Hearings - Testimony
 
FULL COMMITTEE: "Senators' Perspectives on Global Warming."
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
 
Senator John McCain

Madame Chairman, let me thank you for calling today=s hearing to discuss the most important environmental issue of our time:  climate change.

 

 

 

Over the past several years, a number of my colleagues and I have spent considerable time studying the issue of climate change.  We have traveled around the globe to see first hand the impacts of climate change and how it is changing the lives of people even as we speak.  I am pleased to have visited Alaska, Antarctica, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South America, Norway, and other parts of the Arctic region.  Let me say, if anyone remains in doubt that climate change is real, I invite them to visit some of these  places to see for themselves. 

 

 

 

The number of individuals in Washington who reject the clear evidence of global warming appears to be shrinking as its dramatic manifestations mount.  A large number of prominent scientists, industry leaders, environmentalists, state and local government officials, the faith-based community, and others agree that climate change is real and we must move quickly to address the problem in a meaningful and sustainable manner. 

 

 

 

We are no longer just talking about  how climate change will effect our children=s and grandchildren=s lives, as we did just a few years ago, but we now are talking about how it is already impacting the world.  Drought, declining snow packs, forest fires, melting ice caps, species dislocation and habitat loss, and extreme weather eventsBall are examples of how climate change is impacting us.  We need to act to mitigate and adapt to these devastating events.

 

 

 

More and more Americans are acknowledging that climate change is not only real, but that our action is critical.  On Monday of last week, a coalition of major U.S.-based businesses, with a combined market capitalization of over $750 billion, joined with environmental organizations to call upon our federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to achieve significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.  The members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership recognize that setting the ground rules now for managing greenhouse gasses will unleash American ingenuity in an all out effort to meet this complicated challenge.

 

 

 

In their letter to President Bush, the coalition said that, Aproperly constructed policy can be economically sustainable, environmentally responsible, and politically achievable.  Swift legislative action on our proposal would encourage innovation and provide needed U.S. leadership on this global challenge.@   They further stated that AYclimate change will create more economic opportunities than risks for the U.S. economy.@  I agree.

 

 

 


While action at the national level is essentialCand it will eventually occur because the American public will demand itCI am pleased to also mention progress that is already being made at the state and local levels.

 

 

 

B          Just six months ago, the state of California enacted legislation requiring mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the first of its kind in the nation.  That legislation would require that California=s emissions be reduced to the year 1990 levels by the year 2020. 

 

 

 

B          The Northeast states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont agreed in December 2005 to implement a "cap-and-trade" program to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  This effort is continuing to grow as evidenced by the state of Massachusetts joining this regional effort two weeks ago.

 

 

 

B          Also two weeks ago, an alliance of prominent U.S. scientists and members of the faith community agreed to work together to push for a reduction in the Nation=s greenhouse gas emissions.  In their joint statement, the group said that Earth is "seriously imperiled by human behavior" and called on Americans to "steward the natural world in order to preserve [the planet] for ourselves and future generations@.

 

 

 

B          And, the U.S. mayors have also agreed to take action.  Over 375 U.S. mayors, representing over 55 million people, have signed an agreement calling for emission reductions of 7 percent below the 1990 levels by the year 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Madam Chairman, we will continue to learn more about the science of climate change and the dangerous precedence of not addressing this environmental problem.  The science tells us that urgent and significant action is needed.

 

 

 

Later this week, we expect to receive from the United Nation=s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a summary of their Fourth Assessment Report.  Some well respected scientists are already calling it the Asmoking gun@ and the Aiconic statement@ on the issue of global warming. 

 

 

 

             We recognize that many fear the costs of taking action.  But there are costs to delay as well.  Failure to implement significant reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions in the near term will yield only more climate change and a much harder job in the future.  Simply stated, inaction is unsustainable.

 

 

 

As Senator Lieberman and I have continued working for passage of legislation to address climate change in a meaningful way, and are continuing our efforts to further improve upon our legislation with the goal of producing the most innovative, meaningful, and economically feasible measure that can be embraced by the Senate,  it has become clear to us that any responsible climate change measure must contain five essential components:

 

 

 


First, it must have rational, mandatory emission reduction targets and timetables.   It must be goal oriented, and have both environmental and economic integrity.  Let us realize that the climate system reacts not to emission intensity but to atmospheric concentration levels.  We need policy that will produce necessary reductions, not merely check political boxes.  The reductions must be feasible and based on sound science, and this is what we have tried to do in our bill.  We realized that this problem is an environmental problem with significant economic implications and not an economic problem with significant environmental implications.  

 

 

 

Second, it must utilize a market-based, economy wide Acap and trade@ system.    It must limit greenhouse gas emissions and allow the trading of emission credits across the economy to drive enterprise, innovation and efficiency.  This is the central component of our legislation.  Voluntary efforts will not change the status quo, taxes are counterproductive, and markets are more dependable than regulators in effecting sustainable change.

