|00:00:01||COLLEAGUE, SENATOR CARDIN, AND JUST RECENTLY SENATOR BROWN OF OHIO FOR REFERENCING THE HIGHWAY BILL, THE STATE OF PLAY ON THAT AT THIS POINT IS THAT THE HOUSE HAS JUST PASSED ANOTHER EXTENSION.|
|00:00:22||WE PASSED AN EXTENSION BACK AT THE END OF MARCH THAT EXTENDED THE EXISTING HIGHWAY PROGRAM TO THE END OF JUNE.|
|00:00:32||AND WHAT THAT WILL DO IS CAUSE SIGNIFICANT JOB LOSS BECAUSE NOT KNOWING FOR SURE WHAT THE HIGHWAY PLAN WILL BE MEANS THAT JOBS WILL FALL OFF THE LIST OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF TRANSPORTATION AROUND THE COUNTRY.|
|00:00:44||SO A FURTHER EXTENSION TO SEPTEMBER, WHICH JUST PASSED THE HOUSE AN HOUR AGO, MAKES THAT SITUATION EVEN WORSE.|
|00:00:53||THE SOLUTION TO THAT PROBLEM IS TO MAKE SURE THAT THE HOUSE AND THE SENATE APPOINT THEIR CONFEREES SO THAT WE CAN GOAT CONFERENCE QUICKLY ON THAT BILL AND GET A LASTING AUTHORIZATION OUT.|
|00:01:10||SO I WANT TO THANK, AGAIN, SENATOR CARDIN FOR SPENDING SOME TIME ON THE FLOOR THIS AFTERNOON ON THAT SUBJECT -- EARLIER TODAY ON THAT SUBJECT.|
|00:01:23||AND WE WILL KEEP THE PRESSURE ON UNTIL WE ACTUALLY HAVE A HIGHWAY AUTHORIZATION AS WE GO THROUGH THESE DIFFERENT PROCEDURAL HURDLES.|
|00:01:30||BUT THE REASON I CAME TO SPEAK ON THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW IS TO TALK ABOUT AN ISSUE THAT MANY IN WASHINGTON WOULD PREFER TO IGNORE AND THAT IS THE CLIMATE CHANGES THAT ARE BEING CAUSED BY OUR CARBON POLLUTION.|
|00:01:48||NATURE KEEPS SENDING US MESSAGES ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING OUT THERE AND IN WASHINGTON WE CONTINUE TO IGNORE THOSE MESSAGES.|
|00:01:56||BUT THEY KEEP ON COMING.|
|00:01:58||EVERY WEEK FOR THE PAST 15 MONTHS I'VE DISTRIBUTED IN OUR CAUCUS, AS THE PRESIDING OFFICER KNOWS, A QUICK THUMBNAIL SUMMARY OF THE WEEK'S CLIMATE SCIENCE NEWS.|
|00:02:14||THE STORIES FROM THIS WEEK INCLUDE THAT TEMPERATURE VARIATIONS, WHICH RELATE TO THE EXTRA ENERGY PUT INTO THE CLIMATE BY THE WARMING WEATHER, COULD LOWER LIFE EXPECTANCIES OF THE "CHRONICLELY" ILL.|
|00:02:29||THAT'S ONE -- THE CHRONICALLY ILL.|
|00:02:34||THAT'S ONE STORY.|
|00:02:35||ANOTHER REPORT IS A NEW REPORT FROM NOAA THAT CORAL RISKS EXTINCTION DUE TO CLIMATE CHANGE.|
|00:02:43||MORE 50 CORAL SPECIES IN U.|
|00:02:44||S. WATERS ARE LIKELY TO GO EXTINCT BY THE ENDS OF THE CENTURY.|
|00:02:48||AND -- BY THE END OF THE CENTURY.|
|00:02:49||AND THE EXPERT CITED HUMAN DRIVEN REINCREASES OF CARBON DIOXIDE AS A DRIVER TO CAUSING THESE EXTINCTIONS.|
|00:03:05||A THIRD IS TREE DISEASES, ACCORDING TO RISE BY THE U.|
|00:03:10||S. FOREST SERVICE. FOREST DISEASES ARE EXPECTED TO SPREAD MORE QUICKLY IN THE WESTERN U.|
|00:03:14||S. AS CLIMATE CHANGE WARMS THE REGIONS' FORESTS.|
|00:03:18||AND A FOURTH IS A RECENT STUDY PUBLISH IN THE JOURNAL "NATURE" WHICH FINDS THAT RISING CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS DROVE TEMPERATURE INCREASES AT THE END OF THE LAST ICE AGE.|
