VIDEO - In a Senate floor speech, he says “We don't have the luxury of waiting around…We need to act, and we need to act now.”
Several days after the end of the COP24 climate conference in Poland, Sen. Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, joined other Democrats on the Senate floor yesterday to discuss the urgent need for decisive action to fight climate change.
Carper highlighted the agreements reached at COP24, the Trump Administration’s ignorance of this issue and the economic, environmental and public health consequences of inaction.
“Americans are witnessing firsthand the effects of climate change in their communities every day…Yet, as the world works to develop meaningful solutions to mitigate these effects of climate change, the Trump Administration chooses to exacerbate the problem by doubling down on dirty and outdated energy policies," Carper said.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting around. We need to crank it up and get going. ... If we’re honest with our children and grandchildren, we don’t have any other choice…”
Carper’s Senate floor speech:
“Mr. President, I rise today with Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley to reflect on the 24th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that concluded this past weekend in Poland. This important conference, which is better known as COP24, met there for the past two weeks as leaders from nearly 200 countries worked to reach agreement on how the world will actually implement the Paris Climate Agreement.
“The stakes could not be higher. The future of our planet and the futures of our children and grandchildren hang in the balance. It was a positive step forward that the international community could come together and agree to meaningful action to combat climate change on a global scale by finally beginning to implement the Paris Agreement into practice. Having said that, however, this agreement is not perfect, and no one is pretending it is. It falls well short of the steps that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined, just months ago, are needed to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change over the next decade.
“The entire world must be doing even more to address this problem. That includes setting much more aggressive emissions reduction targets going forward to address the challenges of climate change in the years ahead. While we certainly can and should be doing more, though, this agreement is cause for hope that bolder future agreements are achievable.
“But reaching bolder future agreements is going to require real leadership from leaders and from nations across the world. After all, leadership is the biggest key to success for almost any organization or endeavor – and that includes saving our planet. Unfortunately, our President – along with many of those within his Administration – continues to reject climate science and deny the reality of the problems we are facing.
“Well, Mr. President, here’s the reality. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States experienced 16 extreme weather-related disasters that exceeded $1 billion in 2017. In the past year alone, Americans paid $306 billion in damages due to storm surges, flooding, wildfires, crop freezes and droughts – a new record!
“Thirteen of our nation’s leading scientific federal agencies recently reported to us in the National Climate Assessment that, if we do nothing to address our carbon emissions, today’s extreme weather-related events will pale in comparison to what lies ahead.
“In the future, we can continue to expect rainfalls where precipitation is measured by the foot, not in inches. We can continue to expect more wildfires out West burning areas larger than my home state of Delaware. And we can continue to expect extreme flooding to devastate small communities like Ellicott City Maryland, which has been hit by two 1,000-year-floods in the past two years alone. Think about that! Two in the past two years alone!
“Mr. President, one of the most memorable lyrics from singer-songwriter Stephen Stills goes something like this, ‘Something’s happening here. Just what it is ain’t exactly clear.’ Well, make no mistake, something is happening here, and it IS exactly clear.’ What’s also clear is that there’s still time to do something about it and actually foster economic growth in the USA and beyond our borders. Climate science isn’t part of some grand hoax. This isn’t an alarmist prediction. It doesn’t come from some left-leaning organization, and it doesn’t come from talk radio. It comes directly from our nation’s leading scientists and from leading scientists around the world.
“Let me also remind my colleagues that the National Climate Assessment is not developed at the direction or whim of any one person or administration. It was Congress that passed a law mandating that the National Climate Assessment be presented every four years. That law was called the Global Change Research Act of 1990. It passed the United States Senate unanimously and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush – a Republican.
“Our nation’s leading scientists warned us yet again-less than one month ago – that, if we fail to start seriously reducing carbon emissions now, by the end of the century, we may well be witnessing:sea-levels rising another 6 feet, resulting in an estimated $3.6 trillion in cumulative damages to U.S. coastal properties and infrastructure; annual economic losses of up to $500 billion that will affect nearly every major economic sector in our country; and, reductions in our gross domestic product by up to 10 percent-twice that of the Great Recession that brought America to its knees a decade ago.
