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Public Statements

Bring Jobs Home Act--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Our topic is the urgency of the need to protect our privately held critical infrastructure--the power grid, the machines that process our financial transactions, and the communications networks that connect our BlackBerrys and our phones.

In this area, no one is more expert than Senator Mikulski, who is a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, helped draft the Senate intelligence report on cyber, and has the pen as the cardinal for the budgets of most of the agencies that are relevant to this discussion. So let me lead immediately to Senator Mikulski, who has been enormously helpful in this arrangement.


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Let me welcome Senator Blunt to the discussion and invite him to chime in now. He has been a very important voice in the bipartisan discussions on how we can find a proper way to protect American privately owned critical infrastructure. He is a consummately experienced legislator from the House and has been a great addition to the Senate, and we welcome him to the discussion.


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I agree with Senator Coons, and more important than me agreeing with him, the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America agrees with him. He has said, ``The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyberattack,'' and that is an exact quote.

I wish to turn back to Senator Mikulski for a moment, as the person who is in charge of the appropriations for these key agencies, because there is a sense in some quarters that if you leave the private sector on its own to do this, they will be fine. I think the evidence we have heard in a series of hearings that Senator Mikulski, Senator Blunt, myself, and Senator Kyl cochaired, bipartisan hearings--Senator Coons came to virtually all of them, and to their great credit Senator Lieberman and Senator Collins came to virtually all of them--the testimony we heard was that was not the case.

Some of the public commentary, our Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter says:

There is a market failure at work here ..... companies are not willing to admit vulnerabilities to themselves, or publicly to shareholders, in such a way as to support the necessary investments or lead their peers down a certain path of investment and all that would follow.

That is a bipartisan sentiment. Mike Chertoff, who is the former head of DHS, said:

The marketplace is likely to fail in allocating the correct amount of investment to manage risk across the breadth of the networks on which our society relies.

Senator Coons pointed out 9 out of 10 of the companies contacted by the NCI JTF, when they became aware they were attacked, had no idea they had been attacked.

I will turn to Senator Mikulski to make her comment on this. It is a public-private partnership here.


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. I thank the Senator from Missouri. I will wrap up by making three points and I will make them briefly. I have given remarks at greater length in these areas before so I think my position on this is pretty clear.

One is, protecting our critical infrastructure, the privately owned systems our way of life depends on, is the weak point we need to address. We do well with dot-mil, we do well with dot-gov. The government has the authority to provide all of its resources to protect those. We don't particularly care about ordinary Web sites, about chat rooms--we do not want to interfere with those anyway. It is just the critical infrastructure that is important, the privately held infrastructure. We really need to work on that. The warnings from our national security leaders are across the board: Secretary of Defense Panetta, NSA Cyber Command and Director Keith Alexander, Director of National Intelligence Clapper, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Holder, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Dempsey have all clearly expressed the danger of this threat.

The second point, it is bipartisan. The former Director of National Intelligence and NSA Director Mike McConnell has said:

The United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing. It's that simple. As the most wired nation on Earth, we offer the most targets of significance, yet our cyber-defenses are woefully lacking. ..... [W]ith cybersecurity, the time to start was yesterday.

Former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security Baker said:

We must begin now to protect our critical infrastructure from attack.

A great number of national security officials, bipartisan, wrote a letter to us in the Senate and said:

The threat is only going to get worse. Inaction is not an acceptable option.

Protection of our critical infrastructure is essential in order to effectively protect our national and economic security from the growing cyber threat.

As I said earlier in introducing Senator Mikulski, there is indeed a market failure that has been identified in a bipartisan fashion. The facts prove it because so often when public or private sector folks respond to an intrusion, they find 90 percent of the time the company had no idea it was hacked.

Even the Chamber of Commerce was hacked and had Chinese infiltrators with access to all of their computers for months. When the Aurora bug hit Google and others, only 3 out of 30 companies were aware of it. So the private sector does need a supportive government. We, in turn, from the government side have to make sure the burden is not unreasonable and make sure we are doing this in as light, as sensible, and voluntary as is possible and consistent with the mission of actually protecting our cybersecurity.

