Full Committee Hearing: "Update on the Latest Climate Change Science
and Local Adaptation Measures"
August 1, 2012
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Climate change is real, human activities are the primary cause, and the warming planet poses a significant risk to people and the environment. To declare otherwise, in my view, is putting the American people in danger - direct danger.
The body of evidence is overwhelming, the world's leading scientists agree, and predictions of climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes. The purpose of this hearing is to share with the Committee the mountain of scientific evidence that has increased substantially over time: time that we should have used to reduce carbon pollution - the main cause of climate change.
In 2011, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released the final report on climate. It concluded, "climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems," and "The preponderance of the evidence points to human activities as the most likely cause for most of the global warming that has occurred over the last 50 years...."
Even some former climate deniers now see the light. Just this past weekend, Professor Richard Muller - a self-proclaimed climate skeptic - wrote the following in the New York Times:
"Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause."
Claims by the remaining skeptics are overcome with an examination of the facts.
At the first hearing of this Committee when I became Chairman on January 30, 2007, I invited all Senators to give their views on climate change. More than one-third of the Senate spoke out, and most warned of the dangers that climate change would bring unless we acted.
Senator McCain said, "We are no longer just talking about how climate change will affect 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 events -- all are examples of how climate change is impacting us. We need to act to mitigate and adapt to these devastating events." He was right then.
Senator Snowe said, "Arctic glaciers and polar ice caps millions of years old are melting. Sea levels are rising globally. Our own federal agency, [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)], report[ed] that 2006 was the warmest year since regular temperature records began in 1895 and the past nine years have been among the 25 warmest years on record for the contiguous U.S." She was right then.
More than five years later, we continue to see evidence that the climate is changing around us through trends in extreme weather, and we simply cannot afford to ignore these warnings.
There are many examples of how the climate is continuing to change around us. NOAA reported in June that the previous twelve months had been the warmest 12-month period the nation had experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895. Many cities set all-time temperature records during the month of June - over 170 all-time warm temperature records were broken or tied.
As of July 3, 56 percent of the contiguous U.S. experienced moderate to exceptional drought conditions. Scientists at NOAA have confirmed that the record-breaking Texas drought was strongly influenced by climate change.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported last month that an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan broke off of Greenland - a phenomenon that is expected to be repeated as the climate continues to warm.
Scientists have also linked warming of the oceans to the emergence of a group of bacteria in the Baltic Sea in North Europe.
These recent events make it clear that the climate continues to change and the likelihood of extreme events is growing greater, which puts our nation and our people at risk.
In 2008, Congress blocked action and we have lost valuable time to address this threat. But some progress has been made. The Obama administration deserves credit for moving forward with measures to reduce pollution and improve the nation's energy efficiency while saving money.
The Administration's new automobile efficiency standards will reduce carbon pollution by over 6 billion tons while saving consumers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the life of these vehicles.
The General Services Administration (GSA) has reduced energy consumption by nearly 20% over 2003 levels. By 2020, GSA expects to increase its renewable energy production and procurement to 30 percent of annual energy consumption.
According to the Brookings Institution, in 2010, 2.7 million workers were employed at more than 40,000 companies across the nation in the clean economy sector.
And bipartisan proposals such as the Bennett-Isakson SAVE Act, which would reduce barriers to homeowner energy efficiency improvements, offer ways to reduce harmful carbon pollution.
We cannot turn away from the mountain of evidence that climate change has already started to impact the planet and will only grow worse without action. Leading scientists who are testifying today on the latest science will reinforce that point.
Taking action to address this serious problem will benefit us and future generations. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.