World Wrestling Entertainment executive and performer Linda McMahon, Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Small Business Administration, is a global warming denier.When McMahon unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2010, she explained her rejection of the scientific understanding of climate change to the Connecticut Mirror:
McMahon, the Republican nominee and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, says the “science is mixed” on what has caused global warming, although she does not dispute that the climate is indeed changing.
“I just don’t think we have the answers as to why it changes,” she said. “I’m not a scientist, so I couldn’t pretend to understand all the reasons. But the bottom line is we really don’t know.”
McMahon went on to describe her opposition to climate legislation and support for unrestricted oil and gas drilling. She lost to Democrat Richard Blumenthal, who accurately stated that “the science is irrefutable, and we would be irresponsible to ignore it.”
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation – what the word “theory” means in scientific jargon, despite Rep. Perry’s confusion – for the rapid warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. Because of the hundreds of billions of tons of industrial carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere, the global climate is continuing to warm, with every decade since the 1970s warmer than the last, and the impacts of global warming are accelerating faster than scientists projected.
In written testimony, Trump’s Secretary of State candidate, former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, continued to reject the scientific consensus of manmade global warming. Responding to a question from Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tillerson made the specious claim that rising industrial greenhouse gases — produced in large part by his own corporation — are not the primary driver of global warming.
CARDIN: Do you accept the consensus among scientists that the combustion of fossil fuels is the leading cause for increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which is the key factor in the rising global temperatures?In fact, the scientific consensus is that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are responsible for all of the observed global warming, and likely even more — without human activity, global temperatures may have declined slightly. As the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report stated:
TILLERSON: I agree with the consensus view that the combustion of fossil fuels is a leading cause for increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. I understand these gases to be a factor in rising temperatures, but I do not believe the scientific consensus supports their characterization as the “key” factor.
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
Tillerson’s failure to understand climate science was convenient for ExxonMobil’s profits, but is catastrophically dangerous for ability of the planet to support organized society.
CORKER: The Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.
We appreciate everybody being here as the Senate carries out one of its most important responsibility, which is to advice — to give advice and consent to nominees that are put forth by a president. We thank all of you for being here. Obviously, there’s a lot of interest in this hearing. We would ask those who, like us, have the privilege of being in this room, we would ask you to respect democracy, respect the right for us to have a hearing, to control yourselves in an appropriate manner, and I’m sure that is gonna be the case. This is the best of America here.
Serving with outstanding members on this committee. As a matter of fact, because of so much happening in the world today and because of the role that this committee has played over the last several years, demand on this committee has grown and — and with that, I want to welcome new members who I know will play a big role in the future of our country.
Mr. Todd Young, newly elected to the Senate, we welcome you here. This is our first public appearance. We thank you for your interest in our country’s future and for being here. Mr. Rob Portman, who also joined the committee. I think he serves on more committees here than anybody in the Senate, but we thank you for your responsible thinking and leadership. I want to thank Jeff Merkley, who I know cares very, very deeply about these issues, for joining this committee, for your principled efforts in so many regards, and I know they will continue here.
And Cory Booker, new star of the Senate, who I know will play a very vigorous role here and we thank you so much for being here today.
Just to give you a little bit of a sense of what’s gonna happen today, we have four very distinguished people, two of whom are colleagues, who will introduce the nominee and then we will move to opening statements. I will give an opening statement, our distinguished ranking member will give an opening statement and then our nominee, Mr. Rex Tillerson, will give his.
Each person here will have 10 minutes to ask questions, a little bit more than the norm. We’ve coordinated the schedule with the ranking member, but also with Senator Schumer and others, just to ensure that the American people and certainly all of us have the opportunity to ask the kind of questions that people would like to ask.
I would say to members, I know some of us have an art form of being able to ask about 90 questions in time ending about five seconds before the respondent responds. The 10 minutes includes the response and I’m gonna be — in order to be — in order to be respectful of everybody’s time, which is a little bit unusual here, we’re gonna be — we’re gonna hold to that in a very rigid way.
Our plan is that we will go until about one o’clock today if everybody uses their time. We will take a break out of showing mercy to our nominee for about 45 minutes and to many of us up here. And then we’ll come back and resume until such a time as we have the vote-a-rama that — which I think begins around six o’clock this evening.
Again, in order to make sure that all questions are answered, the ranking member and I have agreed that should there be another day necessary, we’ll begin a morning — in the morning at 10 o’clock. Hopefully, with all that will happen today, that will be unnecessary, but our nominee is very aware that that may well occur.
I think all of you know that our business meeting, again, in order to show respect for all of who are here, is moved until tonight when we have the vote-a-rama, at which time will take up the accession — Montenegro accession to NATO and will take up the — the resolution relative to Israel. We’ll do that off the floor this evening.
So, with that…
CARDIN: Mr. Chairman, can I just thank you for the accommodations for this hearing? I — I know you started it at nine o’clock as an accommodation so that we could all have a little bit more time in the morning for asking questions. And I thank you very much for that accommodating a 10-minute round.
The two of — the chairman and I have worked closely together to make sure that this hearing was the type of hearing that we’d be proud of in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I want to personally thank you for that and welcome our four new members to our committee.
And with that, I’ll withhold until (inaudible).
CORKER: Thank you.
This — this committee has been a — certainly a beacon of bipartisanship, as was mentioned, sometimes an island of bipartisanship. But I think all of us understand the importance of us being united, especially when we leave the shore’s edge. And I know that we will continue to conduct the hearing today in that manner.
With that, we have four very distinguished individuals who would like to introduce the nominee. We thank each of them for being here. I know that they plan to spend about two and a half minutes each. To do so, we welcome you here.
We have the distinguished Senator Cornyn from Texas, the distinguished Senator Cruz from Texas, the distinguished Sam Nunn from Georgia, who we miss but thank him for his service, and the distinguished Secretary Gates who has served eight presidents. I’m actually surprised he’s not serving a ninth. But we thank you for being here.
Each of you, if you would please give your comments and then we will move to — to opening statements. Thank you for being here.
CORNYN: Chairman Corker and Ranking Member Cardin, members of the — of the committee, I’m proud to be here today with my colleague Senator Cruz to introduce a fellow Texan, Rex Tillerson, as the nominee to be the next secretary of State.
Without a doubt, Rex Tillerson is an inspired choice by President-elect Trump for this critical position. The depth and breadth of his experience as an accomplished and successful business leader and skilled negotiator give him a solid understanding of our current geopolitical and economic challenges, making him uniquely qualified to serve in this important office.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in engineering, Mr. Tillerson joined the Exxon Corporation, eventually moving up the ranks and into overseas assignments in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. In 2006, he assumed command of Exxon Mobile, a tenure during which he displayed exceptional acumen, helping Exxon weather complex geopolitical obstacles to make the company into one of the world’s most profitable corporations.
CORNYN: As a lifelong Texan, Rex has been recognized for something you don’t ordinarily associate with being a powerful business leader and head of one of the largest corporations in the world. He’s been recognized for his humility and his altruism. One of my constituents recently wrote a piece in the Dallas Morning News talking about serving on a jury with Mr. Tillerson recently.
She noted that on that jury, his natural leadership ability and charisma, helped them deliver justice in a delicate and difficult case of sexual assault. Following the trial, Mr. Tillerson then donated to the local non-profit that helps support and counsel the victim after the trial.
Mr. Tillerson understands how to separate friendships and business. He knows who he works for. My first encounter with Rex is when I was attorney general. I don’t know if he remembers this, but we were on opposite sides of a lawsuit.
I was representing in my capacity as attorney general to the state of Texas and we had the temerity to sue ExxonMobil. And lets say, our first encounter was a little awkward, to say the least. But over the years, I’ve grown to admire and respect Rex and he didn’t let our differences get in the way of what we could agree on.
