going to help hold everybody in place.

Here is the bottom line. If we don't get that mechanism, the President is not going to send anything up here, and we are not going to pass it at that point. We are not going to accept some global system that does not address this globally. We have been through that with Kyoto.

The fact is the United States has to do what it has to do in order to make Copenhagen happen, in order to lead the globe in this effort. I hope our colleagues will recognize that.

What else will happen if we are wrong and they are right? We will have cleaned up the air. We will have better health quality in America because we will have better air quality because we will have reduced particulates in the air by reducing global emissions.

The largest single cost of children's health care in the course of the summer in the United States of America is children being committed to hospitals because of air quality, asthma attacks, in the course of the summer, and it is rising as a problem in our country.

It will have reduced hospital costs, better quality of air, better health. What else is a downside of doing this correctly? We will have created millions of new jobs. We see that happening right now. Think of what happens when we set a global target and when the United States sets its own national target and businesses say: Hey, there is money to be made there.

We have better transmission lines so we can send electricity produced from solar in Nevada or in Oklahoma or Texas, or somewhere, and you can sell it to the rest of the country because it can actually be transported there. The minute we do that, the private sector is going to say: Wow, that is worth investing in because we can make a return on our investment.

Look at the size of the market. Today we cannot do that because we cannot send it around the country because we don't have a transmission system that allows us to do that.

The worst that would happen is we move down the road to have cheaper electricity because we can move it from alternatives, renewables all around the country, have a smarter grid, and have the ability to reduce costs for Americans.

What is another downside? Another downside is we might actually reduce poverty around the world because of technology advances. We might reduce the instability of countries and improve our own security, and we will reduce energy dependence because we will be able to produce our own energy at home and not depend on sending hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. That is a downside.

What is the downside if they are wrong? Catastrophe, absolute catastrophe because we go beyond the tipping point. I cannot stand here and tell you everything that is going to happen. But I read enough and have seen enough of what the scientists say are the potential impacts, and I have seen enough of those impacts already coming true. Just by evidence and common sense, you say to yourself: I don't want to put this to the test because there is no way to come back from it. There is no way to go over that tipping point and turn the clock backwards. That is the choice for all of us.

I hope in the course of this debate we are going to have the kind of debate on the facts, on real studies, peer-reviewed studies, on analyses that make sense so we can make the kinds of judgments that the Senate deserves and that the American people deserve.

I thank the Chair.

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