Frank R. Lautenberg


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Thank you Madam Chairman for holding today’s forum on the biggest environmental threat of our time.

I want to start today by talking about the Doomsday Clock.

The Doomsday Clock is maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group of international experts who are committed to our – QUOTE – “security, science and survival.”

The hands on the clock convey how close the human race is to destroying itself—the metaphoric “midnight,” or the end of life as we know it.

In the past, the clock moved closer to midnight because of nuclear weapons or war. But this year, the Doomsday Clock was pushed two minutes closer to midnight because of global warming.

Stephen Hawking, the scholar and scientist said, – QUOTE – “Terror only kills hundreds or thousands of people. Global warming could kill millions. We should have a war on global warming…”

The U.S. needs to actively engage in the war on global warming. And it starts with this committee.

The average temperature in the United States in 2006 was two-point-two degrees warmer than the average temperature throughout the twentieth century, according to NOAA.

And this is no anomaly—it is a recurring fact: the last seven five-year periods were the warmest five-year periods on record.

And as temperatures rise, our world suffers: The Polar Bear, long a symbol of the wilderness, may soon have a new home: the “Threatened Species List.”

Their habitat has already melted away so much that some bears have drowned swimming and looking for food.

The ocean is being altered. We know the ocean level is rising, threatening coastlines across the globe.

In Germany, the Alps could lose nearly three-quarters of its glacial mass this century, according to the World Glacier Monitoring Service.

Back in the United States, the glaciers in Glacier National Park are shrinking. The park’s largest glaciers are one-third of their 1850’s grandeur. If what the scientists say is accurate, Glacier National Park will have to drop the word “Glacier” from its name.

We also know the Pentagon sees security risks from global warming. A 2003 Department of Defense report begins by saying – QUOTE – “There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century.”

That same report says that Bangladesh could become nearly uninhabitable because of a rising sea; mega-droughts could affect the world’s major breadbaskets, such as America’s Midwest—and future wars could be fought over the issue of survival in this new, hotter climate.

So here is Congress’s choice: Deny these real and rising impacts of global warming?
Or do what our citizens sent us here to do—confront them?

The answer is as obvious as the problem. We simply have to act.

And here is what we need to do:

We need to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other facilities that pollute.

We need to increase CAFÉ standards to get car and truck emissions down, and dependence on foreign oil down, too.

We need to create incentives for cities and companies to go green and build green.

We must end the censorship and suppression of government scientists who do critical research on global warming.

And we must do all of this right now.

The public is taking better care of our environment—and they want to do more. People are buying cars based on fuel efficiency, for example.

Some in the private sector are taking better care of our environment. Last week, we had CEO’s from some of America’s largest companies, such as General Electric and DuPont, call for strong, national legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s time for the federal government to wake up and do its part.

This year, I am proud to co-sponsor Senator Sanders’ ‘Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act’, which calls for an eighty percent reduction in global warming pollutants by 2050.

And I will be introducing the ‘High Performance Green Buildings Act’ with Senators Snowe and Boxer. I also want to thank former Senator Jim Jeffords for his work on this issue.

Buildings—from small apartments to skyscrapers—account for nearly forty percent of our greenhouse gases. And the federal government can have a major impact, because it is the biggest landlord in the country.

So our bill promotes energy efficiency in the design and maintenance of federal buildings. And with greater efficiency, we get fewer greenhouse gases.

On Friday in Paris, the International Panel on Climate Change will release its long-awaited report on global warming; the work of twenty-five hundred scientists. It will paint a vivid portrait of how global warming is affecting our planet.

With this report as a catalyst, my hope is that we can answer the Doomsday Clock’s call—and take real action to protect future generations from the threat of global warming.

Our children and grandchildren cannot afford us waiting any more.

Thank you Madam Chairman.

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