Since then, I’ve seen him demonstrate an uncanny ability that will serve him and our country well as its chief diplomat. And that is an ability to deftly handle business matters while maintaining and building relationships, a further testament to his integrity and strength of character.
Once he’s confirmed, I’m confident that he will be instrumental in shaping American foreign policy as we face a broad array of diplomatic challenges that will define the security and success of our nation for generations.
So thank you Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, members of the committee, for letting me introduce Rex Tillerson.
CORKER: (OFF-MIKE) for being maybe the first prompt senator I’ve witnessed here. Thank you so much.
CORNYN: Trying to set the standard, sir.
CORKER: Thank you, sir.
CRUZ: Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, members of the committee, good morning. It is a privilege to join you this morning and have the opportunity to help introduce my fellow Texan and the secretary of State Designee, Rex Tillerson.
As many of you know, Rex is a Texan, born and raised in Wichita Falls and he’s a proud Texas Longhorn, which John and I might think is plenty enough alone to qualify him for secretary of State. But I recognize you all might set a higher bar than that.
The good news is, that is only the beginning of a long substantive list of qualifications, achievements and international relationships that Rex brings to the table. A list that I believe has prepared him to be a strong candidate to lead our State Department, as we face the monumental task of restoring America’s influence across the world.
As all of us know, this is no easy task. We live in a dangerous year and a dangerous world. And after the last eight years, we face a circumstance where many of our friends no longer trust us and many of our enemies no longer fear us.
Rex Tillerson is a serious man, who understands the value of perseverance and knows what it takes to accomplish difficult tasks. From an early age, he worked to climb the ranks in Boy Scouts to become an Eagle Scout and started as a production engineer at Exxon in 1975, eventually, climbing his way to the top as CEO of the Fortune 10 Company.
At Exxon, he led one of the world’s most respected companies with over 75,000 employees and over $250 billion in revenue. Exxon, a proud Texas Company, does business in 52 countries. And Rex has traveled the globe, negotiating business deals with world leaders, effectively advocating for the interests of his company, shareholders and employees.
The numerous achievements that Rex has earned, they don’t come without hard work, dedication and passion for one’s mission. This is the work ethic and spirit that America needs in its secretary of State.
That is the attitude that gives me confidence in the opportunity that Rex has to chart a different, better and stronger course for our national security and diplomacy. We need a secretary of State who understands that America is exceptional, who will establish policies upon that foundation of exceptionalism and who will put America’s interests first.
Repeatedly, the current administration has used the United Nations to try to circumvent the will of Congress and the American people. I look forward to a president and secretary of State, who will instead vigorously defend U.S. sovereignty.
I believe that Rex has an incredible opportunity to defend the foreign policy principles upon which President-elect Trump campaigned, to strengthen our friendship and alliances and to defeat our enemies. And I look forward to all of us working with him in the years ahead as we restore American leadership across the globe. Thank you.
CORKER: Thank you, also for those concise comments, much appreciated, thank you both for being here. And should you need to leave to go to other hearings, please feel free to do so.
CORKER: You need to turn your mic on, sir. You’ve gotta practice, leaving here for a few years.
NUNN: Well, I thank you Gentleman Corker and Senator Cardin and my friend for a long time, Johnny Isakson — Senator Isakson, members of the committee. I wish I had thought of this clock a long time ago, it would’ve saved an awful lot of agony for our committee.
So I’m gonna try to cut my statement as short as possible. And I ask the whole statement be put into the record.
CORKER: Without objection, thank you.
NUNN: Mr. Chairman, Rex Tillerson’s resume is well-known, so let me just tackle two points that I know have been raised with the committee, as well as with the Senate.
First, Rex Tillerson’s knowledge of and experience in Russia. And second, how his work in the private sector prepares him to be our top diplomat and run one of the most important departments in our government.
With respect to Russia, certain facts are clear. Russia’s recent, flagrant actions indicate that its national interest sharply differ from America’s national interest in important places, most acutely in Ukraine, in Europe and in Syria.
Russia’s values differ from America’s values, in particularly in our form of government, our commitment to personal freedom, human rights and the rule of law. These fundamental differences are very important and the fact that our interests and values differ, should always inform our policy toward Russia.
But Mr. Chairman, the important facts don’t end here. It is also a fact, that Russia today deploys hundreds of nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles that could be fired and hit their targets, around the globe in less time that it will take to have opening statements at the hearing today.
It is also a fact that for both the United States and Russia, the risk of an accidental, unauthorized or mistaken launch of a nuclear ballistic missile is unnecessarily high, particularly in our world of increasing cyber vulnerability. It is also a fact that the United States and Russia, like it or not, are bound together in areas of unavoidable common interests, including the prevention of nuclear and biological terrorism, the prevention of nuclear proliferation, false warnings of nuclear attacks and the hacking of command and control systems or nuclear facilities.
These facts lead me to an inescapable conclusion. It is dangerous for the United States and Russia and for the world to have virtually no dialogue on reducing nuclear risks and very little military to military communication. If this continues and we are guided by zero sum logic on both sides, we and Russia may be rewarded at some point with catastrophe.
This is my judgment, even when we have stark disputes, including strong evidence from our intelligence community that Russia has interfered in U.S. elections, a finding that Congress must fully examine, including its ominous implications for our political process and our security.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, there have been other moments in history where voices in both Washington and Moscow argued that our areas of disagreement were so great, that we should not work on issues even of common interests between our two countries.
For those who are considering this point, I would suggest re-reading President Kennedy’s commencement address that American University delivered just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy spoke of the pursuit of peace, as necessary and rational, quoting him at an age where singular nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive power delivered by all the allied forces in Second World War.
President Kennedy rejected voices saying it is useless to speak of peace until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. Kennedy warned, “Let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which these differences can be resolved.”
NUNN: Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, these words remain true today. I know Rex Tillerson pretty well. And I am confident that he is well prepared, to do what is essential for the security of our nation, to hold firm and tough where our national interests and values demand it and to build on our common interests in working with other nations, including Russia on practical concrete steps that will make the American people safer and more secure.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Cardin, and other members of the Committee, I also consider Rex Tillerson’s experience and knowledge in business as an asset and as well as his knowledge of Russia.
I think both are assets, not liability. I also consider his business experience very relevant to the world today as an asset. As I look at the world today, every significant international challenge we face has a very important business component. It’s true in Ukraine, it’s true in the Middle East, it’s true in most places. Rex Tillerson knows these crucial regions, he knows the leaders, and he understands the challenges and the risk.
He is also keenly aware of the power of the private sector and the important role it can play in addressing these fundamental issues. Mr. Chairman, in wrapping up, I’m confident that if confirmed to be secretary of State, Rex Tillerson will take off his corporate hat, but he’ll use his vast experience to devote 100 percent of his considerable intellect, energy and experience to protecting America’s interest in the troubled world we’re in.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I urge his confirmation.
CORKER: Thank you so much for being here and participating and your many, many contributions relative to nuclear safety around the world.
GATES: Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, distinguished members of the foreign relations committee. It gives me great pleasure to introduce my friend and fellow Eagle Scout, Rex Tillerson as the president-elect’s nominee to be the next secretary of State.
I’ve known Mr. Tillerson for a number of years through our shared experience in leading the Boy Scouts of America. On many of occasions, after a day of meetings, Rex and I would talk, often for hours about international affairs including Russia and Vladimir Putin.
I believe I have a pretty good idea about how he thinks about the world and the challenges we face. The secretary of State has four important roles; advising the president, negotiating with foreign governments and international organizations, representing the United States abroad, and leading the Department of State. Against a backdrop of having known or worked with 12 secretaries of State, I believe Mr. Tillerson is superbly qualified to carry out each of these roles.
He is deeply knowledgeable about the international scene and geopolitics and importantly would be an informed and independent adviser to the president. He would be candid and honest, willing to tell the president straight from the shoulder what he needs to hear. He would bring decades of experience as a tough and successful negotiator with foreign governments to the position. I’ve heard him speak often to scout groups about American values and I know he would be an eloquent and passionate representative of the United States to the world.