|00:03:30||THAT AT THE END OF THE OF LAST ICE AGE, ATMOSPHERIC Co2 CONCENTRATIONS ROSE 80 PARTS PER MILLION.|
|00:03:37||OVER THE PAST 100 YEARS, Co2 CONCENTRATIONS HAVE RISEN ROUGHLY 100 PARTS PER MILLION.|
|00:03:47||SO THE EFFECTS ARE LINKED VERY CLOSELY TO CLIMATE.|
|00:03:51||OTHER NEWS IS A REPORT IN THE "PROVIDENCE JOURNAL" ON MARCH 30 SAYING THE WINTER'S WARM AIR CEMENTS HAVE HELPED DRIVE -- AIR TEMPERATURES HAVE HELPED DRIVE UP WATER TEMPERATURES IN THE GULF OF MAINE, IN LINE WITH A CONTINUING TRERNTIOND AND THE WARM WATERS COULD RESULT IN LOBSTERS MOLTING THEIR SHELLS EARLIER THAN USUAL AND ALGAE BLOOMING AHEAD OF USUAL.|
|00:04:16||AN EXPERT TOLD THE PAPER THAT THE GULF OF MAINE WATER TEMPERATURES HAVE BEEN RISING GRADUALLY SINCE AT LEASTLY 1870'S BUT THE INCREASE HAS BEEN PRONOUNCED IN THE PAST DECADE OR SO.|
|00:04:27||MOVING FROM THE NORTH TO THE SOUTH, WE HAVE PROFESSOR EMERITUS ORRIN H.|
|00:04:36||PILKE, A PROFESSOR OF GEOLOGY AT THE DUKE UNIVERSITY, WHO WROTE IN THE "CHARLOTTE OBSERVER" ON MARCH 25 THAT NEW PEER-REVIEWED RESEARCH DEMONSTRATES THAT SEA LEVEL RISE AND STORM SURGE ELEVATIONS COULD BE GREATER ALONG MUCH OF THE U.|
|00:04:50||S. COASTLINE THAN HAS BEEN PREDICTED.|
|00:04:52||HIS OPINION PIECE WENT ON TO SAY THAT NORTH CAROLINA, WASHINGTON, CALIFORNIA, LOUISIANA, FLORIDA, AND MAINE HAVE CONVENED SEA LEVEL RISE PANELS THAT ESTIMATE A SEA LEVEL RISE OF THREE TO FIVE FEET BY THE YEAR 2100.|
|00:05:08||A NEW STUDY HAS COME OUT FROM THE CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY CONFIRMING THE LINK BETWEEN MASSIVE OYSTER DIEOFFS IN THE PACIFIC NORTH WEST AND OCEAN ACIDIFICATION CAUSED BY CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS.|
|00:05:22||THE RELEASE REPORTS THAT EACH DAY THE OCEANS ABSORB 22 MILLION TONS OF CARBON DIOXIDE POLLUTION FROM CARS AND INDUSTRY, SETTING OFF AN UNPRECEDENTED CHEMICAL REACTION THAT SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION HAS MADE THE WORLD'S OCEANS 30% MORE ASIDIC.|
|00:05:40||JUST THIS MORNING HERE IN THE THE THE SENATE, SENATORS BINGAMAN AND MURKOWSKI HELD A BIPARTISAN HEARING ON THE DEVASTATES EFFECTS OF SEA LEVEL RISE ON COASTAL COMMUNITIES.|
|00:05:49||SO IT'S GOOD THAT SOME LEADERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE ARE STARTING TO TALK ABOUT THE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE CHANGE.|
|00:05:58||HOWEVER, THE SPECIAL INTERESTS WHO CONTROL SO MUCH OF WHAT GOES ON AROUND HERE AND WHO DENY THAT CARBON POLLUTION CAUSES GLOBAL TEMPERATURES TO INCREASE AND DENY THAT MELTING ICE CAPS WILL RAISE OUR SEAS TO DANGEROUS LEVELS, STILL HAVE A STRONG HOLD.|
|00:06:19||DR. PILKE WRITING IN THE "CHARLOTTE OBSERVER" WROTE THAT THE DENIERS' INFLUENCE IS TRAGICALLY STARTING TO INFLUENCE LOCAL PLANNING DECISIONS, DESPITE WHAT HE CALLED NEW STUDIES THAT PREDICT HIGHER THAN PREVIOUSLY PREDICTED SEA LEVEL RISE AND STORM SURGE LEVELS IN COMING DECADES.|
