“Madam Chair, I’m honored to be here with you to talk about this important subject. I’m especially glad to be here at a time where this discussion has advanced beyond whether or not global warming exists but to what the solutions are to solve it.
“I respect the leadership of so many of my colleagues on this issue, the work that’s being done on a bipartisan basis. Especially my friend, the new Senator Sanders who showed his usual chivalry by allowing me to go first today. Thank you.
“As a member of this committee, as well as the Agriculture and Commerce committees, I look forward to being very engaged in seeking positive bipartisan solutions to global warming. These solutions should build on our efforts to develop homegrown energy sources, so we can move away from our dependency on foreign oil.
“Every day, Congress makes decisions that have a great impact on the American people and people throughout the world. But our decisions on global warming may well be the ones that have the most profound impact on our future generations and on the very fate of the earth.
“Madam Chair, in Minnesota, we love the outdoors and we take pride in the richness and beauty of our natural resources. We protect our forests and our prairies, our lakes and rivers, our diverse wildlife and abundant farmland.
“It’s January now in Minnesota – and this past weekend the temperatures in my state were below zero. We’ve had the Winter Carnival going on, Ice Box Days in International Falls – we always welcome you to visit. But many people here might wonder why Minnesotans would be concerned if it warmed up a few degrees.
“Well, we are concerned – we’re deeply concerned. We are concerned for ourselves and for the rest of the world. We are concerned for the impact of global warming and the effect it’s already having.
“Global warming is on the rise, with enormous consequences for our world and our economy.
“2006 was the hottest year ever in this country, capping a nine-year streak unprecedented in the historical record. December in Minnesota felt more like October. Our ice fishing seasons are shorter and our skiers and snowmobilers haven’t seen much snow.
“Worldwide, glaciers are rapidly melting. Just last week, it was reported that glaciers in the European Alps will be all but gone by the year 2050. Experts worry that within 25 years, there won’t be a single glacier in Glacier National Park.
“We’ve seen record storms all across the world. Globally, sea levels have risen 4 to 10 inches over the past century. The frequency of extremely heavy rainfalls has increased throughout much of the United States.
“The impact is especially dire in Greenland and the Arctic region. The temperature changes there have been the greatest, resulting in widespread melting of glaciers, thinning of the polar ice cap and rising permafrost temperatures.
“In Minnesota, stewardship for the environment is a part of our heritage and it has been an especially important part of preserving our economy. So global warming is an issue that strikes us close to home.
“That’s why I want to mention several notable Minnesotans who are trying to draw attention to global warming and its impact on our planet.
“They are adventurer-explorers who have gone – literally – to the ends of the earth. Not just to pursue adventure, but also to pursue greater knowledge and an understanding of our place in the world – for the benefit of all of us.
“Will Steger is one of these Minnesotans, and he is a good friend of mine.
“He has led the first dogsled expedition to the North Pole and the first dogsled crossing of Antarctica.
“Next month, he embarks on a new expedition – a four-month, 1,200-mile trip by dogsled through the Canadian Arctic. And later this year, he plans to kayak around masses of melting sea ice in Antarctica. I figure if he can do this, we can get a bipartisan bill.
“At age 62, why is Will Steger doing these things? It’s to promote greater public awareness of global warming and the urgent need for action. He says his many journeys over the past four decades have shown him firsthand the effects of global warming.
“During the past year, he has been in practically every church basement and every community center meeting room in Minnesota to talk about this subject.
“A friend says that Will’s new determination is rooted in sorrow. ‘He’s watching the places he loves melt away’ – literally. But Will’s message is ultimately one of hope: He knows it is within our power to do something about it.
“‘Some people still don’t believe this is happening,’ he says. ‘But the even bigger danger is that some think we can’t do anything about it.’
“Another notable Minnesota adventurer-explorer who feels the same way is Ann Bancroft.
“She was a member of Will Steger’s North Pole expedition in 1986. She was also the first woman to cross both polar ice caps to reach the poles, and she was the first woman to ski across Greenland. In 2001, Ann and Norwegian adventurer Liv Arnesen, captivated millions of people worldwide as they fulfilled their childhood dream and became the first women to ski across Antarctica.
“And next month, she, too, is embarking on a new adventure: Ann and Liv are now preparing for an arduous 530-mile journey by foot across the frozen Arctic Ocean to the North Pole.
“Schoolchildren around the world will be able to follow them online, with a Web site charting their daily progress with videos, photos and audio postings.
“Ann Bancroft’s mission, like Will Steger’s, is to inspire action on global warming. She acknowledges that climate change is a major challenge that can't be solved easily or overnight, but her goal is to prove that small steps add up.
“Finally, there is one more Minnesota adventurer and outdoorsman I want to mention. He’s not quite in the same league as Will Steger and Ann Bancroft. But he’s in a class by himself. His name is Jim Klobuchar – and he’s my dad.
“For 30 years he was sportswriter and columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He’s also an avid mountain climber and hiker. Now in his 70s, he continues to operate an adventure travel club that, among other things, takes people to what he calls ‘the high places of the world’ – including the Himalayas, the Alps and Mount Kilimanjaro.
“My dad has been to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro five times. And he has told me that, each time he goes, he sees clear and dramatic signs of global warming there. The snow crown is visibly shrinking. Where he once trekked through snow, it is now dry land. And it keeps getting worse.
“Three decades ago, he went to the village of Gletsch in the Swiss Alps. He stayed at a hotel right on the very edge of the famous Rhone Glacier. But this glacier has already retreated hundreds of feet since the time he saw it. And now tourists come to watch it melt in front of their eyes.
“The stakes are high as they get.
“The American people are hoping this new Congress will, at last, confront the challenge of global warming. This is going to call for bipartisan, ambitious, comprehensive effort on the part of this Congress and also for an enlightened response from the business community who are already starting to see what the call to action that the other senators have mentioned.
“There is much work to be done and many stakeholders to consider. My colleagues here in the Senate that have begun this work have advanced a number of thoughtful proposals.
“There are several key elements that I hope to see in the final result:
- First, strong limits on economy-wide emissions of greenhouse gases,
- Some version of a cap and trade system,
- Strong renewable fuel content standards for cars and trucks,
- Incentives for both the manufacture and purchase of hybrid and flex-fuel vehicles.
- Strong renewable energy standards for electricity generation, so we can make greater use of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
- Aggressive federal support for research and development to build a new Manhattan Project for new energy sources.
- Finally, we need to stop to the giveaways and special favors for the big oil companies.
“One of the best things we can do both to respond to global warming and to achieve energy independence is to develop our homegrown renewable energy. We should be investing in the farmers and the workers of the Midwest instead of the oil cartels of the Mideast.
“Like most Americans and you Madam Chair, I’m an optimist. I believe in the power and promise of science, technology and innovation when we need to solve a problem. I believe in the intelligence and ingenuity of the American people when we are confronted with a challenge. And I believe in the capacity of our democratic system of government to make the right decisions for the good of our country.
“I think of the tremendous courage and determination of explorers like Will Steger and Ann Bancroft. With a single-minded focus, they overcame the most difficult hardships and obstacles imaginable to reach their destinations. That’s the American spirit.
“I believe we, too, can reach our destination: We can turn the corner on the devastating effects of global warming, and we can take giant strides toward energy independence.
“As you know, former Vice President – and former Senator – Al Gore has been a strong voice on the need to address the urgent challenges of global warming. He has stressed the importance of far-sighted, forward-looking leadership to tackle this issue.
“He recalls the words of General Omar Bradley at the end of World War II, when America was confronted by the challenge of building a new post-war world. The general said: ‘It is time we steered by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.’
“We, too, must now steer by the stars. And like explorers Will Steger and Ann Bancroft, we must do so with the determination to surmount the obstacles in our way to reach our goal.
“Thank you very much.”