Statement of Senator Jon S. Corzine
Committee on Environment and Public Works
March 13, 2002
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you holding this hearing today on the economic and environmental risks of increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
I want to make just a few points before we begin to hear testimony from the panel.
THE SCIENCE WARRANTS ACTION
First, I think that the science warrants a hard look at risks and potential impacts. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its Third Assessment Report. The report as I read it indicated that the science is increasingly clear and alarming.
The report indicated that human activities, primarily fossil fuel combustion, have raised the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to the highest levels in the last 420,000 years.
The report further indicated that the planet is warming, and that the balance of the scientific evidence suggests that most of the recent warming can be attributed to increased atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Mr. Chairman, these IPCC findings were validated later in the year by the National Academy of Sciences.
Mr. Chairman, we also know that without concerted action by the U.S. and other countries, greenhouse gases emissions and concentrations will continue to increase. And climate models currently predict warming under all scenarios that have been considered. Even the smallest warming predicted by current models-2.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century-would represent the greatest rate of increase in global mean surface temperature in the last 10,000 years.
So while scientific uncertainty remains, I think the trend is clear. As a result, we need to focus on risks.
NEW JERSEY AND OTHER COASTAL STATES WILL BE IMPACTED BY CLIMATE CHANGE
For my state of New Jersey, Mr. Chairman, the threat of continued sea-level rise is one of the risks that I am most concerned about. With the exception of the 50 mile northern border with New York, New Jersey is surrounded by water. The state's Atlantic coastline stretches 27 miles. Fourteen of 21 counties have estuarine or marine shorelines. Rising sea level is already having impacts, by exacerbating coastal erosion, and causing inundation, flooding, and saline intrusions into ground water. The NJ coastal area also supports one of New Jersey's largest industries-tourism.
Sea level is rising more rapidly along the US coast than worldwide. Studies by EPA and others have estimated that along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, a one-foot rise in the sea level is likely by 2050 and could occur as soon as 2025. In the next century, a two-foot rise is most likely but a four-foot rise is possible. So I'm concerned about this risk to my home state.
WE NEED TO TAKE STEPS TO REDUCE RISKS
Given the state of the science and the risks we face, I think we need to take steps to reduce risks. The president's plan, which represents only an incremental step over business as usual, is simply not enough in my judgment.
At the state level, New Jersey is already taking aggressive steps to reduce emissions. The state has a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 3.5% below 1990 levels by 2005. Specifically, the plan would achieve a 6.2 million ton reduction through energy conservation initiatives in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, another 6.3 million ton reduction through innovative technologies in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, a 2.2 million ton reduction through energy conservation and innovative technologies in the transportation sector, a 4.5 million ton reduction through waste management improvements, and a half million ton reduction through natural resource conservation.
So I think what New Jersey is doing-under a plan that Governor Whitman got underway-shows that we can and should do much better than what the president proposed.
SUPPORT THE CLIMATE TITLES IN THE ENERGY BILL
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I want to urge my colleagues to support the climate change titles in the energy bill. In particular, I want to urge my colleagues to support the registry provisions in Title XI of the bill. These provisions will require the largest emitters to report greenhouse gas emissions-as utilities are already required to do. These provisions also enable companies that undertake emissions reductions to register them, so that they will receive credit for their actions if reductions are required at any point in the future.
Taken together, Mr. Chairman, I believe that these greenhouse gas registry provisions will provide a powerful incentive for companies to take actions to reduce emissions. I know you agree, as you are a cosponsor of S. 1870, a bill containing similar provisions that I introduced in December. The energy bill registry provisions represent a compromise between S. 1870 and related legislation in the Energy and Commerce committees, and I urge my colleagues to support them.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.