|00:06:34||HE CONCLUDES, "PRESERVATION OF THE STATUS QUO, INCLUDING REAL ESTATE PRICES, MAY PREVAIL ON OUR COASTS, BUT IN A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY SUCH AS OURS, THE STATE HAS NO RIGHT TO SHIELD CITIZENS FROM UNPLEASANT ENVIRONMENTAL REALITIES.|
|00:06:49||" IN THE FACE OF SO MUCH EVIDENCE CONSTANTLY, DAILY, OF A CHANGING CLIMATE, WE HAVE SPECIAL INTERESTS WORKING OVERTIME IN WASHINGTON TO PROPAGATE A MYTH.|
|00:07:01||THIS MYTH IS THAT THE JURY IS STILL OUT ON CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSED BY CARBON POLLUTION.|
|00:07:08||SO WITH THE JURY STILL OUT, WE DON'T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IT OR EVEN TAKE PRECAUTIONS.|
|00:07:12||THIS IS SIMPLY OUTRIGHT FALSE.|
|00:07:17||VIRTUALLY ALL OF OUR MOST PRESTIGIOUS SCIENTIFIC AND ACADEMIC INSTITUTIONS HAVE STATED THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS HAPPENING AND THAT HUMAN ACTIVITIES ARE THE DRIVING CAUSE OF THIS CHANGE.|
|00:07:28||IN OCTOBER OF 2009, OCTOBER 21, TO BE SPECIFIC, I THINK ALL OF US IN THE SENATE RECEIVED A LETTER STATING, "OBSERVATIONS" -- THIS IS FROM VIRTUALLY EVERY LEADING SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZATION IN THE COUNTRY.|
|00:07:44||STATING THAT -- AND I QUOTE -- "OBSERVATIONS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD MAKE IT CLEAR THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS OCCURRING AND RIGOROUS SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH DEMONSTRATES THAT THE GREENHOUSE GASES EMITTED BY HUMAN ACTIVITIES ARE THE PRIMARY DRIVER.|
|00:08:03||THESE CONCLUSIONS ARE BASED ON MULTIPLE INDEPENDENT LINES OF EVIDENCE.|
|00:08:13||" AND THE CLOSER HERE, "AND CONTRARY ASSERTIONS ARE INCONSISTENT WITH AN OBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT OF THE VAST BODY OF PEER-REVIEWED SCIENCE.|
|00:08:24||" "CONTRARY ASSERTIONS ARE INCONSISTENT WITH AN OBJECTIVE ASSESSMENT OF THE VAST BODY OF PEER-REVIEWED SCIENCE.|
|00:08:30||" SO THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE, THE CHEMICAL SOCIETY, GEOPHYSICAL UNION, INSTITUTE OF BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, METEOROLOGICAL SOCIETY, SOCIETY OF AGRONOMY, SOCIETY OF PLANT BIOLOGISTS, BOTANICAL SOCIETY, ON AND ON IT GOES OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY SIGNED UP FOR THIS.|
|00:08:49||IT IS, OF COURSE, NOT JUST THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY THAT KNOWS THAT THE JURY IS NOT, IN FACT, STILL OUT, THAT KNOWS THAT, IN FACT, THE VERDICT IS IN AND THAT IT'S TIME TO ACT.|
|00:09:02||THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IS ALARMED ABOUT OUR INACTION AND HAS STARTED TO TAKE ACTION, HOLDING A PRESS CONFERENCE WITH MYSELF AND SENATOR SANDERS NOT TOO LONG AGO.|
|00:09:15||MARCIA McLENNON, ONE OF THE LARGEST INSURANCE BROKERS IN THE WORLD, CALLED CLIMATE CHANGE -- QUOTE -- "ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EMERGING RISKS FACING THE WORLD TODAY.|
|00:09:26||" THE INSURANCE GIANT A.|
|00:09:28||I.G. HAS ESTABLISHED AN OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE TO ASSESS THE RISKS TO INSURERS IN THE YEARS AHEAD.|
