Statement of Senator Max Baucus
Hearing on Climate Change
July 17, 1997

Mr. Chairman, let me just make a few brief observations. Last week we heard from the scientists. They presented what I thought was some solid evidence and a thoughtful argument that future changes in our climate caused by human activity is a potentially serious, if not absolutely certain, outcome.

To me that means the potential consequences are too serious to ignore. And if we begin to take modest steps now to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, we may start making progress toward that goal without encountering serious economic disruptions.

As with many issues around here, our task is to find the right balance between maximizing the benefits of a policy and minimizing any adverse consequences from it. And as we were told last week, the sooner we start, the better this country will be able to achieve that result.

My second point is that if we are to succeed in limiting worldwide emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, we must have greater participation by at least the major developing countries.

After all, this is called global climate change. And if the major global players are not part of the solution, the prospects for success will be pretty slim.

Perhaps this is an area in which we need to broaden our thinking. I've spent a good deal of time looking at China's role in the world, especially from the trade standpoint. The U.S. has a lot of issues to deal with China on. Some of these are issues on which we have fundamental disagreements.

But there are many others on which we share mutual interests. And climate surely is one of them. China has more people potentially at risk from rising sea levels and violent weather than any other nation.

It also has a desperate need to increase its domestic energy supplies. And if there is no change, China will be contributing one-third of the additional greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years.

So looking at the broad array of issues on the U.S.-China table, we should be able to find ways to gain their support on this issue. As I've said many times, our disagreements with China should not stop us from engaging with them on issues where we can both make progress.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, whatever our ultimate policy on climate change will be, it needs the support of the American people.

I believe there is a compelling case to be made. That is why I welcome the President's decision to become more personally involved in this effort.

The toughest issues for democracies to handle are those in which the threat to society builds gradually, but inexorably, over time. We deal well with immediate crises. I hope that it will not take such an event to spur action on this issue.