Statement of Senator Jon S. Corzine
Committee on Environment and Public Works
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to commend you for holding this hearing on what I believe to be the most important environmental issue that we face—climate change. Mr. Chairman, this issue is enormously complex in every aspect. Scientifically. Economically. Politically.
But complexity is no excuse for inattention or inaction. Because the health and viability of the global ecosystems upon which we all depend are at stake.
I won’t dwell here on the range and scope of potential climate change impacts, which are well documented elsewhere. Suffice it to say that no other issue that will come before this Committee demands more serious attention.
So I look forward to today’s testimony on science and mitigation options, and I hope that this hearing is the beginning of a sustained effort.
Because the time to act is now.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its Third Assessment Report, and the science is increasingly clear and alarming.
We know 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.
We know 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.
We know that without concerted action by the U.S. and other countries, greenhouse gases will continue to increase.
Finally, we know that climate models have improved, and that these models 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.
Mr. Chairman, when I consider these findings, I conclude that we need to begin now to mitigate climate change. We can and should improve the science of climate change. But a call for more research should not obscure or minimize what we already know.
Mr. Chairman, the Senate—and the Environment Committee in particular—needs to provide leadership on this issue. President Bush has pulled back from the Kyoto protocol, leaving a policy vacuum in his wake. He has pledged to craft an alternative to Kyoto, but in the meantime, he will soon issue an energy policy proposal that, by all reports, will not address climate change in a meaningful way. If this is true—and I sincerely hope that it is not—then we can only conclude that President Bush is not serious about addressing climate change.
So the task of dealing with climate change would appear to fall to us. Mr. Chairman, current and future generations are depending on us. To give you one example, the people of New Jersey are depending on me to protect their treasured Atlantic Ocean beaches. Like all coastal areas, these beaches are threatened by projected changes in sea levels due to climate change. I am concerned about this impact. And I am concerned about climate change impacts across New Jersey, the country and the globe.
So I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. I hope that they can help us to identify sensible mitigation policy options that the Committee can continue to work on. Thank you.