And finally, based on his long experience in leading a major corporation as well as the Boy Scouts, I know he will lead the Department of State with skill and respect for the professionals. Much has been said and written about Mr. Tillerson and Russia. I’ve spent my entire adult life dealing with the Soviet Union and Russia. I joined CIA over 50 years ago to do my bit in the epic struggle with the Soviet Union.
During that time, I acquired a reputation as something as a hardliner. Just ask a couple of previous secretaries of State. Yet, I knew that we not only had to resist and contain the USSR, we also had to contain the risk of conflict with it. And that meant engaging in dialogue, negotiations, and even reaching agreements limiting strategic nuclear weapons and establishing agreed procedures to prevent confrontations from escalating.
This new administration must thread the needle between pushing back against Vladimir Putin’s aggressions, meddling interventionism, ambitions and bullying and at the same time find a way to stop a dangerous downward spiral in our relationship with Russia. I believe Mr. Tillerson is the right person at the right time to help accomplish both of those goals. And so, it is with pride and confidence that I introduce him to you today and encourage his confirmation.
CORKER: We thank you all for being here. You honor us with your presence, we thank you for your contribution. You do not have to leave, but you cannot stay there so…
... we actually hope you will stay somewhere in the premise and participate if you would like.
CORKER: We have some new members to the committee today and I was thinking prior to this hearing that 10 years ago, I came on this committee as a new senator, in many ways to broaden my ability to — to serve our nation and to serve our state having been mostly a businessperson.
When I came here, the first order of business was to deal with the surge in Iraq. Pretty monumental time. We had an under-resourced effort that was taking place in Iraq and at a time when, really in many ways, the United States had unleashed forces in the region that had not been seen – not unlike taking, in some ways, a big stick and hitting a hornets nest and changing dramatically the dynamic in the region.
And so, we had the choice of whether we surge and try to be successful at what we began or take another course. Afghanistan also had been under-resourced and — and all of a sudden we began discussing things like nation-building, things that had not been part of our vocabulary for many years.
We had the Arab Spring that took place in 2011. Again, some of which was built off of some of the activities that I mentioned earlier. And we had all kinds of incoherent things that took place; the quick throwing aside of a leader in Egypt that we had known for years, an undertaking in Libya that I still have never understood what the goal was, but left a large vacuum in the region with arms spreading throughout northern Africa and other places.
We had the conflict in Syria that began, if you remember, with us cheering on the people who wanted basic human rights and more of a democracy. And then, we had the red line that our country did not follow — follow up on. After that, we had the taking of Crimea and the destabilizing of eastern Ukraine, some of which I think was driven by observing U.S. leadership in the world.
We had China redrawing a map that had been around for thousands of years in the South China Sea and claiming islands and properties and building runways and doing things that, again, until that time had not occurred. We’ve had the whole destabilization of Europe where I think confidence levels in Europe are probably the lowest they’ve been in our lifetimes. Driven by concerns about, in many cases, what our role is but also the role of Russia and what it’s been doing in the region, the role of immigrants that are flowing in, the whole challenging of the European — the European model.
And then, we’ve had a campaign, let’s face it, that has been somewhat unorthodox, one that has also given concern to our allies in the world and to many around the world as to just where America is going to be. With all of this chaos that has exhibited through multiple administrations and will continue under this for a period of time, we’ve had chaos where the United States has been withdrawing in its leadership role and to me that’s a recipe for further chaos.
So, this is a very important hearing. I’ve had the — I had the ability the other day to sit down with General Flynn who’s going to be the national security adviser and I spent time with people around him for some time and I know that, rightly so, his focus is also on our country doing well economically.
Every — every military leader we’ve had before us and certainly Secretary Gates have told us that if our nation is not strong economically, if we’re not doing the things fiscally to keep ourselves strong then our nation will be weak and our leadership around the world will be — be diminished.
CORKER: And so, I’m thankful that is the case. A lot of people here realize that it’s not also — it’s also — it’s not only important for us to be economically successful, but we understand that autocrats in other places, when they themselves are not successful, end up creating havoc around the world for nationalistic reasons to — to build support within their countries.
And therefore we don’t wish the other major countries in the world harm as it relates to economic growth. We want them to do well, countries like China and even Russia, who no doubt has conducted very nefarious activities here in our country.
Many of us has seen in the Middle East the fact that poverty, not unlike what happens in our own country, where people who lives in cities and neighborhoods have no hope, crime permeates, things occur. And we’ve seen the same thing happen in the Middle East where young people with no hope are attracted to ideologies that end up threaten — threatening our own nation.
So, I appreciate the fact that at the National Security Office, they’re not only connected to those who will be dealing with our issues of foreign policy and our role in the world, but also focus on those economic issues, which brings me to trade.
Our country has shown great leadership around the world. Rob Portman served as our trade representative in previous administrations. And there’s been a great deal of talk about what our role will be in that regard. I think most of us believe that a world that continues to focus on free enterprise, a world that continues to have democratic principals more and more permeated, is a world that’s a better place for us. And while our — while we should always focus on trade as it relates to improving the standard of living of Americans, an insularly benefit is that people within those countries begin to adopt the values that we hold so dear here in our country.
One of the things that many of us on the committee and so many in audience have been able to do is also to see the importance of American values around the world.
It’s an amazing thing to — to be in Afghanistan for instance and to see women at 4:30 in the morning — who by the way do all of the hard work in Afghanistan — up and ready to vote in the first election that they’ve voted in or to see young girls going to schools that they never had the opportunity to go to. To be in refugee camps where truly every eye is on the American that’s there with hope, to be in — to be in Venezuela and to see families who — whose loved ones are in prison for political reasons and looking to us to change that.
To be in villages in Africa where, for the first time because of American ingenuity, people — 600 million people without power now have hope with very little in the way of U.S. resources, but our leadership in setting a vision and working with others. The elimination almost of HIV, the dealing with Malaria, the dealing with other diseases like Ebola.
Many of us — all of us I think, have been in situations where young people just want to touch us; they just want to see us. They want to hug Americans because they like the people who founded our country, believe in the American ideal. It’s not just a country, but it’s their hope. It’s their vision of what their life might be with American leadership. And I believe the world’s at its best when American leads.
And I think most people at this bias believe the same thing. And we understand the importance of diplomacy and that all of us know with the one percent of the U.S. budget that we spend on efforts like Mr. Tillerson may lead. But that one percent — if we’re successful, the likelihood of the men and women that we cherish so much in our military are much less likely to be in harm’s way, which brings me to you.
(inaudible) Mr. Tillerson, who by the way, had never met Mr. Trump as I understand until a few weeks ago — a month ago. I believe, like Senator Cardin — Cornyn said that it’s very, very possible that you are in fact an inspired choice.
We look at the president to, if you think about it, approaches everything almost from an economic standpoint. That’s been the world that he has lived in. And the fact that you’ve led a global enterprise with 70,000 employees around the world, have been there for 41 and a half years, have met world leaders, know them up and — up close and personally. To me, that is going to give our new president much greater confidence in your ability to offer advice.
And I think it’s gonna give the State Department possibly the ability to have the appropriate balance with other forces as it relates within the White House and other places, as it relates to developing a vision for our country.
If you think about it, not only does the world not really understand where America is today — and all of us have had leaders in our offices wondering what is next — all of us. But if you think about the body politic here in our own country, doesn’t understand.
You look at the election, we had a — we had the Bush presidency and then we had the Obama presidency, which was not the Bush presidency. And then we’ve had this election where many things have been said and sometimes in unorthodox ways.
And so, not just the world leaders not know where we are, not do — not just citizens who watch us on television and other places, but our body politic here does not know. So, Mr. Tillerson, you’ve got a — this is a momentous time. This to me is the most important nomination that the president has made. The world paying attention to this hearing I think denotes that.