In the Bush administration, the Assistant Attorney General was Jack Goldsmith, who is now at the Harvard Law School. He has written about this very issue. He wrote:

[T]he government is the only institution with the resources and the incentives to ensure that the [critical infrastructure] on which we all depend is secure, and we must find a way for it to meet its responsibilities.

I thank Senator Mikulski, Senator Blunt, Senator Blumenthal, and Senator Coons for participating in this colloquy today. I thank our group and the group I just mentioned. In addition I would like to thank Senator Kyl, Senator Graham, and Senator Coats for the bipartisan work that has been done to try to find a way forward to protect critical infrastructure.

Again, I thank Senator Blunt, Senator Kyl, and Senator Mikulski for the series of private briefs and classified briefings that have helped build the momentum toward this effort.

I think we can get this done. It is essential we do. I appreciate the work of my colleagues in making this happen.

I yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum.


Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Mr. President, I come to the floor most every week to discuss the issue that I think is the one that Members of Congress in this era are most likely to be judged on in the future; that is, the relentless carbon pollution of our atmosphere that we are engaged in and the changes in our climate and in our oceans that are very visibly happening as a result.

I know there are many interests in Washington that would prefer us to ignore this issue, but just because they ignore it and just because they want us to ignore it doesn't mean it is going anywhere. The country, as we have heard in the last few weeks, has baked in record heat. I think it was Bloomberg News that described the Midwest farmers as farming in hell. It has been scorched by drought, driven by unprecedented wildfires, and that has resulted in an increasing amount of chatter in the news and even some conversation on the Senate floor about climate change.

Some have tried to say there is no relation, but I want to talk a little bit about the science of what we see happening around our country and around the world.

There is an interesting report that I would mention. I am not going to put it in the Record because it is too large. It is called ``The State of the Climate in 2011,'' a special supplement to the bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

What we see is that 2012 is shaping up to look a lot like 2011, which Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan called ``a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world.'' The report I just showed is a peer-reviewed report. It was compiled by 37 scientists from 48 countries.

As explained by Dr. Sullivan, and I quote her:

Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment. This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come.

Here are some of the highlights from the American Meteorological Society report. The first generally is that warm temperature trends are continuing. Four independent datasets show 2011 was one of the 15 warmest years since recordkeeping began in the late 19th century, and yet one of the coolest since 2008. The average temperature for 2011 was higher than the 30-year annual average temperature. The Arctic continued to warm at about twice the rate compared with lower latitudes.

On the opposite pole, the South Pole Station recorded its all-time highest temperature of 9.9 degrees Fahrenheit on December 25, Christmas Day, breaking the previous record for warm weather around the South Pole by more than 2 degrees.

So the warm temperature trends continue. The other major finding of the report is that greenhouse gases continue to climb. Major greenhouse gas concentrations like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide continued to rise. Carbon dioxide steadily increased in 2011, and the yearly global average exceeded 390 parts per million for the first time since instrumental records began. This represents an increase of 2.10 parts per million over the previous year.

I would note that the Arctic sampling stations have for the first time in history recorded concentrations over 400 parts per million. That is an ominous number because the Arctic tends to be the leading edge for these indicators. There is no evidence that natural emissions of methane in the Arctic have increased significantly during the last decade, so they have not yet contributed to this steady increase. But there could be significant increases of methane in the future as the tundra thaws and as methane captured under the permafrost is released.

Arctic sea ice is decreasing. Arctic sea ice extent was below average for all of 2011 and has been since June of 2001. It is a span of 127 consecutive months through December of 2011. Both the maximum ice extent, which was 5.67 million square miles on March 7, and the minimum extent, 1.67 square miles on September 9, were the second smallest measurements for maximum and for minimum of the satellite era.

