Text of Sen. Bernie Sanders' Climate Change Speech of July 30, 2012
Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) remarks on climate science and the “very radical views” of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), on the U.S. Senate floor, July 30, 2012.
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, the Senator from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe, is a friend of mine. While we have strong philosophical and political differences, we have had a very positive personal relationship since I entered the Senate 5\1/2\ years ago. I like Senator Inhofe, and on occasion, despite our political differences, we have been able to work together as members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, on which we both sit. I especially applaud the Senator for his strong efforts on the recently passed Transportation bill in which he led the effort in getting his fellow Republicans to move forward on the vitally important issue of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure–in this case, roads and bridges.
Unfortunately, Senator Inhofe has some very radical views regarding global warming. I believe he is dead wrong and dangerously wrong on this issue. Not only is he wrong, but because he is the leading Republican on the Environment Committee, his views hold great influence over other Republicans in the Senate, in the House, and across the country. Because many Republicans follow Senator Inhofe’s lead, it means we are making very little progress in Congress in combating what most of the scientific community sees is a global environmental crisis.
I am on the floor today to ask Senator Inhofe to rethink his views on this enormously important issue and to ask my Republican colleagues to do the same. I am asking them to join the overwhelming majority of scientists who have studied and written about this issue in understanding that, one, global warming is real; two, global warming is significantly caused by human activity; three, global warming is already causing massive and costly destruction to the United States and around the world, and it will only get worse in years to come.
I am also asking Senator Inhofe and my Republican colleagues to understand that the United States, with all of our knowledge, all of our expertise, and all of our technology, can and must lead the rest of the world, which must follow our effort in cutting back on carbon emissions and reverse global warming, and to understand that when we do this–when we transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and enter into energy efficiency and sustainable energy–when we do that over a period of years, we can create millions of good-paying jobs.
What I want to do this afternoon is nothing more than to simply quote some of the statements and assertions Senator Inhofe has made and to express to you why he is dead wrong and dangerously wrong on this vitally important issue.
Mr. President, on July 11–just 2\1/2\ weeks ago–Senator Inhofe spoke on this floor reiterating his longstanding views on global warming. What he said during that speech is pretty much what he has been saying for years. I read that speech, and I want to use this opportunity to comment on it. Specifically, I want to discuss a number of observations in which Senator Inhofe is completely wrong.
First and foremost, Senator Inhofe tells us in his speech that global warming science is wrong. First and foremost, Senator Inhofe tells us in his speech that global warming science is wrong. Mr. Inhofe states, on page S4860 of the Congressional Record from July 11–and I will do my best to quote him as accurately as I possibly can–the following about global warming:
In 2003 … I started hearing from a lot of the real scientists that it was a hoax.
And Senator Inhofe continued, again from July 11, 2012:
It is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.
Let me repeat again what Senator Inhofe said just a few weeks ago on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
[Global warming] … is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.
In fact, the title of Senator Inhofe’s new book–which he was kind enough to give me a copy of–is “The Greatest Hoax.” That is the title of his book.
Well, let’s examine that assertion on the part of Senator Inhofe. The United States Global Change Research Program, which was supported and expanded by President George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, and which includes scientists at NASA, EPA, the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, the State Department, the Department of Health, the Departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Interior, have said:
Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
Senator Inhofe has said global warming is a hoax, but the Global Change Research Program, which brings together many departments of the U.S. Government, says:
Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
Our National Academy of Sciences joined with academies in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. They all came together and said:
The need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.
It is now indisputable. Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax; academies of science all over the world state the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.
Eighteen scientific professional societies, including the American Geophysical Union, the American Chemical Society, and others say:
Climate change is occurring and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.
That is a quote from 18 scientific professional societies. Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, but 18 scientific professional societies say climate change is occurring and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.
Even noted climate skeptic Richard Muller, who, interestingly enough, Senator Inhofe has cited in his own speeches over the years, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year that his latest research proved “global warming is real.” More to the point, in an op-ed published 2 days ago, Richard Muller, who in the past was cited by Senator Inhofe as a global warming skeptic, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The Conversion of a Climate Change Skeptic.”
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, this is how Richard A. Muller–again, the scientist who was often quoted by Senator Inhofe–began his op-ed 2 days ago in the New York Times. This is the quote from Richard A. Muller.
Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago, I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
And Dr. Muller continues:
My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2\1/2\ degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1\1/2\ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
That was Dr. Richard Muller from an op-ed in the New York Times on July 28, 2012.
