Ladies and gentleman of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to come before and speak on this very important issue. I would like to especially thank Senator Boxer for her leadership and energy on climate change. She has been out front on this from the beginning and I look forward to working with her in this Congress.
In 2003, when the Climate Stewardship Act came up for a vote in the Senate, I opposed it. It was one of the most difficult votes I have taken in the Senate. I was concerned that the bill could drive up utility rates, with energy companies forced to use more expensive fuels or forced to develop new infrastructure, with the attendant costs being passed on to consumers. In a state like mine, with pervasive crippling poverty, even a $5 a month increase is significant. Now, I stand before you as not only a supporter of the Climate Stewardship Act, but an original co-sponsor. Many have asked, what changed? The answer is simple; it is abundantly clear that we must take action on this issue now if we are to have any hope of correcting it. We are stewards of this nation and this planet, and our ultimate responsibility is to leave it a better place for our children. I fear that if we do not take action soon, we will have lost our chance to do so.
Let me give you an example from my home state of Arkansas. Recently, my husband and I took our two boys, Reece and Bennett, duck hunting. My husband and I both grew up in duck blinds with our fathers, and our fathers spent many cold mornings in duck blinds with their fathers. It is something that generations of our family have enjoyed. Recently, a study by Arkansas State University revealed the potential effects global warming could have on duck populations and migration patterns in Arkansas. What they found was not surprising. Ducks migrating from North were not coming as far down the continent as they once did, likely because they didn’t have to fly as far to find a climate that was acceptable to them. While the Northern and middle parts of the country are experiencing increasing numbers of ducks, the Southern Region is seeing decreases. If climate change were to continue on its current path it is not too far fetched to say that ducks could stop migrating to the deep south altogether as warmer temperatures in more northern regions would reduce their need to do so. As the study points out, the effect on the small communities whose economy depends on hunting season could be devastating.
My objection to supporting the Climate Stewardship Act in 2003 was based on economics, but as the above example illustrates, the economic impacts are far from straight forward. It is time that we begin to ask serious questions about not just the cost of action, but the cost of inaction. Those costs can be quantified, but they can also be psychological. My husband and I want my boys to have the opportunity to hunt on the same lands that their grandfathers and our grandfathers hunted on. It is my belief that the only way this can happen is if we take significant action in the near future.
I want to again thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to speak on this important issue and look forward to working with you during this Congress.