|00:09:36||IT'S NOT JUST THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.|
|00:09:39||IT'S OUR INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY.|
|00:09:43||IT'S OUR MILITARY SERVICES.|
|00:09:44||MANUFACTURE OUR ELECTRIC -- MANY OF OUR ELECTRIC UTILITIES, SOME OF OUR BIGGEST CAPITALISTS AND INVESTORS ALL RECOGNIZE THAT THE JURY IS NOT STILL OUT, THAT, IN FACT, THE VERDICT IS IN AND THAT WE SHOULD ACT.|
|00:09:57||UNFORTUNATELY, GOVERNOR ROMNEY ONCE WROTE THAT, "I BELIEVE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS OCCURRING.|
|00:10:05||I ALSO BELIEVE THAT HUMAN ACTIVITY IS A CONTRIBUTING FACTOR.|
|00:10:09||UNDER THE PRESSURE OF THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY, HE HAS CHANGED HIS VIEWS AND NOW CLAIMS , "WE DON'T KNOW WHAT'S CAUSING CLIMATE CHANGE ON THIS PLANET.|
|00:10:20||" WELL, THAT RUNS CONTRARY TO THE EVIDENCE.|
|00:10:24||MORE THAN 97% OF THE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS MOST ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN PUBLISHING ON THIS ISSUE ACCEPT THAT THE VERDICT IS ACTUALLY IN ON CARBON POLLUTION CAUSING CLIMATE CHANGE AND OCEANIC CHANGES.|
|00:10:41||97%. THINK OF THAT IN TERMS OF YOUR OWN LIFE, IF YOU WERE RELYING ON EXPERT OPINION, IF YOU HAD A CHILD WHO WAS SICK AND YOU WENT TO A DOCTOR, AND THEY SAID, "YOU KNOW, SHE'S PRETTY SICK AND SHE NEEDS TREATMENT.|
|00:10:52||" AND YOU THOUGHT, LET'S BE PRUDENT, LET'S GET A SECOND OPINION.|
|00:10:55||AND ON YOU WENT AND GOT A THIRD OPINION AND A FOURTH OPINION.|
|00:10:58||AND LET'S SAY YOU WERE JUST A WILDLY DETERMINED PARENT AND YOU WENT AND YOU GOT 99 MORE SECOND OPINIONS SO THAT YOU HAD 100 OPINIONS OF DOCTORS, AND 97 OF THOSE 100 DOCTORS SAID, YEP, YOUR CHILD IS ILL AND YOU NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS?|
|00:11:15||HOW FOOLISH WOULD YOU BE IF YOU DID NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE 97% AND YOU ALLOWED THE 3% TO SWAY YOUR JUDGMENT AND NOT TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD?|
|00:11:25||WELL, IT LOOKS LIKE GOVERNOR ROMNEY IS WITH THE 1% WHEN IT COMES TO THE ECONOMY FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS AND HE IS WITH THE 3% WHEN IT COMES TO THE SCIENCE OF CARBON POLLUTION.|
|00:11:39||THIS IS REALLY NOT VERY DEBATABLE STUFF.|
|00:11:44||THE BASIC PRINCIPLE THAT CARBON DIOXIDE TRAPS HEAT IN THE ATMOSPHERE AND TRAPS MORE OF IT AS ITS CONCENTRATION INCREASES WAS DETERMINED IN 1863, AT THE TIME OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR.|
|00:11:59||THERE IS NOTHING NEW ABOUT THIS.|
|00:12:00||IN THE EARLY 1900'S, IT BECAME CLEAR THE CHAIPTION IN THE AMOUNT OF CARBON DIOXIDE IN THE AIR COULD ACCOUNT FOR INCREASES AND DECREASES IN THE EARTH'S TEMPERATURES AND THAT CARBON DIOXIDE RELEASED FROM MAN-MADE SOURCES, PRIMARILY THEN THE BURNING OF COAL, WOULD CONTRIBUTE TO THESE CHANGES.|
|00:12:22||THIS IS WELL-ESTABLISHED STUFF.|
|00:12:25||AND THE EFFECTS ARE MEASURABLE.|