I am not going to tell you that every single serious scientist in the world agrees with Dr. Muller or agrees with me or agrees with the vast majority of scientists that global warming is real and primarily caused by human activity. But I will say that, according to the National Academy of Sciences, approximately 98 percent of active climate scientists who published peer-reviewed papers agree with the assertion that global warming is occurring and human activity is a significant driver of it–not 100 percent but 98 percent.
When we talk about scientists publishing with peer review, what we are saying is their papers and research were reviewed and examined by other expert scientists in their field. That is the great thing about science and peer review. The process invites criticism and invites other scientists to prove your idea is wrong. When we say 98 percent of active climate scientists agree about global warming, we are talking about scientists whose work has been examined critically and found to be well-documented and correct by their peers in the field.
This is an important point to be made. There may well be scientists out there who may have different views. But by and large they have not written peer-reviewed literature which has been examined by other experts in that field. So the bottom line here–and the important bottom line–is when Senator Jim Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is dead wrong according to the overwhelming majority of scientists who have studied this issue.
I hope very much–and I mean this sincerely, because this is an enormously important issue–that Senator Inhofe will rethink his position, and those Republicans who have followed Senator Inhofe’s lead will also rethink their position.
In July of 2010, in an interview with ABC News, Senator Inhofe said:
We’re in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period.
Let me repeat that, because I don’t want anyone to think I made a mistake about what I said. July 2010, ABC News, quoting Senator Inhofe.
We’re in a cycle now that all the scientists agree is going into a cooling period.
On July 11, on the floor of the Senate, Senator Inhofe stated in his remarks–and this is found on page S4860 of the Congressional Record. I want everyone to make sure I am not misquoting Senator Inhofe. I would not do that. From page S4860 of July 11, the Congressional Record:
… we went into a warming period that went up to the turn of the century. Now it is actually going down into a cooling period again …
That was Senator Inhofe, July 11, 2012. In other words, as I understand it, Senator Inhofe is saying that since the year 2001 we are in a cooling period. Unfortunately, Senator Inhofe’s assertion that we have entered a cooling period could not be more incorrect.
Let’s look at what the scientific data shows us. The last decade was not one where our temperature got cooler. It was, in fact, the very opposite. According to NASA, the last decade was in fact the warmest on record, using temperature records that date to the late 1800s. NASA’s data shows that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record occurred since 2000, when Senator Inhofe says we went into a “cooling period.” So NASA says the last decade was the warmest on record, but Senator Inhofe says we have gone into a cooling period.
But it is not just NASA making this finding. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration–NOAA–issued a report from 300 scientists in 48 countries that confirms the last decade was the warmest on record–the warmest on record at a time when Senator Inhofe tells us we are going into a cooling period.
The World Meteorological Organization also confirms that the last decade was the warmest on record, and they found the 13 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1997.
So the American people and my Republican friends are going to have to make a decision: Is Jim Inhofe right that we are entering into a cooling period or is NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration correct in saying that the last decade was, in fact, the warmest on record?
As my fellow Vermonter, Bill McKibben, recently pointed out, globally we have seen 327 consecutive months where the temperature exceeded the global average for the 20th century. Senator Inhofe tells us the world is getting cooler, but science shows us we have just experienced the warmestdecade on record. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong, and I do not believe Senator Inhofe is right.
Senator Inhofe stated on July 11, 2012, page S. 4862 of the Congressional Record:
One thing we did find out when we got a report from several universities, including MIT, was that the cost of this, if we were to pass any of the bills, would have been between $300 billion and $400 billion a year.
This is not the first time Senator Inhofe has asserted that the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions is $300 billion to $400 billion a year. In an interview with Fox News on February 11, 2000, Senator Inhofe was asked by the Fox anchor about the cost of global warming legislation, and he responded:
It would cost between $300 billion and $400 billion a year.
Senator Inhofe gets his estimates by looking at worst-case scenarios from an out-of-date report that looked at legislation from 2007. The truth is, however, more recent research proves we can take strong action to cut emissions while at the same time growing our economy and saving Americans substantial sums of money on their energy bills.
For example, a 2009 study from McKinsey consulting firm found that the United States can meet our 2020 targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions just through cost-effective energy efficiency efforts, with a net savings for American consumers of $700 billion. A 2010 report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that by doing things nationally, many States–including the State of Vermont, my own State–are doing on energy efficiency already, we could achieve substantial benefits. The study found by investing aggressively in energy efficiency in our buildings, in our schools, in our factories, and in our transportation systems we would create over 370,000 net new jobs by 2020, boost our rate of economic growth and GDP, and save households significant sums of money on their energy bills–all while vastly exceeding our 2020 target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent from 2005 levels.
