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Public Statements

The Safe Climate Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments we just heard on the floor from my colleague from Tennessee talking about Dr. Hansen's retirement, a gentleman who has faced a great deal of criticism, including many from this Congress, because of his forceful presentation of his point of view. And time after time after time, Dr. Hansen has been proven correct.

This is the most important issue that we're really not debating in Congress. There are a group of us here who have formed the Safe Climate Caucus to be able to promote this discussion. Today we extended an invitation to the leadership of the Commerce and Energy Committee to join us on the floor of the House for a bipartisan debate, encouraging our Republican colleagues to come to the floor to be able to deal with this issue that, frankly, deserves to be in the spotlight.

We're not aware of any Republican Member who's spoken on the floor of the House about the dangers of climate change or the need to reduce emissions and prepare for its impact in this entire session of Congress. In fact, as near as we can determine, no Republican Member of Congress has even uttered the words ``climate change'' on the floor in this Congress.

It's, I suppose, better that they're not talking about it at all than what we had in the last Congress where the Republican-led House of Representatives voted 53 times to block action on climate change. My Republican colleagues voted to defund research, to block action by the EPA to control pollution, to prevent energy efficiency measures from going into effect.

Remember, one of the most comical was the assault on light bulb efficiency, an efficiency standard that was developed, admittedly, when Democrats were in charge, but signed with legislation that we worked out with the Bush administration. That was certainly a travesty.

It was interesting. The industry looked at them and shrugged and said, we're moving on, we're not going back to produce less energy-efficient light bulbs.

They voted to stop the administration from encouraging developing countries to do their part.

This year, the Republican members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is the committee of primary

jurisdiction over energy policy, even voted against holding hearings with scientists who could explain the role of climate change in causing extreme weather, drought, heat waves and wildfires. That's why we've created the Safe Climate Caucus, to work to end the conspiracy of silence here in the House about the dangers of climate change.

But we hope, we sincerely hope, that our Republican colleagues would join us here on the floor of the House in one of these Special Orders to discuss our various approaches. If they don't agree with human-caused impacts of extreme weather events, engage in the debate to explain why. If they do agree that we are at least having extreme weather events, whether or not they're human-caused, let's debate what we should do to be protecting us from those impacts. The American public deserves no less.

So until we're able to engage our Republican colleagues in a spirited, thoughtful debate on the floor of the House, we will continue pointing out the problems that we face, the risks, the danger, the paths forward, because in 2012, there were over 3,500 weather-related records set due to extreme heat, rain, drought, cold and wind. The American public has seen that. They've suffered the consequences. They're concerned.

Hurricane Sandy was one of just 11 weather disasters last year in the United States that caused more than a billion dollars in losses, a total of over $60 billion, which taxpayers are being forced to help assume the burden.

Here in Washington, D.C., we set another record, 90 degrees today, for April 10. At the same time, there are snowstorms in Colorado.

2012 was the 36th consecutive year with a global temperature above the 20th century average. The last time there was a year with a global temperature that wasn't above average was 1976, before Jimmy Carter was elected President. We were celebrating the Bicentennial. Most of our staff here in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill, has never experienced a year where temperatures weren't above average.

Now, just because our Republican friends don't want to debate it, just because they have fought to prevent our initiative, doesn't mean that it's not having an economic impact. The United States Congress has appropriated $188 billion for climate-related disasters over the last 3 years.

Just 2 months ago, the Government Accountability Office released a GAO report listing the Federal Government's vulnerability to climate change impacts as one of its greatest areas of potential risk. Climate change could increase investment portfolio risk by 10 percent over the next 2 decades by disrupting supply chains.

Those of us in Congress who are noticing these problems, these changes, these challenges, are not alone. According to the Gallup poll last month, 58 percent of the American public worry a fair amount or a great deal about climate change and its impacts. Sixty-two percent of Republicans believe that America should take steps to address climate change.

Monday, Arnold Schwarzenegger joined the list of Republican politicians who now acknowledge that climate change is a serious concern, speaking at the Price School of Public Policy in California. Governor Schwarzenegger said, if we're smart, we listen to our doctors. If we're stupid, we ignore our doctors, and it takes a heart attack to realize that we should listen.

Schwarzenegger said the national climate assessment report is our physical, and these scientists can give us a prescription for what we need to do to improve our climate. It's our duty to listen to them and encourage action, action all over the country. And Republican Governor Schwarzenegger is to be commended for his vision and stepping forward.

Another of my colleagues from California is with us here this evening, and I notice that he may be willing to step in. He's been greatly concerned about infrastructure, climate, the environment in a long and distinguished career in California politics and now here in Congress.

We're honored that you would be willing to join us, and I would be happy to yield to you if you would like to join in this conversation.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Thank you, Congressman Garamendi. Thank you for your comments and for your leadership in your native State of California on so many different levels in pressing this point. Your observation is that there's a great deal of economic opportunity. The installed wind energy has exploded in recent years. In fact, not only are we producing the energy here in the United States, it's American wind. It's not dollars that we're exporting.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. And part of what we need to be harvesting. That's why I have a small wind energy tax credit that I think we can install here in the House Chamber. But part of what we've done with the Recovery Act has increased dramatically the amount of manufacturing that's here in the United States for that installed energy.