|00:12:28||OVER THE LAST 800,000 YEARS, UNTIL VERY RECENTLY, THE ATMOSPHERE STAYED WITHIN A BANDWIG OF 170-300 PARTS PER MILLION OF CARBON DIOXIDE.|
|00:12:42||THAT'S THE BAND WIG.|
|00:12:44||THAT'S A MEASUREMENT.|
|00:12:46||NOT A THEORY.|
|00:12:47||WE CAN FIND ANCIENT ICE AND MEASURE AND THERE ARE DIFFERENT WAYS SCIENTIST DOZEN THIS BUT IT IS MEASUREMENT.|
|00:12:54||SINCE THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION WE HAVE BURNED CARBON-RICH FUELS ALSO IN A MEASURABLE WAY AND NOW WE KNOW THAT WE BURN UP TO 7 TO 8 GIGATONS A YEAR.|
|00:13:09||THAT IS A BILLION METRIC TONS.|
|00:13:11||WHEN YOU RELEASE THAT ENORMOUS AMOUNT INTO THE OTOMOST SPHEERKS IT IS HAVING A RESULT.|
|00:13:19||WE NOW MEASURE CARBON CONCENTRATIONS CLIMBING IN THE EARTH'S ATMOSPHERE.|
|00:13:23||AGAIN, A MEASUREMENT, INTO THE THEORY.|
|00:13:25||THE PRESENT CONCENTRATION EXCEEDS 390 PARTS PER MILLION, SO FOR 8,000 CENTURIES WE WERE IN A BAND WIG BETWEEN 170 AND 300 PARTS PER MILLION AND IN RECENT YEARS WE VEERED OUT OF THAT BANGDZ WIG.|
|00:13:38||WE'RE AT 390 PARTS PER MILLION AND CLIMBING.|
|00:13:43||THE INCREASE THAT WE'RE ON HAS A TRAJECTORY, NOTHING NEW ABOUT PLOGHT TRAJECTORIES EITHER.|
|00:13:50||CHILDREN DO THAT IN SCHOOL.|
|00:13:52||SOLDIERS DO THAT IN THE FIELD.|
|00:13:54||CORPORATION DOZEN THAT TO PLAN THEIR BUSINESSES.|
|00:13:57||SCIENTIST DOZEN THAT -- WE DO THIS EVERY DAY.|
|00:13:59||IF YOU FOLLOW THE TRAJECTORY OF OUR CARBON POLLUTION, IT PREDICTS 688 PARTS PER MILLION AT THE END OF THIS CENTURY, AND 1,097 PARTS PER MILLION TEND OF THE NEXT CENTURY.|
|00:14:13||THOSE CARBON CONCENTRATIONS ARE NOT JUST OUTSIDE THE BOUNDS OF 8,000 CENTURIES BUT OF MILLIONS OF YEARS.|
|00:14:23||AND IT'S COMING HOME TO ROOST, PARTICULARLY IN OUR OCEANS, WHICH IS A MATTER OF REAL CONCERN TO ME AS A SENATOR FROM THE OCEAN STATE.|
|00:14:32||IN APRIL OF LAST YEAR A GROUP OF SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS CAME TOGETHER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD TO DISCUSS THE CURRENT STATE OF OUR OCEANS AND THEIR WORKSHOP REPORT STATED "HUMAN ACTIONS HAVE RESULTED IN WARMING AND ACIDIFICATION OF THE OCEANS AND ARE NOW CAUSING INCREASED HYPOXIA.|
|00:14:51||" THAT'S WHEN THERE'S NOT ENOUGH OXYGEN IN THE WATER TO SUSTAIN LIFE.|
|00:14:55||STUDY OF THE EARTH'S PAST INDICATE THEW THIS ATHESE ARE THE THREE SYMPTOMS ASSOCIATED WITH EACH OF THE PREVIOUS FIVE MASS STINGS ON EARTH -- EXSPHINXES ON EARTH.|
|00:15:07||WE EXPERIENCED TWO MASS OCEAN EXTINCTIONS.|
|00:15:12||LAST YEAR AT BROWN UNIVERSITY IN PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND, JESSICA WHITESIDE PUBLISH ADD STUDY DEMONSTRATING THAT AFTER THE EARL YISH EXTINCTION, 251 MILLION YEARS AGO, IT TOOK 8 MILLION YEARS FOR PLANT AND ANIMAL DIVERSITY TO RETURN TO PREEXTINCTION LEVELS.|
|00:15:30||AND WE ALSO KNOW THAT IN THE LEAD-UP TO THOSE EXTINCTIONS, SCIENTISTS HAVE ESTIMATED THAT THE EARTH WAS EMITTING CARBON INTO THE AT MOOS MOST SPHERE OF 2.|