A fourth finding is that sea surface temperature and ocean heat content continue to rise. Even with La Nina conditions occurring during most of the year, the 2011 global sea surface temperature was among the 12 highest years on record. Ocean heat content measured from the surface down to 2,300 feet deep continued to rise since records again being taken in 1993, and ocean heat content was at a record high.

In addition to putting 2011 into the context of these longer trends and timelines, the researchers from NOAA and the U.K. Meteorological Office also examined the link between climate change and extreme weather events that occurred in 2011. Here is what they say:

In the past it was often stated that it simply was not possible to make an attribution statement about an individual weather or climate event. However, scientific thinking on this issue has moved on and now it is widely accepted--

Widely accepted--

that attribution statements about individual weather or climate events are possible, provided proper account is taken of the probabilistic nature of attribution.

So let me be clear. It is still not correct to say that any weather event specifically is or is not directly caused by climate change. However, what these researchers have done is evaluate methods to see if the probability of this event occurring has changed by a particular percentage given the changing climate. Have we, in effect, loaded the dice in our atmosphere to make extreme weather events more likely? And not only have we loaded the dice, but how loaded are the dice? How are the odds changing?

This paper evaluated six events from last year, and here are some of those findings:

La Nina-related heat waves such as that experienced in Texas in 2011 are now 20 times more likely to occur during La Nina today than during La Nina years 50 years ago. So we have loaded the dice for these events to happen during the La Nina years by a factor of 20. That is a pretty heavy increase.

Researchers evaluated a very warm November that the United Kingdom experienced in 2011. They found that warm Novembers are now 62 times more likely for the region. Again, not only are the dice loaded for unusual weather events, they are loaded with big numbers.

The next month, December 2011, was very cold. Researchers found that cold Decembers were 50 percent less likely to occur now versus 50 years ago.

Moving on to 2012, I wish to mention another event that happened this week. On Monday, researchers at the University of Delaware and the Canadian Ice Service reported that a 46-square-mile chunk of ice broke off from the Petermann Glacier on the northwest coast of Greenland. This piece of ice is two times the size of Manhattan. In August 2010, a piece four times the size of Manhattan separated from the glacier. This most recent breakoff of the Petermann Glacier puts the glacier's end point where it has not been for 150 years.

Andreas Muenchow, a researcher at the University of Delaware, said:

The Greenland ice sheet as a whole is shrinking, melting and reducing in size as a result of globally changing air and ocean temperatures and associated changes in circulation patterns in both the ocean and the atmosphere.

When we change the temperature, we change the circulation patterns. Those go hand in hand.

Relatedly, an article published in Science magazine examined data from not the Arctic areas but the tropic areas from coral reefs around the world. The researchers concluded that sea levels during the last warming period, which is most similar to today's climate, were roughly 18 to 30 feet higher than today. That is about 6 to 10 feet higher than previous estimates had projected. The likely culprit: more melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets than was previously assumed.

All of this evidence, these changing trends and emerging science evaluating increased probability of extreme weather events, ought to be enough for us to consider limiting our greenhouse gas emissions. It ought to be enough of a warning for us to stop what is presently an uncontrolled experiment that we are conducting on our planet. We should do this while we still can.

Yet, unfortunately, there are special interests in Washington who deny that carbon pollution causes global temperatures to rise; deny that melting icecaps destabilize our climate so that regions face extreme drought or outsized precipitation events; deny that they have any responsibility to do anything about this. These special interests have a strong grip on Washington and on Congress. They pretend to us and to the American public that the jury is actually still out on climate change caused by carbon pollution, that we should wait, we should let them continue with business as usual and wait for the verdict to come in. Well, they are wrong. The jury is not still out. The verdict is, indeed, in, and their claims to the contrary are, frankly, outright false.