 

 

 

Third, it must include mechanisms to minimize costs and work effectively with other markets.  The Atrade@ part of Acap and trade@ is such a mechanism, but it=s clear it must be bolstered by other assurances that costs will be minimized.  I am as concerned as anyone about the economic impacts associated with any climate change legislation.  I know that many economists are developing increasingly sophisticated ways to project future costs of compliance.  Lately, we have seen the increased interest in this area of research.  As we learn more from these models about additional action items to further reduce costs, we intend to incorporate them.  Already, based upon earlier economic analysis, we have added Aoffsets@ provisions in this bill in an effort to minimize costs and to provide for the creation of new markets.  And, I assure my colleagues, we will continue to seek new and innovative ways to further minimize costs.  Let me again mention what the coalition of CEO=s of major US-based companies and environmental groups said last week, AIn our view, the climate change challenge will create more economic opportunities than risks for the U.S. economy.@

 

 

 

Fourth, it must spur the development and deployment of advanced technology.  Nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy must be part of the equation and we need a dedicated national commitment to develop and bring to market the technologies of the future as a matter of good environmental and economic policy.  There will be a growing global market for these technologies and the U.S. will benefit greatly from being competitive and capturing its share of these markets.  Our legislation includes a comprehensive technology title that would go a long way toward meeting this goal.  Unlike the Energy bill, it would be funded using the proceeds from the auctioning of allowable emission credits, rather than from the use of taxpayers= funds or appropriations that will never materialize. 

 

 

 


And fifth, it must facilitate international efforts to solve the problem.  Global warming is an international problem requiring an international effort.  The United States has an obligation to lead.  If we don=t lead proactively, we will find ourselves following.  There is no in between.  However, our leadership cannot replace the need for action by countries such as India and China.  We must spur and facilitate it.  We have added provisions that would allow U.S. companies to enter into partnerships in developing countries for the purpose of conducting projects to achieve certified emission reductions, which may be traded on the international market.

 

 

 

These five components represent a serious challenge that will require a great deal of effort, the concentration of substantial intellectual power, and the continued efforts of our colleagues and those in the environmental, industrial, economic, and national security communities.  I look forward to collaborating with the Committee in this effort as we continue to shape our legislation into its most effective form.

 

 

 

Madame Chairman, I believe that Senator Lieberman has already provided the Committee with a thorough description of our bill, S. 280, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007.  I won=t seek to repeat it.  However, I would like to address one issue that I know has been of concern  for some on the Committee, and that is the topic of nuclear energy.

 

 

 

I know that some here maintain strong objections to nuclear energy, even though today it supplies nearly 20 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. and much higher proportions in places such as France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland B  countries that are not exactly known for their environmental disregard.  The fact is, nuclear energy is CLEAN.  It produces ZERO emissions in operations.  It has the lowest carbon footprint, and is, therefore, undeniably a valuable tool for reigning in greenhouse gas emissions both quickly and economically.

 

 

 

Nuclear energy is growing, and it will continue to grow substantially in the coming decades given the growing electricity needs around the world.  Not only should we promote U.S. companies in their efforts to compete for important roles in this growing market throughout the world, we should be helping them in promoting nuclear in a safe and efficient manner here in the United States.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is under this Committee=s jurisdiction, is already preparing for a substantial number of license applications for new plants.  I am confident that this committee, under the Chairman=s and Ranking Member=s leadership, will work to ensure that safety remains first and foremost among the NRC=s responsibilities, as it must. 

 

 

 

Finally, I, too recognize and share the concerns of what to do with nuclear waste.  I am confident that given political will and time for technology development and deployment, we can solve that problem.  It is important to recognize the responsible waste management that occurs in the nuclear industry today. Yet, while there is a great concern over comparatively small quantities of responsibly managed  nuclear waste, there is an even more dangerous event occurring under our noses.  And that is 900 tons of carbon dioxide per second being dumped in the atmosphere from fossil fuel use.  Now that is a an urgent waste problem that should be concerning us most.

 

 

Therefore, I hope we can have a thorough debate about the importance of nuclear energy and its future as we grapple with how best to address global warming.  We need to better understand what is necessary to bring new, safe and reliable nuclear power plants on line.  I hope that we can work together, Madame Chairman, to ensure we put all options on the table so that the Senate can pass the most innovative, effective, and economically feasible climate change legislation possible.

 

 

 

The status quo is a strong and stubborn force.  People and institutions are averse to change, even when that change is critical for their own well-being, and that of their children and grandchildren.  If the scientists are right and temperatures continue to rise, we could face environmental, economic, and national security consequences far beyond our ability to imagine.  If they are wrong and the Earth finds a way to compensate for the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, what will we have accomplished?  Cleaner air; greater energy efficiency, a more diverse and secure energy mix, and U.S. leadership in the technologies of the future.  There is no doubt; failure to act is the far greater risk. 

 

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