|00:15:40||2 IN THE FIRST YEAR AND 1 TO 2 GIGATONS PER YEAR RESPECTIVELY.|
|00:15:46||WE'RE CURRENT LIT RELEASING AT THE RATE OF 7 TO GIGATONS PER YEAR.|
|00:15:51||SO WE ARE TAKING SOME VERY DANGEROUS CHANCES THIS OUR PLANET.|
|00:15:57||WE HAVE VERY SOLID INFORMATION THAT IS THE PRODUCT OF MEASUREMENT AND NOT THEORY, ABOUT THE CHANGES THAT ARE ALREADY UNDER WAY, AND IT IS A CONTINUING DISGRACE THAT IN THIS BUILDING AND IN THIS CHAMBER WE ARE UNABLE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS ISSUE BECAUSE OF THE CONTINUING POWER OF A SMALL GROUP OF SPECIAL INTERESTS THAT ARE CONTROLLING THE DEBATE, THAT ARE INTERFERING WITH PROGRESS, AND THAT ARE PUTTING US ALL AT RISK.|
|00:16:28||MR. PRESIDENT, I TAW THANK THE CHAIR.|
|00:16:29||I YIELD THE FLOOR.|
|00:16:30||I NOTE THE ABSENCE OF A QUORUM.|
|00:16:32||THE PRESIDING OFFICER: THE CLERK WILL CALL THE ROLL.|
Mr. WHITEHOUSE. First, I want to thank my colleague, Senator Cardin, and just recently Senator Brown of Ohio, for referencing the highway bill.
The state of play on that at this point is that the House has just passed another extension. We passed an extension back at the end of March that extended the existing highway program to the end of June. What that bill did is cause significant job loss because not knowing for sure what the highway plan will be means that jobs will fall off the list of the departments of transportation around the country. So a further extension to September--which just passed the House 1 hour ago--just makes the situation even worse.
The solution to that problem is to make sure the House and the Senate appoint their conferees so we can get to conference quickly on that bill and get out a lasting authorization.
So I want to again thank Senator Cardin for spending some time on the floor this afternoon on that subject. We will keep the pressure on until we actually have a highway authorization as we go through these different procedural hurdles.
CLIMATE CHANGE I came to speak on the floor about an issue that many in Washington would prefer to ignore; that is, climate changes that are being caused by our carbon pollution. Nature keeps sending us messages about what is happening out there, and in Washington we continue to ignore those messages. But they keep on coming.
Every week for the past 15 months I have distributed in our caucus, as the Presiding Officer knows, a quick thumbnail summary of the week's Climate News.
The stories from this week include that ``Temperature Variations''--which relate to the extra energy put into the climate by the warming weather--``Could Lower Life Expectancies of the Chronically Ill.'' That is one story.
Another is a new report from the NOAA that ``Coral Risks Extinction Due to Climate Change.'' More than 50 coral species in U.S. waters are likely to go extinct by the end of the century, and the experts cited human-driven releases of carbon dioxide as a key driver of the ocean's warming and acidification that is causing these extinctions.