This is a pattern, actually, that has manifested itself with other industries in the past. The lead paint industry, the tobacco industry, and others have all had legions of scientists who have been willing to manufacture enough doubt about the danger of the product--tobacco is safe to smoke, lead paint won't hurt children, that sort of thing--so as to delay public safety action that would protect the public from their product. They obviously have a motive in doing that because they want to keep selling their product and keep making profits, but the cost has been terribly high to the public when we have listened to that kind of science. Unfortunately, we are listening to that now again. We should not be fooled. The vast overwhelming bulk of scientists agree that climate change is happening and that human activities are the driving cause of this change.

When I give these talks, I often refer to a paragraph from a letter we received in Congress in October of 2009. The letter was very powerfully stated, particularly when we consider the cautious way in which scientists ordinarily couch their findings. Here is what the letter said:

Observations throughout the world make it clear--

Clear is the word they use--

that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence--

And they close with this--

and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.

In other words, if we look at the peer-reviewed science, the body of science, objectively, one cannot reach those conclusions. Those contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment. Clearly, subjective assessments are different, but subjective assessments we should discount because of the motives that lie behind them.

The letter I just quoted was signed by an enormous number of very prestigious scientific organizations, from the American Association of the Advancement of Science, to the American Chemical Society, the Geophysical Union, Institute of Biological Science, Meteorological Society, Society of Agronomy, American Plant Biologists, the Ecological Society of America, the Organization of Biological Field Stations, Soil Science Society of America, and an immense group of very respectable organizations not gathered together for the purposes of argument about climate change but who have a responsibility to their scientific communities to be accurate. These are highly esteemed scientific organizations. They know the jury is not still out. They know that the verdict is, in fact, in and that it is time we did something about it. It is really irresponsible and nonsensical for us not to.

The science on this goes back to the Civil War. It was a scientist named John Tyndall, an Irish scientist practicing in England, who determined that carbon dioxide and water, when they were trapped in the atmosphere, had a blanketing effect and would trap heat in the atmosphere--the basic principle of global warming.

In 1955, the year I was born, a textbook called ``Our Astonishing Atmosphere'' said the following:

Nearly a century ago, scientist John Tyndall suggested that a fall in the atmospheric carbon dioxide could allow the Earth to cool, whereas a rise in carbon dioxide would make it warmer.

If that was century-old information the year I was born, then I think it is entitled to some credence around here.

Of course, we are observing these changes. Let me put one into context, and then I will yield the floor. That one is that 390-parts-per-million figure I alluded to earlier. For the last 8,000 centuries--800,000 years--we have been able to measure what the range was of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere, and for all that period, 800,000 years, it has been between 170 parts per million and 300 parts per million. So 170 to 300 is the range. So when we are out of that not by a little bit but by a lot--we are already to 390, and in the Arctic we have hit 400--this is measurement, by the way, not theory--that is something to be worried about because when we look back at history, before 800,000 years ago, back into previous geological events, we find that these high carbon concentrations are associated with really dramatic die-offs, very hostile environments for human occupation.

Of course, we have never had that experience because we have really only been around on this planet for probably less than 200,000 years. We only started scratching the soil, planting things and developing agriculture, 10,000 years ago. So 800,000 years ago is a long time, and the safe bandwidths our species has developed within during that 800,000 years is something that we should not be so frivolous about flying outside of to the tune of now hitting 390 parts per million. There will be consequences that will be grave.

We are already seeing consequences that are grave. Our ocean is acidifying in unprecedented ways. If we are looking for a first catastrophe to ensue, it is as likely to be through the acidification of our oceans as it is through climate and through the damage that an acidic ocean can do to small creatures, particularly those at the very bottom of the food chain, the ones all the others eat. Let me put it this way: It is a hard thing for an animal to succeed and survive in a physical environment in which it is soluble.

So I see a colleague on the floor, and I will yield to him. I appreciate the attention of the Senate to this issue, and I hope the day will come soon when we can wrench ourselves free of the grip of the special interests and do something serious about this looming threat.

I thank the Presiding Officer, and I yield the floor.


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