“Yet, as the world works to develop meaningful solutions to mitigate these effects of climate change, the Trump Administration chooses to exacerbate the problem by doubling down on dirty and outdated energy policies. The Administration is also attempting to discredit the recent science reports by pushing talking points from well-known climate deniers.
“But Americans aren’t falling for these tricks anymore. Americans are witnessing firsthand the effects of climate change in their communities every day. And they want action. So does our business community. While this Administration sits on its hands, American businesses are stepping up in a big way to combat the effects of climate change. Many businesses stand ready to do even more.
“To our international friends who are wondering where this nation is on climate change, I can tell you that the majority of Americans – including me – are with you. We support the Paris Climate Agreement. We want to reduce carbon emissions because we’re convinced that doing so will enable us to save our planet.
“This isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue. This isn’t a blue-state or red-state issue. It affects all of us. And if you think climate change hasn’t reached your state just yet, the science is clear that it will. Luckily for us, young people are leading the call for action. Climate change or environmental issues are often mistakenly forgotten when we discuss domestic issues. In today’s news cycle, especially under this Administration, it doesn’t always make headlines. It’s oftentimes been said that climate change isn’t an issue that drives American to the polls. Well, Mr. President, that is changing.
“Young people have led the way in changing our country before. In the 1950s, they led the decades-long Civil Rights Movement for equal rights for every American under the law. It was young activists who made clear their opposition to the Vietnam War. Back in the 1970s, young people pushed hard for strong environmental standards when the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio was burning and garbage littered our shores. Well, our country is back at another one of those make-or-break moments in our history. We need the energy of Americans of all ages – young and old – to make sure we don’t blow it. And we need to listen to them all, especially our younger Americans. After all, it’s their future that’s at stake.
“When it comes to global challenges — such as terrorism and cyber- attacks — the U.S doesn’t sit back and wait for someone else to lead the way. We step up, and we lead! We have many dogs in this fight. Too many to count!
“Fortunately, acting sooner rather later on climate change brings with it many positives. We can put our country on a course to reduce emissions, and grow our economy. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, quite the opposite. What we can and should be doing is using our energy and resources to foster new economic opportunities for communities that may be dependent on the old world order. In 2017, nearly 3.2 million Americans were working in wind, solar, energy efficiency and other clean energy jobs. More will follow, and it’s incumbent on us to ensure that some of those new jobs go to people whose jobs are going away, as we seek to reduce carbon emissions in this country and on our planet.
“We don’t have the luxury of waiting around. We need to crank it up and get going. That’s why, as the senior Democrat and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, I’m anxious to help lead the fight for policies that take this country into a brighter climate future. If we’re honest with our children and grandchildren, we don’t have any other choice, Mr. President.
“It was my hope that, on the world stage this week, America’s representatives at COP24 would make clear that our country is ready to lead by example. Unfortunately, they did not. But that’s no reason to despair. We have the facts and the energy on our side.
“I will leave my colleagues with this message today: Climate action should not be an issue that divides us. It should unite us. It should unite the entire global community. And our world could definitely use more unification these days. Years from now, when my sons or my sons’ children are dealing with the inevitable consequences of our failure to address climate change, there will be a day when they come to me and say, ‘You were a Sen.. What did you do when you had the chance to do something about this impending disaster when there was still time?’ We should all want to be able to say – and work tirelessly to say – that we moved heaven and earth to make sure that future generations could inherit a safe, healthy planet, one where their dreams and aspirations can be realized and not destroyed.
“My colleagues and I are on the floor today to make clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans stand with almost every other nation in the world. We need to act, and we need to act now. Time is not on our side. Let’s seize the day! Carpe Diem!”