You have the ability no doubt to draw a crowd. But it’s gonna be your responsibility to define clearly what America’s role in the world is going to be. I know Secretary Gates has spoken to this many times as he talks about the way the world was when it was us and the Soviet Union. But now, it’s very different. And the American people even don’t fully understand what the future holds. You’ve got to restore our credibility secondly.
Look, the NATO alliance is shaken. Europe is shaken. Our Arab friends, because of negotiations that have taken place, are concerned about the future and I could go on and on, but I want to be respectful to other peoples’ time. But one of your first goals is gonna be is to restore U.S. credibility around the world. You’re gonna need to prioritize.
One of the things I’ve witnessed over the last several — for the entire 10 years I’ve been here actually — is there’s a lot of activity that takes place, but it’s hard to discern where it’s taking us. And so I think as a person who’s led an organization, who’s risen from the bottom, who’s been the CEO of a global enterprise may in fact be an inspired — inspired choice to prioritize, to restore credibility, which is what a company like your has had to do, to have those relationships based on trust, based on people knowing that we’re gonna do what we say.
And then lastly, you are the person that is charged with being the principal adviser to the president on foreign policy. And I think that’s the question that people on both sides of the aisle will raise most here today is — we know that — we know that the president-elect’s foreign policy is — is evolving as he takes office, as he talks to people. And there’s no way that you could speak on his behalf today. That cannot happen.
So what people here today are gonna want to know is, how are you going to advise him? You’re gonna be one of the last people to talk to him. You’re gonna be up under the hood, sharing with him what you think ought to happen. We know that at the end of the day, you’re gonna carry out his policy. And all of us have watched as other secretaries of State have tried to carry out their — their own policy and not the president’s. And we know that that does not work.
So, we thank you for being here. My sense is that you are going to rise to the occasion and that you are going to demonstrate that you are in fact an inspired choice, that you’re gonna be able to take the years of accomplishment in relationships and transfer that and translate it into a foreign policy that benefits U.S. national interest.
CORKER: Thank you again for being willing to put yourself before our country and world in this manner.
And with that, let me turn to our distinguished ranking member and my friend, Ben Cardin.
CARDIN: Well, again, Senator Corker thank you very much for the accommodations in this hearing. And I agree with your final comment. This hearing is about Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Tillerson’s views. But I think we’re gonna have some specific questions because of statements made by Mr. Trump. But we do wanna hear your views, particularly as it relates to many of the challenges that Chairman Corker went through in his opening statement.
To Senator Nunn, it’s a pleasure to have you in our committee and we thank you very much for your years of public service.
Secretary Gates, thank you for all of your service and you honor our committee, both of you, by being here today.
And I also want to, once again, welcome our new colleagues. Senator Booker, Senator Merkley, Senator Portman, Senator Young, I’ve worked with all four of you before in different capacities and I know your commitment to our national security and to foreign policy. And I know you all will be great additions to our committee.
I wanna acknowledge Senator King who is here, it’s not the first time that Senator King’s been in our committee room to observe a hearing. We gotta get you on the committee. But we thank you again, for you interest in — in this hearing.
And Mr. Tillerson, as I told you in our private meeting, thank you. Thank you for being willing to serve the public. It’s not easy, to put yourself forward, as you found since your nomination has been brought forward, your life has changed pretty dramatically. Not just for you, but your entire family. And we thank you for your willingness to serve our country.
Providing advice and consent on the nominees of the president is one of most important, constitutional powers of the Senate. It’s an awesome responsibility and one that I know that all of us on this committee, take with the utmost seriousness.
Mr. Tillerson, there is no question about your impressive record in the business world, rising through the ranks and then running Exxon, one of the largest multinational operations in the world. Yet, I would offer having a view from the C-Suite at Exxon, is not at all the same view from the 7th floor of the Department of State.
And those who suggest that anyone who can run a successful business, can of course, run a government agency do a profound disservice to both. Serving the narrow, market-driven interest of Exxon shareholders, is not the same as serving the national interest of all the American people.
Effective corporate governance in management does not always lend itself to government decision making, where bureaucracies and representative institutions, such as Congress, serve a different political and social purposes than maximizing profits.
I therefore want to get a sense of how you envision pivoting from the mindset of an oil man focused on profits, to that of a statesman, focused on promoting American interests and values around the world. As you know, Congress has a separate and co-equal branch of government has an important role to play in ensuring that the values that have animated our nations since its founding continue to flourish.
So first, I wanna share with you, as I did in our private meeting, my vision of the United States foreign policy and the role of the secretary of state in carrying out that policy. I approach this hearing and discussion today with a clear set of expectations of the next administration.
I believe strongly in a world where America works with its allies and partners, a world that is governed by laws and institutions consistent with the liberal, international order. On one where we champion our values, both at home and abroad.
Indeed, I think it’s worth spending a few minutes of this morning on the questions of human rights, Democracy, good governance, anti-corruption and civil society support. It is worth doing so, both because of the critical importance of these issues for America’s role in the world and our values are our interest, not a separate set of considerations, but also because of the nature of Exxon and your work there. Mr. Tillerson leaves some troubling questions about how you view these issues and how you as secretary of State intend to approach them.
As you may know, over the course of my tenure in the House and Senate, I’ve championed the cause of human rights and the importance of Democratic process and good governance. So when I see violations of the sovereignty by China and the South China Sea, I speak out. When I see gross human rights violations in Ethiopia, I speak out. When I see massive corruptions in countries with extreme poverty, like Ecuador and New Guinea, I speak out. And when I see severe erosion of Democratic institutions in Venezuela, I speak out.
Indeed, events over the past year serve as a stark reminder, that democracy will not defend itself. It requires those of us who believe in the enduring values of the Democratic experiment, to nature and support it and to defend it from authoritarian opponents who do not share our values.
Perhaps, the most egregious events we’ve seen recently, has been what has happened by President Putin of Russia, having effectively killed the nation’s nuanced democracy, has led efforts across Europe and the former Soviet Union to erode support for democratic institutions and calls into question well-established rules of the road.
Moscow directs efforts undermined democracy through propaganda, false news, cyber attacks and funding for populous political parties abroad. So perhaps, it should come as no surprise, that these nefarious activities have reached our shores, but it’s stunning, nonetheless.
Last week, the intelligence community found that Mr. Putin did indeed direct efforts to interfere in our elections. That’s their conclusion. They found that Kremlin attacked Hillary Clinton and directed resources to that end. I’m not saying the Russia’s efforts were decisive in our election outcome. That’s not the point. The point is that we, the United States, were victims of cyber attack of our Democratic process.
Recent news accounts, indicate Russia may well have information about Mr. Trump. And they could use that to compromise our presidency. It cannot be business as usual. That is why I was proud to introduce a bipartisan bill yesterday, with Senator McCain and several members of this committee, including Senator Menendez, Shaheen, Rubio and Portman, along with Senator Graham, Klobuchar, Sasse and Durbin, which will impose enhanced sanctions on Russia for its interference in our election and its ongoing aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
We need to stand up to this bully in Moscow and increase the cost for his behavior. So I was disappointed that in your prepared opening remarks submitted to the committee yesterday, there was no mention about the direct, confirmed cyber attack by Russia on America. But you did find time to say, it was the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent. So I wanna know exactly what additional actions the United States should have taken against Russia, in your view.
Do you, for example, support additional sanctions against Russia, demonstrating America’s leadership, like what my colleagues and I introduced yesterday? Mr. Tillerson, I’m sure you can understand why I and many of my colleagues, have concerns about your relationship with Mr. Putin.
And this is not simply a question of what you saw when you gazed into his eyes, you don’t strike me as someone likely to be naive. But also, about how Exxon conducted itself in supporting directly and indirectly, funding for the tools that Putin has used to crush democracy and descent at home and disown division abroad.
