Washington, DC – Ten United States Senators returned Sunday from a two-day trip to Greenland to view the effects of global warming, and to learn more about the impacts of changing climate on the ice and glaciers of the world’s largest island.
U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ranking member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, co-led the weekend trip to Kangerlussuaq and Ilulissat on Greenland’s west coast. Participants viewed first-hand the effects of increasing global temperatures on Greenland’s ice sheets and glaciers, visiting the Kangia Ice Fjord near Illulissat on Saturday, and touring iceberg-filled Disko Bay by boat on Sunday. The Kangia glacier, already one of the world’s fastest moving two decades ago, has doubled its speed since then, an acceleration scientists say is driven by rising global temperatures.
Accompanying the Senators on the trip was Dr. Richard Alley, a professor at Pennsylvania State University who is one of the world’s foremost experts on ice and global warming. Dr. Alley was lead author for the pivotal Working Group I report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and will brief Senators and answer questions during the trip. Senators were also briefed by Danish climate scientist Dr. Minik Rosing, PhD.
In addition to visiting the ice sheets and glaciers, Senators met with environmental officials of the Danish government including Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard, and Greenland Minister of the Environment Arkalo Abelsen.
The following Senators took part in the trip: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA); Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL); Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD); Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT); Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Senator Boxer said: “It’s one thing to hear about the Greenland ice sheet; it’s another thing to see it. It’s one thing to read about the impacts of global warming on the native people there; it’s another thing to have them look you in the eye and tell you. After this trip, with nine of my colleagues, and scientists, and experts, I know I have a responsibility to move now to lessen the impacts of severe global warming. We can do it in a way that actually makes us stronger as a nation and that is my goal.”
Senator Mikulski said, “Viewing the vast Greenland ice first hand underscored the magnitude of the potential consequences of unchecked global warming, since melting Greenland’s ice would cause a 23-foot rise in sea levels worldwide. The economic and ecological impacts could be devastating for our country, and could trigger international consequences, from refugees to the food chain. For Maryland’s economy, the impacts would be severe, since a significant portion of our state would be under water, affecting everything from our farms and beaches to the Digital Harbor. Action is necessary, and must start now. Sound solutions require sound science, adequately funded, and free from political interference and gag orders. It is up to Congress to make that happen.”
Senator Lautenberg said, “We saw first hand the effects that global warming will have on the Atlantic seaboard. We learned how climate change – caused by humans – is threatening entire societies and their way of life. We need to put our strengths, skills and leadership into confronting global warming now or our children and future generations will learn the cost of our inaction.”
Senator Cardin said, “Seeing the receding glaciers in Greenland showed us visible signs of global climate change. It helped me to understand our universal responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases, to protect our planet and our Maryland economy.”
Senator Sanders said, “It is shocking that something as huge as the Greenland ice sheet is at risk of being lost because of our actions - but this is the reality I witnessed firsthand this weekend. Along with a number of my bipartisan colleagues, we saw a sea of ice that holds much of our history literally melting away in front of our eyes. We heard from political leaders, scientists, and others that things are simply out of whack. The United States Congress must not wait another day to provide the international leadership global warming demands, leadership that the Bush administration has miserably failed to demonstrate. While there will be challenges in changing our behavior to reverse global warming, I strongly believe that the new opportunities for green jobs and a green economy are unlimited if we stand up and take bold action.”
Senator Klobuchar said, “The melting ice sheet of Greenland is the canary in the coal mine of climate change. It is a call to action for us all.”
Senator Whitehouse said, “Greenland is our planet’s distant early warning system for the effects of climate change. To see firsthand the changes at the ice cap, and to hear firsthand of hunters who can no longer take dog sleds out on the ice because it isn’t there, is a powerful reminder that this system is sending us a warning.”