Opening Statement of Ranking Member Barbara Boxer

EPW Hearing on Examining the Role of Environmental Policies on Access to Energy and Economic Opportunity

April 12, 2016

 (Remarks as prepared for delivery) 

Today’s hearing focuses on climate change and the environmental policies designed to address it. Unchecked climate change poses a threat to the health and safety of children and families and is a threat to our national security. That is why it is urgent that we take action.  

Climate change is happening all around us. The predictions scientists have made about climate change – higher temperatures, more extreme weather events, severe droughts, increased wildfires, decreasing polar ice, and rising sea levels – have become our reality. Let me give you just a few examples. 

  • 2015 was the hottest year on record, and 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century.
  • Earlier this year, scientists reported that sea levels are rising many times faster than they have in the last 2800 years.
  • The 2015 wildfire season was the costliest on record, with $1.71 billion spent. 

These changes to our climate pose a risk to our national security, because conditions like drought and lack of drinking water supplies contribute to crises around the world. 

The Department of Defense’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review clearly linked climate change with national security: 

“Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large…The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” 

Fortunately, the Obama Administration has taken critical steps to address this growing crisis by reducing dangerous carbon pollution. The efforts undertaken as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan include establishing new fuel economy and carbon standards for cars and heavy duty trucks; finalizing the Clean Power Plan, which will cut carbon pollution 32 percent from our power plants; and joining a coalition of 190 nations in reaching the Paris Climate agreement to reduce carbon emissions. 

The U.S. has always been a leader among other nations, and we are leading the way to address dangerous climate change. We know that we must cut harmful air pollution to protect the health and welfare of the American people, and our resolve has brought other countries to the table to make their own domestic commitments to reduce carbon pollution. 

The American public understands the need to act. According to a New York Times poll, two-thirds of Americans support the United States being part of an international treaty to limit the impacts of climate change. And a League of Conservation Voters poll found that 60% of American voters support the Clean Power Plan, and 70% of voters want their state to cooperate and develop a plan to implement these new standards.  

The American public wants action because they know the benefits of addressing climate change. 

When we reduce carbon pollution and expand clean energy, we grow our economy. You can’t outsource the installation of a solar roof or a large-scale wind facility. Those jobs, and the economic opportunity associated with them, are created right here in America. 

As we reduce carbon pollution, we will also improve public health. Just take a look at the Clean Power Plan. By 2030, the Clean Power Plan alone will annually prevent: 

  • 1,500 to 3,600 premature deaths;
  • Up to 1,700 heart attacks;
  • 90,000 asthma attacks in children; and
  • 300,000 missed workdays and schooldays by 2030; 

As I often say, if people can't breathe, they can't go to work.  It is our responsibility to protect our citizens from harmful carbon pollution.  

Climate change will impact the most vulnerable people in our society, and we have a moral responsibility to respond. That is why so many faith communities have recognized the dangers of climate change and called for action to address this crisis. 

I commend the Obama Administration for heeding this call. The time to act on climate change is now.