While I do not suggest it was your intent, it’s frankly not too great of a distance from Exxon’s business partnerships to Putin’s Kremlin-controlled slush funds essential for his disinformation campaign around the world. You will be representing a president who may blatantly ignore the consensus of 17 independent intelligent agencies, who have said that the Russia had interfered with our election in an unprecedented way.
The same president to whom you will report has also made it clear that he may ignore Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his illegal annexation of Crimea. His interference in Syria, where Russian’s forces partnered with Iran, Hezbollah and Shia militia, to shift battlefield momentum towards a dictator guilty of war crimes.
Russia itself is culpable of war crimes, for its backing of Bashar Al-Assad, who has starved, barrel bomb and tortured the Syrian people into submission. And yet, President-elect Trump may take quick steps to make Putin a close ally of the United States of America.
So there’s a serious discussion to be had here today, about Russia and the president-elect’s plans for Putin. And we need to know and understand your views, as the Chairman has said, on these critical issues of national security.
In addition, if we take seriously that your tenure and experience at Exxon serves as qualifications for secretary of State, then there’s likewise a serious discussion this committee needs to have about the potential for conflicts of interest that arise, from your long corporate tenure.
For far too long, in my estimation, U.S. foreign policy has treated core governance issues as secondary considerations. If you become our nation’s top diplomat, I want to know if governance issues will become a primary consideration.
CARDIN: I’ve always worked free governance issues is one of the most important aspects of our foreign policy. I have been centrally involved in several legislative efforts over the years to bring transparency to extracted industries, to foster high standards of — on corrupt practices and to use all the tools at our disposal when it comes to supporting human rights in civil societies. So, I’m troubled that on many of these issues, Exxon, under your leadership, appears to have been pushing in the opposite direction.
Mr. Tillerson, we have much to discuss. If confirmed, you will be assuming your new job at a consequential time. Indeed, I believe the United States today stands as a turning point in history. National power, economic, military, diplomatic is being redefined and redistributed across the globe.
International institutions, international financial and economic orders are under distress. Climate change is causing irreparable harm and creating and leading to great instability. In many parts of the world, there’s a view that American power, determination and maybe more importantly our support for American values is uncertain. And clearly, candidate Trump added to that uncertainty.
We have global challenges. The Middle East is undergoing a period of unprecedented violence and instability. Iran is committed to confrontations with the United States and its allies, fomenting terrorism to challenge regional water. There are no less than three civil wars in this part of the world.
U.S. leadership is required to not only support movement towards negotiated political settlements. Six years after the hope of our spring, the region has entered into a long winter in which many governments are backsliding in inclusive politic space for civil society and open economies.
The fractured Middle East underscores my fundamental belief that the United States cannot pursue a hard-nose security agenda or economic ties without prioritizing values such as political inclusion, human rights and free active — a free active media and civil society. Without these elements, instability will persist with serious implications for countering violent extremism and stinting the flow of refugees heading for Europe’s shore.
I also need to stress that our important partner in this part of the world, Israel, needs more than tweets about how great our relationship is going to be. I hope we will hear from you today concrete visions with specific proposals for the way to forward and strengthening that strategic partnership.
And despite the challenges, encouraging opportunities exists for our country. President Obama leaves the next administration as an inheritance, strengthened relationships with historic allies in Europe and Asia, a reenergize partnership with India and growing economic relations with countries across Sub-Sahara Africa that provide promising platforms to advance U.S. security and economic interests.
I recognize that what I outlined here may not be in line with President-elect Trump’s vision of the world. But I believe that core values like standing up against violations of international law, against war crimes, against human rights violations, against corruption and speaking up for democracy and freedom of speech must be at the forefront of American’s foreign policy agenda.
Finally, I want to note that if confirmed, you’ll be taking over as leader of one of the most skilled and able workforces in — of any organization on the planet. Our foreign affairs and development professionals are truly among the most able and dedicated of our public servants on the front lines safeguarding our national security. And as ranking member of this committee, I’ve benefited greatly from their insight and counsel over the years
I hope and trust and encourage you will take full advantage of the dedicated public servants of the Department of State and USAID should you be confirmed. They’re deeply committed to protecting and extending our nation’s values and interests.
I’m certain that you and our nation will benefit greatly from a full and robust partnership between your office and the department you have been nominated to lead. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing from our witness and I look forward to questionings.
CORKER: Mr. Tillerson, thank you for being here. And I think you’ve been adequately introduced.
And I think the world knows more about you than they ever thought today. So, without using any more time, we thank you for being here today.
I know you may have some family members to introduce which is always helpful. And if you wish to do so, begin with that and then with your comments.
TILLERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Yes, I do have members of my family with me today. My wife, Renda, for more than 30 years who has kept a welcoming home when I would come back from my many travels and also for our sons and our five grandchildren. My sister, Jo Peters — Jo Lynn Peters, a lifelong educator, high school mathematics teacher — math teacher coach and teaching many, many years in the Texas public school systems.
My sister, Dr. Rae Ann Hamilton, a family practice position at Abilene, Texas for more than 30 years. And my brother-in-law, Judge Lee Hamilton is now finishing — or has just begun to serve his fifth term on the bench at the 104th District of the State District Courts of Texas in Abilene, Texas.
I appreciate so much the love and support they’ve given me in my past endeavors, but most particularly that they would come all the way up from Texas to be with me today.
Good morning, Chairman Corker and others. I’m honored to have the backing of Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz from my home state of Texas.
I do want to thank Senator Nunn for his commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, something that he remains as steadfast today as ever. And to Secretary Gates for his service to eight U.S. presidents and his own leadership of the — as president of the Boy Scouts of America.
Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and members of the committee, it’s an honor to appear before you today as President-elect Trump’s nominee for secretary of State and seek the approval of this committee and the full Senate for my confirmation.
I come before you at a pivotal time in both the history of our nation and our world. And everywhere we look, people in nations are deeply unsettled. Old ideas and international norms which were well understood and governed behaviors in the past may long — no longer be effective in our time. We face considerable threats in this evolving new environment.
China has emerged as an economic power in global trade and our interactions have been both friendly and adversarial. While Russia seeks respect and relevance on the global stage, its recent activities have disregarded America’s interest.
Radical Islam is not a new ideology, but it is hateful, deadly and an illegitimate expression of the Islamic faith. Adversaries like Iran and North Korea pose great threats to the world because of their refusal to conform to international norms.
As we confront these realities, how should America respond? My answer is simple; to achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted.
We have many advantages on which to build. Our alliances are durable and our allies are looking for a return of our leadership. Our men and women in uniform are the world’s finest fighting force. And we possess…
PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE) my home was destroyed. Senators, be brave and protect my community. (Inaudible) protect America.
Rex Tillerson I refute (ph) you. I reject you. My home was destroyed by (inaudible) family.
TILLERSON: Our men and women in uniform are the world’s finest fighting force and we posses the world’s largest economy. America is still the destination of choice for people the world over because of our track record of benevolence and hope for our fellow man.
America has been indispensable in providing the stability to prevent another world war, increase global prosperity and encourage the expansion of liberty. Our role in the world has also historically entailed a place of moral leadership.
In scope of international affairs, America’s level of good will toward the world is unique and we must continue to display a commitment to personal liberty, human dignity, and principled action in our foreign policy. Quite simply, we are the only global super power with the means and the moral compass capable of shaping the world for good.
If we do not lead, we risk plunging the world deeper into confusion and danger. But we have stumbled. In recent decades, we have cast American leadership into doubt. In some instances, we have withdrawn from the world. In others, we have intervened with good intentions, but did not achieve the stability and global security we sought.
Instead, our actions and our non-actions have triggered a host unintended consequences and created a void of uncertainty. Today, our friends still want to help us, but they don’t know how. And meanwhile, our adversaries have been emboldened to take advantage of this absence of American leadership.