A third is, ``Tree Diseases Likely to Spread as Temperatures Rise.'' According to a new report by the U.S. Forest Service, forest diseases are expected to spread more quickly in the western U.S. as climate change warms the region's forests.
The fourth is a recent study published in the journal Nature, which finds that rising carbon dioxide levels drove temperature increases at the end of the last Ice Age. At the end of the last Ice Age, atmospheric CO 2 concentrations rose 80 parts per million. Over the past 100 years, CO 2 concentrations have risen roughly 100 parts per million. So the effects are linked very closely to climate.
Other news, as reported in the Providence Journal on March 30, said: The winter's warm air temperatures have helped drive up water temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, in line with a continuing trend, and the warm waters could result in lobsters molting their shells earlier than usual and ocean algae blooming ahead of schedule.
Jeffrey Runge, a biological oceanographer at the University of Maine and a researcher at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, told the paper that the Gulf of Maine water temperatures have been rising gradually since at least the 1870s, but the increase has been pronounced in the last decade or so.
Moving from the North to the South, we have Professor Emeritus Orrin H. Pilkey, a professor of geology at Duke University, who wrote in the Charlotte Observer on March 25 that new peer-reviewed research demonstrates that sea level rise and storm-surge elevations could be greater along much of the U.S. coastline than has been predicted. His opinion piece went on to say that North Carolina, Washington, California, Louisiana, Florida, and Maine have convened sea level rise panels that estimate a sea level rise of 3 to 5 feet by the year 2100.
A new study has come out from the Center for Biological Diversity confirming the link between massive oyster die-offs in the Pacific Northwest and ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide emissions. The release reports that each day the oceans absorb 22 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution from cars and industry, setting off an unprecedented chemical reaction that since the Industrial Revolution has made the world's oceans 30 percent more acidic.
Just this morning in the Senate, Senators Bingaman and Murkowski held a bipartisan hearing on the devastating effects of sea level rise on coastal communities. So it is good that some leaders on both sides of the aisle are starting to talk about the terrible consequences of climate change.
However, the special interests who control so much of what goes on around here and who deny that carbon pollution causes global temperatures to increase and deny that melting ice caps will raise our seas to dangerous levels still have a stronghold. Dr. Pilkey, writing in the Charlotte Observer, warned that the deniers' influence is, tragically, starting to influence local planning decisions, despite what he calls ``new studies that predict higher than previously predicted sea level rise and storm-surge levels in coming decades.'' He concludes: Preservation of the status quo (including real estate prices) may prevail on our coasts, but in a democratic society such as ours, the state has no right to shield citizens from unpleasant environmental realities.
In the face of so much evidence constantly, daily, of a changing climate, we have special interests working overtime in Washington to propagate a myth. This myth is that the jury is still out on climate change caused by carbon pollution. So with the jury still out, we don't need to worry about it or even take precautions.
This is simply outright false. Virtually all of our most prestigious scientific and academic institutions have stated that climate change is happening and that human activities are the driving cause of this change.
On October 21, 2009, I think all of us in the Senate received a letter from virtually every leading scientific organization in the country, stating: Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
Contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science.
So the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Chemical Society, Geophysical Union, Institute of Biological Sciences, Meteorological Society, Society of Agronomy, Society of Plant Biologists, Botanical Society, and on and on it goes of the scientific community signed up for this. [Page: S2488] It is, of course, not just the scientific community that knows that the jury is not in fact still out; that knows that in fact the verdict is in and that it is time to act. The insurance industry is alarmed about our inaction and has started to take action, holding a press conference with myself and Senator Sanders not too long ago.
Marsh & McLennan, one of the largest insurance brokers in the world, called climate change ``one of the most significant emerging risks facing the world today.'' The insurance giant AIG has established an Office of Environment and Climate Change to assess the risks to insurers in the years ahead.
It is not just the insurance industry. It is our intelligence community, it is our military services, many of our electric utilities, some of our biggest capitalists and investors all recognize that the jury is not still out; that in fact a verdict is in, and we should act.
Unfortunately, Governor Romney once wrote: I believe that climate change is occurring. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor.