In this scenario, we could cut emissions over 30 percent by 2020 as we create jobs and as millions of people save money on their energy bills. To my mind, creating jobs, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and saving money on people’s fuel bills is a win-win-win situation.
In addition to the clear benefits from taking action, I want to point out to Senator Inhofe the costs and risks if we do not take action, if we do nothing. The alternative is we step back, we don’t do anything, and what happens?
Already, the extreme weather we have seen is impacting our Nation’s infrastructure. An interesting article appeared just a few days ago, July 25, 2012, in the New York Times. It said the Nation’s infrastructure is being taxed to worrisome degrees by heat, drought, and vicious storms. The article noted that on a single day in July, an airplane got stuck in asphalt that softened due to 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after heat caused a track to bend. It also cited highways that are heating up and expanding beyond their design limits, causing cracks and jarring bumps in the road. The article mentioned how powerplants are having difficulty using their regular cooling sources during operation because the water is now excessively warm.
A power company executive with 38 years of experience was quoted as saying:
We’ve got the storm of the century every year now, after power was knocked out for 4.3 million people in 10 States after the June derecho storm that raced from the Midwest to the East Coast at near hurricane-force winds.
Interestingly, not generally noted as being terribly progressive, the insurance industry has noted their costs for property damage from increasingly extreme weather have already increased in the United States from $3 billion a year in the 1980s to $20 billion a year today. According to Mark Way, an official with Swiss Re, a large reinsurance company:
A warming climate will only add to this trend of increasing losses, which is why action is needed now.
A landmark study prepared for the British Government by Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, found that doing nothing to reverse global warming could eventually shrink the global economy by 20 percent. The Chairman of the National Intelligence Council under President George W. Bush testified to Congress that intelligence assessments indicated that global warming could worsen existing problems, such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions. Climate change could threaten domestic stability in some States, potentially contributing to conflict, particularly over access to increasingly scarce water resources.
Unlike Senator Inhofe, most Americans are seeing the evidence of global warming with their own eyes. I want to take some time to talk about what we are seeing.
The Associated Press reported on July 3, 2012:
But since at least 1988, climate scientists have warned that climate change would bring, in general, increased heat waves, more droughts, more sudden downpours, more widespread wildfires and worsening storms. In the United States, those extremes are happening here and now.
So far this year, more than 2.1 million acres have burned in wildfires, more than 113 million people in the U.S. were in areas under extreme heat advisories last Friday, two- thirds of the country is experiencing drought, and earlier in June, deluges flooded Minnesota and Florida.
We saw extreme weather last year as well. In 2011, we had a record-
breaking 14 weather disasters in the United States that each caused over $1 billion in damage. One of those was Hurricane Irene, which caused devastating flooding and loss of life in the State of Vermont and other States in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. According to FEMA:
Considered together, the federally declared disasters of 2011 presented crises all but unprecedented in their frequency and scope. The 99 major disasters, 29 declared emergencies, and 114 requests for fire management assistance touched 48 out of 50 states.
In other words, 48 States had a federally declared disaster last year.
Global average surface temperature has already increased 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, according to NOAA. The last 12 months is the warmest 12-month period on record in the United States. Since January 1, 2012, cities and regions in the United States have set 40,000 records for warm temperatures, compared to just 6,000 for cold temperatures, according to NOAA. In the 20th century we set warm and cold temperature records at roughly a 1-to-1 ratio. In the 21st century, that has changed 2 to 1 in favor of heat records, and this year it has jumped to 7 to 1.
As the planet warms, we are seeing more extreme heat wave events. Heat waves killed tens of thousands in Europe in 2003 and Russia in 2010, and a heat wave in Texas and Oklahoma caused severe drought and wildfires in 2011. Global warming made these heat waves significantly more likely, according to the latest science.
Leading climatologist James Hansen and several of his colleagues published a report that said:
Extreme heat waves such as that in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011, and Moscow in 2010, were caused by global warming, because their likelihood was negligible prior to the recent rapid global warming.
Another study from German researchers published in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences found an 80-percent likelihood that the Russian heat wave in 2010 was attributable to global warming. And a study from NOAA found the heat wave and drought in Texas in 2011 was 20 times more likely to occur today than 50 years ago due to the warming of the planet.
