Senator Daniel K. Akaka

Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Senators' Perspectives on Global Warming
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
January 30, 2007

Thank you, Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Inhofe, and Members of the Environment and Public Works Committee for holding this hearing today. I commend my friend and colleague, Senator Boxer, and our new colleague Senator Sanders, for their hard work and efforts to continue the legacy of Senator Jim Jeffords on the critical topic of global warming. I congratulate them both on the re-introduction of S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007, of which I am an original cosponsor.

I also commend Senators McCain and Lieberman for increasing awareness on the issue over the last five years and introducing their groundbreaking legislation. In addition, I thank Senator Bingaman for his leadership in putting forward a cap and trade bill that I supported during debate on the 2005 Energy bill and in the critical Senate vote in 2005. The cumulative effects of this discussion and debate are gratifying and I believe we have the momentum to move our country forward.

The global warming debate began in Hawaii over 30 years ago when the Mauna Loa Climate Observatory first documented evidence of increased carbon dioxide levels in the earth's atmosphere. The international scientific community now concurs that human activities are altering the climate system. It is important that the U.S., which is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases be accountable as a leader in reducing emissions and combating the threats resulting from global warming. This bill, S. 309, is one of several that we will be considering during this Congress and it is comprehensive legislation that will assist in decreasing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

I have spoken before about the fact that my home state of Hawaii is disproportionately susceptible to increases in sea level and ocean temperature, which jeopardize public safety, economic development, cultural resources, and the health of our unique island ecosystems and wildlife. It is clear that coastal states will also face similar challenges caused by sea level rise resulting in flooding of low-lying property, loss of coastal wetlands, beach erosion, saltwater contamination of drinking water, and damage to coastal roads and bridges.

In addition, I have great concern for the public health implications for tropical and subtropical areas like my state, Pacific island nations, and states along the Atlantic, Carribean, and Gulf coasts. Scientists warn us that global warming will intensify the likelihood of severe weather events and overall warming, and that these trends are likely to lead to a number of public health issues, such as the growth and spread of infectious diseases, air pollution and asthma, and water-born diseases. In fact, the group Physicians for Social Responsibility has called responding to global warming “a public health imperative.”

As stewards of our planet, immediate action is needed to reverse current trends and actively seek solutions to curb the buildup of greenhouse gases. S. 309 sets energy efficiency targets to assist both the industry and energy consumers in meeting these standards. This legislation lays out ambitious goals and necessary incentives to minimize U.S. emissions and assist in the stabilization of global atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

We must invest in technology research to control greenhouse gas emissions. Encouraging renewable energy technologies will play a crucial role in successfully meeting the objectives of this legislation. This investment will also boost economic activity and create jobs in the U.S. Much is at stake and I am pleased that the U.S. can now take a leadership role in promoting responsible energy use on a global level.

Under the guidance provided by this bill, I firmly believe the state of Hawaii, along with the rest of the United States, will be poised to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to enact legislation that will improve the health of our planet and the quality of life for all Americans.