In this campaign, President-elect Trump proposed a bold new commitment to advancing American interest in our foreign policy. I hope to explain what this approach means and how I would implement it if confirmed as Secretary of state. Americans welcome this rededication to American security, liberty and prosperity.
TILLERSON: But new leadership is incomplete without accountability. If accountability does not start with ourselves, we cannot credibly extend it to our friends and our adversaries. We must hold ourselves accountable to upholding the promises we make to others.
In America they can be trusted and good faith is essential to supporting our partners, achieving our goals and assuring our security. We must hold our allies accountable to commitments they make. We cannot look the other way at allies who do not meet their obligations.
This is an injustice not only to us, but to long standing friends who honor their promising and bolster our own national security such as Israel and we must hold those who are not our friends accountable to the agreements they make. Our failure to do this over the recent decades has diminished our standing and encouraged bad actors around the world to break their word.
We cannot afford to ignore violations of international accords as we have done with Iran. We cannot continue to accept empty promises, like the ones China has made to pressure North Korea to reform only to shy away from enforcement.
Looking the other way when trust is broken only encourages more bad behavior and it must end. We cannot be accountable thought if we are not truthful and honest in our dealings. As you are aware my long standing involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. One of our bedrock ideals is honesty. Indeed the phrase “on my honor” begins the Boy Scout oath and it must undergird our foreign policy.
In particular we need to be honest about radical Islam. It is with good reason that our fellow citizens have a growing concern about radical Islam and the murderous acts committed in its name against Americans and our friends.
Radical Islam poses a great risk to the stability of nations and the well being of their citizens. Powerful digital media platforms now allow ISIS, Al Qaida, and other terror groups to spread poisonous ideology that runs completely counter to the values of the American people and all people around the world who value human life.
These groups are often enabled and emboldened by nations, organizations, and individuals sympathetic to their cause. These actors must face consequences for aiding and abetting what can only be called evil. The most urgent step in thwarting radical Islam is defeating ISIS.
The Middle East and its surrounding regions pose many challenges which require our attention including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are competed priorities in this region which must be and will be addressed but they must not distract from our utmost mission of defeating ISIS. Because when everything is a priority, nothing is priority. Defeating ISIS must be our foremost priority in the Middle East. Eliminating ISIS will be our first step in disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies.
The demise of ISIS will also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like Al Qaida, the Muslim brotherhood and certain elements within Iran. But defeat will not occur on the battlefield alone. We must win the war of ideas.
If confirmed I will ensure the State Department does its part in supporting Muslims around the world who reject radical Islam in all its forms. We should also acknowledge the realities about China. China’s island building in the South China Sea is an illegal taking of disputed areas without regard for international norms.
China’s economic and trade practices have not always followed its commitments to global agreements. It steals our intellectual property and is aggressive in expansionists in the digital realm. It has not been a reliable partner in using its full influence to curve North Korea. China has proven a willingness to act with abandon in the pursuit of its own goals, which at times has put it at conflict with American interest. We have to deal with what we see, not what we hope.
But we need to see the positive dimensions in our relationship with China as well. The economic wellbeing of our two nations is deeply intertwined. China has been a valuable ally in curtailing certain elements of radical Islam. We should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership.
TILLERSON: We must also be clear eyed about our relationship with Russia. Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests. It has invaded the Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea. And supported Syrian forces that brutally violates the laws of war. Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at resurgent Russia.
But it was in the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent. We backtracked on commitments we made to allies, we sent weak or mixed signals with red lines that turned into green lights. We did not recognize that Russia did not — does not think like we do.
Words alone do now sweep away an uneven and at times contentious history between our two nations. But we need an open and frank dialog with Russia regarding its ambitions so we know how to chart our own course.
For a cooperation with Russia based on common interest as possible, such as reducing the global threat of terrorism, we ought to explore these options. Where important differences remain, we should be steadfast in defending the interest of America and her allies. Russia must know that we will be accountable to our commitments and those of our allies and that Russia must be held to account for its actions.
Our approach to human rights begins by acknowledging that American leadership requires moral clarity. We do not face an either or choice on defending global human rights. Our values or our interest when it comes to human rights and humanitarian assistance.
It is unreasonable to expect that every foreign policy endeavor will be driven by human rights considerations alone, especially when the security of the American people is at stake. But our leadership demands actions specifically focused on improving the conditions of people the world over; utilizing both aid and where appropriate economic sanctions as instruments of foreign policy.
And we must adhere to standards of accountability. Our recent engagements with the government of Cuba was not accompanied by any significant concessions on human rights. We have not held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much while their people received little. That serves neither the interests of Cubans or Americans.
Abraham Lincoln declared that America is the last best hope of Earth. Our moral light must not go out if we are to remain an agent of freedom for mankind. Supporting human rights in our foreign policy is a key component of clarifying to a watching world what America stands for.
In closing, let us also be proud about the ideals that define us and the liberties we have secured at great cost. The ingenuity, ideas and culture of Americans who came before us made the United States the greatest nation in history; so have their sacrifices.
We should never forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who have sacrificed much, and in some cases everything. They include our fallen heroes in uniform, our foreign service officers and other Americans in the field who likewise gave all for their country.
If confirmed, in my work for the president and the American people, I will seek to engender trust with foreign leaders and governments and put in place agreements that will serve the purposes and interests of American foreign policy. The secretary of State works for the president and seeks to implement his foreign policy objectives.
To do that, I must work closely with my cabinet colleagues and all relevant departments and agencies of the administration to build consensus. But let me also stress that keeping the president’s trust means keeping the public trust. And keeping the public trust means keeping faith with their elected representatives. I want all the members of this committee to know that, should I be confirmed, I will listen to your concerns and those of your staff and partner together to achieve great things for the country we all love.
I’m an engineer by training; I seek to understand the facts, follow where they lead and apply logic to all international affairs. We must see the world for what it is, have clear priorities and understand that our power is considerable, but it is not infinite. We must, where possible, build pathways to new partnerships and strengthen old bonds which have frayed.
If confirmed, I intend to conduct a foreign policy consistent with these ideals. We will never apologize for who we are or what we hold dear. We will see the world for what it is, be honest with ourselves and the American people, follow facts where they lead us and hold ourselves and others accountable.
I thank you for your time and look forward to your questions.
CORKER: Thank you very much for your testimony.
Do you commit to appear and testify upon requests from this committee?
TILLERSON: Yes, sir.
In a far-ranging discussion with actor-activist Leo DiCaprio and climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, President Barack Obama defended his approach to climate change and expressed concern about the future.
“We’ve got to change our politics. And as Leo said, it’s got to come from the bottom up. Until on a bipartisan basis, politicians feel that their failure to address this will cost them their seats, potentially, or will threaten their careers, then they’re going to continue to operate in ways that I think are really unproductive.”
In the same discussion, Obama repeated his questionable claim that the domestic fracking boom has led to a decrease in greenhouse pollution, asserting “the fact that we’re transitioning from coal to natural gas means less greenhouse gases.”
He also repeatedly characterized climate change as primarily a problem for future generations, saying that “climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically because it is a problem that creeps up on you.” He even repeated the now-debunked canard that there is “no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change.”
Just last month, Obama visited the victims of the catastrophic Baton Rouge floods. Consoling the survivors of climate disasters has been a ritual of his presidency. With a fierce Hurricane Matthew churning towards a Florida landfall, the president will likely have another major opportunity to witness the creeping problem of global warming first hand at least once more.
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: I want to thank you all for coming here this evening. I want to particularly thank our President for his extraordinary environmental leadership. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
MR. DICAPRIO: Most recently, in protecting our oceans.
Katharine, thank you for the great work you do on climate change and in helping improve preparedness of communities to deal with the impacts of climate change. (Applause.)