We are joined by one of our colleagues, Congressman Tonko from New York. Before he came to Congress, where he's been very active in these areas, he's had his own series of activities providing leadership and technology and energy efficiency.

We'd be honored for you to join in the conversation.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Indeed. Well, the cheapest electron is one that we don't have to use. If we just double American energy efficiency, we can cut carbon emissions 22 percent by 2020--and, by the way, that would save American consumers $327 billion a year. This is a tremendous opportunity to achieve savings, generate economic activity, and pay a dividend, economically as well as environmentally.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. That last element is one that makes it so surprising that my Republican friends don't want to talk about dealing with climate change, energy efficiency on the floor, especially given the fact that an amazing stellar array of distinguished foreign policy and military experts who have identified climate change and fossil fuel dependency as a strategic vulnerability for this country, and why they have argued that we ought to move forward aggressively dealing with climate change, dealing with energy efficiency because it strengthens America, rather than sending dollars, as you point out, to people who don't necessarily share our interests or our beliefs. It has been pointed out more than once that we are financing both sides of the war on terror.

But I would like to turn, if I could, to my friend from Memphis, Congressman Cohen, who started us off this evening with a terrific 1-minute observation about Dr. Hanson's retirement. We would welcome your thoughts and further observations about our moving forward.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Well, the threats are manyfold.

One is just when we are subjecting our armed services to try and deal with the extremes that you talked about, it's unpredictable. They have to be dealing with drought and with flood extreme weather events. When we find the disruption that occurs in other parts of the world with drought and with famine, it provides an instability that creates a security challenge for us. And the fact that we are vulnerable still, in terms of energy supply for the United States and for our allies and the world economy can be held hostage, all of these were part of this challenge.

Last but not least, the Department of Defense, the United States military, is the largest consumer of energy in the world. Energy supply, energy cost, energy efficiency is a matter of military readiness and operational efficiency. When we spend $18 billion for air-conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan, that's a drain on the budget. When we are sending to the front tanker trucks, because we are so dependent on fossil fuel, they might as well have a great big bull's-eye on them. We've lost thousands of Americans on these fuel convoys.

Being able to be energy efficient, being able to stretch the dollars, being able to promote American security is all part of an equation where these experts are saying, it ought to be a no-brainer to move forward with energy efficiency. Security experts are deeply concerned about the disruptive impact globally of this uncertain climate effect.

I notice that we are joined by my colleague from the State of Oregon, Congresswoman Bonamici, who has long exercised leadership in areas of environment and energy in her previous career as a distinguished State legislator in Oregon. I welcome her and would invite comments in conversation with us.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. I appreciate that comment. I was just thinking, as you were describing the threats on our Oregon coast, to what we just read in the Washington Post a couple of days ago here where the impacts of climate change are having a profound effect on the blue crab, breeding a super crab that's actually growing more rapidly; at the same time, climate impacts are weakening the oysters, making them more vulnerable, so the potential here of completely disrupting this critical part of the ecosystem in the Chesapeake Bay.

I appreciate very much your joining in this conversation. I wish that my Republican friends would join us in the invitation to actually debate this issue in the finest tradition of the House of Representatives. There was a time when, in this Chamber, there were echoes of great challenge, debate, where people went back and forth with ideas to be able to bring out the best in us. We actually saw that when the Republicans took control 23 months ago, one of the first things they did was abolish the Special Committee on Climate Change and Global Warming, and since then we haven't really had an opportunity to engage in this fashion.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Absolutely.

Those 11 weather disasters last year cost us over $60 billion. It's also creating uncertainty in agriculture and in the business of insurance where it's more difficult for them to be able to calculate what they're doing. It places more burden on the Federal Government because in many cases there aren't private alternatives available. That's why we had to create flood insurance. You're touching on an area that has profound economic consequences because of this environmental instability.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. It's very important for us to take a step back and evaluate exactly what the economic employment opportunities are because things that we do to rebuild and renew America in a sustainable way--Keystone has a few thousand temporary construction jobs and maybe a handful--I've heard various estimates--a few dozen, a couple hundred permanent jobs and has, as you pointed out, significant environmental consequences.

But when we're investing in wind, solar, geothermal, these are areas that are producing far more jobs already and that they are using a sustainable source of energy that pays a continuing dividend over time. This wind is American. This geothermal energy is American. It's renewable, and it doesn't cost us anything.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Well, energy transmission is something that is a part of the broader equation.

Pipeline reliability is something that we all need to be concerned about. More fundamentally, we need to deal with the sources of energy, what is driving them, how we reduce carbon emissions, not sort of how we shift the pieces around. The priority, I think, ought to be sustainable energy, more economic investment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, not cooking the planet.

I recently had my first two grandchildren in a course of a few months. It was interesting to me--some of these dry debates that we have that talk about by 2100, sea levels may rise 3 or 4--that always seemed kind of remote to me until I realized that these two young men, if they live as long as their great-grandmother, will be alive in the year 2100, and what we do as a Congress helps shape the world that they inherit.

That's our responsibility. That's why I deeply appreciate both of you being a part of this discussion this evening and why I hope that our Republican friends will join us in an actual debate of these policies, practices, what the choices are. Hopefully, it may actually lead to action in the floor of the House for a more sustainable future.


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