Hello, I am Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
I wanted to take this opportunity to express my strong support for advancing the international effort to address a serious threat to our planet: climate change. We know we must take action, and we must make progress now. Why? Because climate change is real, human activities are the primary cause, and the warming planet poses a significant risk to the health and safety of people in all our nations.
I want to send a clear message to the conference that there are leaders in Congress who understand the urgent threat facing the globe, and we are dedicated to preventing the terrible impacts of unchecked climate change.
Here's the good news -
Reports say that last year the United States was one of two countries among the top ten emitters where carbon pollution has been reduced.
And during President Obama's first term, the U.S. has taken a number of steps to reduce carbon pollution.
We established new automobile efficiency standards that will reduce carbon pollution by over 6 billion tons, while saving consumers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the life of these vehicles.
The GSA, the agency that oversees office space for more than one million federal employees and 9,600 federal buildings and leases, has reduced energy consumption by more than 16 percent over 2003 levels.
The Clean Air Act is being enforced and emissions of many pollutants are being reduced, including carbon.
Important steps forward have also been taken on the state level. My own State of California is continuing to lead the nation in efforts to control carbon pollution. On January 1, 2012, California launched an enforceable cap-and-trade program.
The United States is on course to reduce carbon by nearly 17 percent by 2020.
On the eve of his second term, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to addressing climate change. He said ". . . I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it."
I strongly support the President's call to action and believe that we must work together to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
We cannot turn away from this challenge, because we have seen the devastating impact of extreme weather events that scientists predict will become more frequent. Several weeks ago, Superstorm Sandy gave us a preview of what to expect if climate change is not addressed. This storm caused tremendous destruction along the United States' East Coast and ranks as one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit America.
Stretching from Maine to the Gulf Coast states, Sandy brought a life-threatening storm surge along the Mid-Atlantic coast and areas northward. The massive storm's maximum sustained winds were 90 mph, with hurricane-force winds extending outward approximately 175 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extending outward approximately 485 miles.
Just last week, I held a hearing in my Committee on Superstorm Sandy and heard from Members of Congress - both Democrats and Republicans - who witnessed firsthand the devastation in their communities. More than 120 people died in Superstorm Sandy, and we heard moving testimony from Senators and Congressmen who met with the relatives of those who lost their lives. We know it will be a long road back from this terrible storm -- the initial estimates for New York and New Jersey for disaster assistance total more than $70 billion.
Following the storm, the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo rightly stated: "Part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality. Extreme weather is a reality. It is a reality that we are vulnerable...."
I believe Superstorm Sandy will mark a turning point in our approach to climate change. Some people may choose to close their eyes, but anyone with a heartbeat and a pulse can see that things are changing for the worse, and we simply cannot afford to ignore these warnings.
Sandy was a single devastating storm, but scientists tell us that these destructive events will only get worse in the future if carbon pollution continues to increase.
I believe that those of us in the United States who are dedicated to addressing climate change are growing in numbers. In the next Congress, we have added new Senators who share the strong commitment to act on climate change, and we will take every opportunity to make progress in tackling this serious global threat.
The work you are doing in Doha is an important step toward developing a plan to address this threat of climate change, and I wish you the best as you enter into final negotiations. I am an optimistic person, and I believe we can rise to this challenge.