And thank all of you for showing up here this evening.
Tonight I am pleased to present the U.S. premier of my new documentary, “Before the Flood.” This was a three-year endeavor on the part of myself and my director, Fisher Stevens. Together we traveled from China to India, to Greenland to the Arctic, Indonesia to Micronesia, to Miami to learn more about the effects of climate change on our planet and highlight the message from the scientific community and leaders worldwide on the urgency of the issue.
This film was developed to show the devastating impacts that climate change is having on our planet, and more importantly, what can be done. Our intention for the film was to be released before this upcoming election. It was after experiencing firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change worldwide, we, like many of you here today, realize that urgent action must be taken.
This moment is more important than ever where some power leaders who not only believe in climate change but are willing to do something about it. The scientific consensus is in, and the argument is now over. If you do not believe in climate change, you do not believe in facts or in science — (applause) — or empirical truths, and therefore, in my humble opinion, should not be allowed to hold public office. (Applause.)
So, with that, I’m so very honored and pleased to be joined onstage with one of those leaders — a President who has done more to create solutions for the climate change crisis than any other in history — President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q Along with leading climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, for this conversation about how we can make real progress on this issue.
So, with that, let us begin with the first question. President Obama, you’re nearing the end of your second term as President. You’ve had an opportunity to reflect on the issues facing our country and our planet. How do you grade the global response to the climate change movement thus far?
THE PRESIDENT: We get an incomplete. But the good news is we can still pass the course if we make some good decisions now. So, first of all, I just want to thank everybody who’s been here — all day, some of you. (Applause.) Everybody who’s been involved in South by South Lawn. It looked really fun. (Laughter.) I was not allowed to have fun today. I had to work — although I did take some time — you guys may have noticed — to take a picture with one of the Lego men. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Happy anniversary, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. It is my anniversary today. (Applause.) We celebrated it yesterday — 24 years FLOTUS has put up with me. (Laughter.)
I want to thank Leo for the terrific job he’s done in producing the film, along with Fisher. All of you will have a chance to see it at its premier tonight. And I think after watching it, it will give you a much better sense of the stakes involved and why it’s so important for all of us to be engaged.
And I want to thank Katharine from Texas Tech.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Wooo —
THE PRESIDENT: There you go, we got a couple Texas Tech folks in here. But because Katharine, in addition of being an outstanding climate scientist, is a person of deep faith and she has really done some amazing stuff to reach out to some unconventional audiences to start fostering a broader coalition around this issue.
To your question, Leo, we are very proud of the work that we’ve been able to do over the last eight years here in the United States — doubling fuel efficiency standards on cars; really ramping up our investment in clean energy so that we doubled the production of clean energy since I came into office. We have increased wind power threefold. We’ve increased the production of solar power thirtyfold. We have, as a consequence, slowed our emissions and reduced the pace at which we are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster than any other advanced nation.
And that’s the good news. The other big piece of good news was the Paris agreement, which we were finally able to get done. (Applause.) And for those of you who are not as familiar with it, essentially what the Paris agreement did was, for the first time, mobilize 200 nations around the world to sign up, agree to specific steps they are going to take in order to begin to bend the curve and start reducing carbon emissions.
Now, not every country is doing the exact same thing because not every country produces the same amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, per capita. So the expectation is, is that a country like the United States is going to do more than a small, underdeveloped country that doesn’t have the same scale of emissions.
But the good news about the Paris agreement was it committed everybody to do something. And although if you add it up, all the commitments that were made by all 200 nations, it would still not be sufficient to deal with the pace of warming that we’re seeing in the atmosphere. What it does do is set up for the first time the architecture, the mechanism whereby we can consistently start turning up the dials and reducing the amount of carbon pollution that we’re putting into the atmosphere.
And one last piece of good news about that is that I anticipate that this agreement will actually go into force in the next few weeks. India, just this past week, signed on. And we’re going to get a few more nations signing on. (Applause.) And so, officially, this agreement will be into force much faster than I think many of us anticipated when we first organized it.
Last two points, little tidbits of good news. This week we’ll begin negotiations on an aviation agreement, an international aviation agreement, where all airlines and major carriers around the world begin to figure out how they can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that they’re emitting, which can make a big difference. And over the next couple weeks, we’re also going to be negotiating around something called hydrofluorocarbons — or HFCs — which are other sources of greenhouse gases that, if we are able to reduce them, can have a big impact, as well.
So even with the Paris agreement done, we’re still pushing forward hard in every area that we can to keep making progress. But, having said all that — and this is where you’ll need to hear from Katharine because in the nicest way possible she’s going to scare the heck out of you as a precursor to the film.
What we’re seeing is that climate change is happening even faster than the predictions would have told us five years ago or 10 years ago. What we’re seeing is changes in climate patterns that are on the more pessimistic end of what was possible — the ranges that had been discerned or anticipated by our scientists — which means we’re really in a race against time.
And part of what I’m hoping everybody here comes away from is hope that we can actually do something about it, but also a sense of urgency that this is not going to be something that we can just kind of mosey along about and put up with climate denial or obstructionist politics for very long if, in fact, we want to leave for the next generation beautiful days like today. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: With that, Katharine, all the environmental crises we face have a huge toll on humanity — on poverty, security, public health, and disaster preparedness. The interconnected nature of our planet means that no country or community is going to be immune to any of these threats. What are the most urgent threats to our modern day civilization? And where do you feel the solutions lie?
MS. HAYHOE: Well, how many hours do we have again? (Laughter.) It’s true, when we think of global issues, we think of poverty; we think of hunger; we think of disease; we think of people dying today from preventable causes that no one should be dying from in 2016.
And when we’re confronted with these situations head on — and I, myself, spent a number of years as a child growing up in South America, so I know what this looks like — we think to ourselves, climate change, it’s important, but we can deal with it later. We can no longer afford to deal with it later. Because if we want to fix poverty, if we want to fix hunger, if we want to fix inequality, if we want to fix disease and water scarcity, we are pouring all of our money, all of our effort, all of our hope and prayers into a bucket, and the bucket has a hole in the bottom. And that hole is climate change. And it is getting bigger and bigger.
To fix the global issues that we all care about, including environmental issues, including humanitarian issues, we can no longer leave climate change out of the picture because we will not be able to fix them without it.
MR. DICAPRIO: Mr. President, in “Before the Flood,” we see examples of the environmental impacts of corporate greed — corporate greed from the oil and gas industry. For example, it’s happening right now in Standing Rock. But some companies are starting to realize that addressing the climate change issue can actually spur economic activity. How do you get more companies to start moving in this direction, to take fundamental action into their business decision?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, companies respond to incentives. And the question then becomes, can we harness the power and the creativity in the marketplace to come up with innovation and solutions?
And, look, the economics of energy are extremely complicated. But let me just simplify it as much as possible. Dirty fuel is cheap — because we’ve been doing it a long time, so we know how to burn coal to produce electricity. We know how to burn oil, and we know how to burn gas. And if it weren’t for pollution, the natural inclination of everybody would be to say let’s go with the cheap stuff.
And particularly when it comes to poor countries — you take an example like India, where hundreds of millions of people still don’t have electricity on a regular basis, and they would like to have the standards of living that, if not immediately as high as ours, at least would mean that they’re not engaging in backbreaking work just to feed themselves, or keep warm — it’s completely understandable that their priority is to create electricity for their people.
And if we’re going to be able to solve this problem, we are going to have to come up with new sources of energy that are clean and cheap. Now, that’s going to involve research; it’s going to involve investment in R&D. And there are going to be startups and innovators — and there are some in this audience who are doing all kinds of amazing things. But it takes time to ramp up these new energy sources. And we’re in a battle against time.
The best way we can spur that kind of innovation is to either create regulations that say, figure it out, and if you don’t figure it out then you’re going to pay a penalty, or to create something like a carbon tax, which is an economic incentive for businesses — (applause) — to do this.