As I mentioned, this country is currently experiencing a devastating drought. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated disaster areas due to drought in 1,369 counties in 31 States this year. The price of corn has increased 50 percent in the last 3 months, and soybean prices are up 25 percent since June. This is because 78 percent of the corn crop and 77 percent of soybean production is in drought-
This is not the first time we have seen devastating droughts spike food prices in recent years. Severe drought in Russia in 2010 led that country to ban exports of grain, which contributed to a near doubling in wheat prices over a 2-month period in that year. The worst drought in China in 60 years occurred last year in 2011, affecting 12 million acres of wheat and contributing–along with floods in Australiaand the drought in Russia–to record food prices.
Some commentators cited the record food prices caused by these extreme weather events as contributing to unrest. When food prices go up, there is often instability in countries around the world–including the Middle East and Africa.
Sea levels have already risen 7 inches globally, according to EPA. We have seen during the last three summers record low levels of Arctic Sea ice, and we know from NASA satellites that Antarctica is losing 24 cubic miles of ice every year. In Glacier National Park in this country we had 150 glaciers when it was formed in 1910, but today only 25 remain. Some studies predict a sea level rise of 5 feet or more by the end of this century. But even if sea levels rose 3 feet, cities such as Miami, New Orleans, Charleston, SC, Oakland, CA, and others could find themselves partially underwater.
The average annual acreage consumed by wildfires in the United States more than doubled during the last decade compared with the previous four decades. Last year in Texas wildfires destroyed 2,700 homes. This year in Colorado–the most destructive wildfire in that State’s history–destroyed 350 homes. Wildfires in Colorado this year caused tens of thousands to evacuate their homes. In New Mexico, we saw the largest wildfire in that State’s history this year burn more than 170,000 acres that broke the previous record which was set just last year when a fire burned more than 150,000 acres.
Mr. President, last year floods along the Mississippi River caused $2 billion worth of damage. Floods in North Dakota displaced 11,000 people from their homes. Record floods in Australia in 2011 caused its State of Queensland to conduct the largest evacuation in its history. Floods in Pakistan in 2010 killed 2,000 people and left one-fifth of that nuclear-armed nation under water for weeks. That is the kind of potentially destabilizing extreme weather events the folks at the Department of Defense and the CIA worry about. Unfortunately, I could go on and on. The bad news is if we do nothing, the science is clear that temperatures will continue to increase, sea levels will continue to rise, and extreme weather will become more frequent and more devastating. The good news is–and it is very good news–that we now have the technology, the knowledge, and the know-how to cut emissions today through energy efficiency and through moving toward such sustainable and renewable technologies as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass.
It is time for Congress to get serious about global warming and to work to transform our energy system to sustainable energy, and that starts by beginning to understand that global warming is real and that if we do not address it now, it will only get worse and bring more danger to this country and to our planet.
Mr. INHOFE. Will the Senator yield for a unanimous consent request?
Mr. SANDERS. Yes.
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that at the conclusion of the remarks of my friend from Vermont, I be recognized as in morning business for such time as I will consume.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?
Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I am glad to see my friend from Oklahoma here on the floor. I want to conclude by reading a review of Senator Inhofe’s book, which is called “The Greatest Hoax,” by a gentleman named J.C. Moore. This review by J.C. Moore was published in the Tulsa World which is, I suspect, the largest newspaper in the State of Oklahoma. J.C. Moore is a native Oklahoman–the same State Senator Inhofe represents–and a Ph.D. who taught chemistry and physics and is a member of the American Geophysical Union.
This is what Mr. Moore wrote: “Inhofe claims he is winning in his fight to debunk global warming.” After discussing the scientific consensus among climate scientists and major scientific institutions all over the world, Moore writes:
Inhofe’s greatest adversary is nature itself, as research shows the climate is changing in response to human activities. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing, the temperature of the Earth is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic, glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising, the probability of severe weather events is increasing, and weather-related natural disasters are becoming more frequent and more costly. It is time we examine more closely who is actually winning by ignoring science.
As I understand it, that is from a review of Senator Inhofe’s book, “The Greatest Hoax,” by a gentleman named J.C. Moore in the Tulsa World.
There is much more to be said on this issue because here on the floor of the Senate we are saying virtually nothing. I might say that we look pretty dumb to the rest of the world by ignoring what many scientists believe is the major environmental crisis of our time which, if we don’t get a handle on, will have profound impacts on the well-being of this country and countries throughout this world.
So I say to my friend Senator Inhofe–and he is my friend–I hope very much the Senator will rethink his position. I hope those Republicans who are following the Senator’s lead will rethink their position because nothing less than the future of our planet is at stake.
With that, I am happy to yield the floor for my friend, Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma.