Thank you Chairwoman Boxer and Ranking Member Inhofe for inviting your colleagues to testify today on the important issue of global warming.
The question before us today is not should we act to address global warming. The question is how. Politicians are often portrayed as only having their sights on the next election, and being unwilling to make changes in the near-term in order to produce long-term benefits. I am delighted that this Committee is intent on seeking effective long-term solutions to this serious problem.
I was pleased to join you, Chairwoman Boxer, and several of our colleagues in co-sponsoring Senator Sanders’ bill, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. I believe this bill provides the leadership and the comprehensive, scientific-based approach to addressing global warming that Americans demand and deserve.
Leading climate scientists have identified 450 parts per million of atmospheric carbon dioxide and increases above 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels as the tipping point. To stay below these levels, this bill commits to incrementally reducing the United States’ emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and then to making further reductions between 2020 and 2050. I believe these goals are achievable using a combination of mandatory measures and incentives.
The bill also recognizes the importance of taking an economy-wide approach to addressing global warming, and not one that targets a single sector. Industry, power, transportation, and building sectors all have a role to play in reducing global warming-causing emissions. As many of my colleagues and I wrote to the President last year, by sending the right market signals and supporting the “deployment of existing technologies and development of new technologies to reduce emissions,” we can keep U.S. businesses competitive in the emerging carbon-conscious global marketplace. I am also heartened that the economy-wide approach is supported by the majority of the 160 organizations that attended last year’s conference hosted by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Another key component to addressing global warming is right in the name – global. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I was pleased to cosponsor, last Congress, a Lugar/Biden resolution on the need for the United States to reengage with the international community on climate change. We must continue to participate in international negotiations with the objective of securing United States participation in agreements that advance and protect our interests, establishing mitigation commitments by all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases, establishing flexible international mechanisms to minimize the cost of efforts by participating countries, and achieving a significant long-term reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. As of the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, I am concerned about the threats global warming pose to the continent of Africa. As we look to the future, we must address the consequences our global energy habits will have on less developed nations, in addition to the consequences on our own constituents.
I think we all agree there is no use in a plan that does little to reduce global warming-causing emissions and makes our economy vulnerable. I do not pretend that the decisions before us are going to be easy. However, with each passing year that we fail to act, the challenge of addressing global warming and reducing emissions becomes increasingly difficult and costly – not only economically but environmentally. The time to act is now.