Under the pressure of the Republican primary, he has changed his views and now claims: ``We don't know what's causing climate change on this planet.'' Well, that runs contrary to the evidence. More than 97 percent of the climate scientists most actively involved in publishing on this issue accept that the verdict is actually in on carbon pollution causing climate change and oceanic changes--97 percent. Think of that in terms of your own life if you were relying on expert opinion.
If you had a child who was sick and you went to a doctor and they said: She is pretty sick and she needs treatment, you thought: Well, let's be prudent and let's get a second opinion. So on you went and got a third opinion and a fourth opinion. Let's say you were just a wildly determined parent, and you went and got 99 more second opinions so that you had 100 opinions of doctors, and 97 of those 100 doctors said: Yes, your child is ill and you need to do something about this.
How foolish would you be if you did not pay attention to the 97 percent and you allowed the 3 percent to sway your judgment and not take action to protect your child. Well, it looks as if Governor Romney is with the 1 percent when it comes to the economy for the middle class, and he is with the 3 percent when it comes to the science of carbon pollution.
This is not very debatable stuff. The basic principle that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere and traps more of it as its concentration increases was determined in 1863, at the time of the American Civil War. There is nothing new about this.
In the early 1900s it became clear that changes in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could account for significant increases and decreases in the Earth's annual average temperatures, and that carbon dioxide released from what we call anthropogenic sources, manmade sources--primarily then the burning of coal--would contribute to these changes. This is well-established stuff, and the effects are measurable.
Over the last 800,000 years, until very recently, the atmosphere stayed within a bandwidth of 170 to 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide, 170 to 300 parts per million. That is the bandwidth, and that is a measurement. That is not a theory. We know that. We can find ancient bubbles in ancient ice and measure, and there are different ways that scientists do this, but it is measurement.
Since the Industrial Revolution, we have burned carbon-rich fuels, also in a measurable way. Now we know we burn up to 7 to 8 gigatons a year. That is the release. A gigaton, by the way, is a billion with a ``b'' metric tons. When you release that enormous amount of carbon into the atmosphere, it is predictable that it would have a result, and, indeed, it is having a result. We now measure carbon concentrations climbing in the Earth's atmosphere--again, a measurement, not a theory. The present concentration exceeds 390 parts per million. For 8,000 centuries we were in a bandwidth of between 170 and 300, and in recent years we have veered out that bandwidth. We are at 390 parts per million and climbing.
The increase has a trajectory--there is nothing very new about plotting trajectories either. Children do that in school, soldiers do that in the field, corporations do that to plan their businesses, and scientists do that. We do that every day. If you follow the trajectory of our carbon pollution, it predicts 668 parts per million at the end of this century and 1,097 parts per million at the end of the next century. Those carbon concentrations are not just outside the bounds of 8,000 centuries but of millions of years.
It is coming home to roost particularly in our oceans, which is a matter of real concern to me as a Senator from the Ocean State. In April of last year, a group of scientific experts came together at the University of Oxford to discuss the current state of our oceans. Their workshop report stated: Human actions have resulted in warming and acidification of the oceans and are now causing increased hypoxia.
That is when there is not enough oxygen in the water to sustain life.
Studies of the Earth's past indicate that these are the three symptoms ..... associated with each of the previous 5 mass extinctions on Earth.
We experienced two mass ocean extinctions, 55 and 251 million years ago. Last year at Brown University in Providence, RI, paleobiologist Jessica Whiteside published a study demonstrating that after the earlier extinction 251 million years ago, it took 8 million years for plant and animal diversity to return to preextinction levels. We also know that in the lead-up to those extinctions, scientists have estimated that the Earth was emitting carbon into the atmosphere at the rate in the first one of 2.2 gigatons and 1 to 2 gigatons per year, respectively. You recall we are currently releasing at the rate of 7 to 8 gigatons per year.
We are taking some very dangerous chances with our planet. We have very solid information that is the product of measurement and not theory about the changes that are already underway. It is a continuing disgrace that in this building and in this Chamber, we are unable to do anything about this issue because of the continuing power of a small group of special interests who are controlling the debate, who are interfering with progress, and who are putting us all at risk.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.