Now, I’ll be honest with you. In the current environment in Congress, and certainly internationally, the likelihood of an immediate carbon tax is a ways away. But if you look at what we’re doing just with power plants, a major source of greenhouse gases, we put forward something called the Clean Power Plan —clean power rule — as a centerpiece of our climate change strategy. And we did this under existing authorities under the Environmental Protection Act.
And what we’re saying to states is, you can figure out the energy mix, but you’ve got to figure out how to reduce your carbon emissions, and you need to work with your utilities and you need to work with your companies, and come up with innovative solutions. And we’re not going to dictate to you exactly how do you do it, but if you don’t start reducing them you’re going to have problems. And we’ll come up with a plan for you.
So the good news is that in the past, where we create an incentive for companies, it turns out that we’re more creative, we’re more innovative, we typically solve the problem cheaper, faster than we expected, and we create jobs in the process.
And if you doubt that, I’ll just give you two quick examples — because this is probably a pretty young audience, and I know this is going to seem like ancient history, but when I arrived in college in Los Angeles in 1979, I still remember the sunsets were spectacular. I mean, they were just these amazing colors. It was like I’d never seen them before — because I was coming from Hawaii. And I started asking people, why are the sunsets here so spectacular? They said, well, that’s all smog, man. It’s creating this psychedelic stuff that normally is not seen in nature — (laughter) — because the light is getting filtered in all kinds of weird ways.
You couldn’t run for more than 10, 15 minutes on an alert day without really choking up — the same way you still do in Beijing. Well, L.A. is not pristine today, but we have substantially reduced smog in Los Angeles because of things like the catalytic converter and really rigorous standards. (Applause.)
The same is true with something called acid rain. In the Northeast, there was a time where — Doc, make sure I’m getting this right — it’s Sulphur dioxide, right?
MS. HAYHOE: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Which was being generated from industrial plants, was going up into the atmosphere and then coming down in rain. It was killing forests all throughout the Northeast. And through the Clean Air Act, they essentially set up the equivalent of a cap and trade system. They said, companies, you figure out how to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions; we won’t tell you exactly how to do it, but we’re going to give you a powerful incentive — we’ll penalize you if you don’t do it. You can capture some of the gains if you do do it.
Most of you don’t hear anything about acid rain anymore, even though it was huge news 25, 30 years ago, because we fixed it.
And the last example I’ll use is the ozone. It used to be that one of the things we were really scared about was the ozone layer was vanishing. And when I was growing up I wasn’t sure exactly what the ozone layer was, but I didn’t like the idea that there was a big hole that was developing in the atmosphere. (Laughter.) It just didn’t sound good. And it turned out that one of the main contributors to this was everybody was using deodorant with aerosol. And so everybody starting getting speed strips, or whatever. (Laughter.)
And it wasn’t that big of an inconvenience. Deodorant companies still made money. But something that I was amazed by — and it gives you a sense of nature’s resilience when we do the right thing — we just have gotten reports over the last couple of months that that hole in the ozone layer is beginning to close, which is amazing. (Applause.)
And all it took was people not using aerosol deodorant.
MS. HAYHOE: A few more things. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: There were a couple other things. I’m exaggerating. (Laughter.) Well, but essentially, we regulated the kinds of pollutants that were creating this hole without impeding our economic development. Nobody misses what we — because companies were innovated enough to come up with substitutes that worked just fine.
And that’s the basic strategy that we’ve got to employ here. We’ve got to give incentives to companies — startups, existing companies. And we’re going to have to do that initially, country by country. But America has got to lead the way because not only do we have the highest carbon footprint, per capita, but also because we happen to be the most innovative, dynamic business and entrepreneurial sector in the world. And if we create incentives for ourselves, we will help to fix this problem internationally. I’m absolutely confident of the matter.
MR. DICAPRIO: Back to something you mentioned earlier, Mr. President, which I’d like both of you to talk a little bit about — the United States, as you said, has been the largest contributor to global emission in history. And as you said, as well, we need to set the example for the rest of the world to follow. Throughout my journey, most of the scientific community truly believes that the silver bullet to combat this issue is a carbon tax.
Now, a carbon tax, as complex as it is to implement, I would imagine, is something that needs to come from the people. It needs to come from the will of the people, which means there needs to be more awareness about this issue. Do you think that I will get to see a carbon tax in the next decade? Will we get to see this in our lifetime? Because most scientists specifically point to the idea that that’s going to be the game-changer.
MS. HAYHOE: I think he knows the likelihood of that more than I do, but I do know that one of my absolute favorite organizations is Citizens Climate Lobby, and they are founded on the premise of a simple carbon tax — nothing fancy; no difficult regulations; no three feet of code. It’s putting a price on carbon to allow the market to then figure out what’s the cheapest way to get our energy.
MR. DICAPRIO: Can you explain to our audience what a carbon tax would mean?
MS. HAYHOE: Sure. In very basic terms, when you burn carbon it has harmful impacts on us, on our health, on our water, on our economy, on our agriculture, even on our national security. By putting a fee on that carbon, it makes certain types of energy more expensive and it makes other types of energy less expensive.
And the way I like it — there’s many different flavors — the kind I like is where that extra revenue is returned to us through our taxes and also used to incentivize technological development.
MR. DICAPRIO: Or it could be given to education, for example.
MS. HAYHOE: Yes.
MR. DICAPRIO: Bravo. (Laughter and applause.)
Katharine, you live in Texas.
MS. HAYHOE: I do. (Applause.) So do people over there.
MR. DICAPRIO: They’ve experienced unprecedented drought and floods in the past five years, and they’re also a major energy producer. AS you travel the state, what are the biggest misperceptions you hear from climate skeptics who often say these changes are the result of the cyclical nature of our planet’s temperature patterns? And how do you change their minds?
MS. HAYHOE: Any of us who pays attention to the weather, we know that we have cold and hot; we have dry and we have wet. And everybody who’s ever been to Texas knows that it looks more like this. Yes. So you might say, well, then, why does it matter if our weather is incredibly variable anyway? It matters because in a warmer planet, it’s taking that natural pattern of variability that brings drought and flood, heat and cold and it was stretching it.
So our heavy rainfalls are getting more extreme, because in a warmer atmosphere, the oceans are warmer and so more water evaporates. So the water is just sitting out there waiting for a storm to come through, pick it up and dump it on us — just as happened here in recent days, as it happened in Baton Rouge a little while ago.
And if you read the reports of the meteorologists and the weather people talking about these heavy downpours you’re experiencing, you’ll see this phrase they repeat again and again — the warm oceans — and again, this year is a 99 percent chance of being again the warmest year on record after last year and the year before — the warm oceans are providing a nearly infinite source of moisture for these storms. But at the same time, when we’re in a dry period, as we get all the time in Texas, and it’s hotter than average, then all of the moisture in our soil and our reservoirs evaporates quickly, leaving us dryer for longer periods of time.
So, yes, we know natural cycles are real. But we know that climate change is stretching that natural pattern, impacting us and our economy.
Here’s the cool thing about Texas, though. What do you think when you think of Texas?
THE PRESIDENT: Wind power.
MS. HAYHOE: Wind power — yes.
THE PRESIDENT: I cheated.
MS. HAYHOE: He cheated. He knows the answer. (Laughter.) Texas knows energy. And here’s the cool thing about Texas. Did you know that already Texas is getting 10 percent of its electricity from wind? On a windy night, we get 50 percent of our energy from wind.
Every time I go south from where I live there are a new crop of wind turbines going up. And a couple years ago, I spent an afternoon on a farm down in Manisha, Texas, with a very conservative farmer, wasn’t too sure about this scientist showing up, but I was from Texas Tech. And after about an hour we figured out that I knew somebody who went to his church, and vice versa. So we were good. And I got the nerve to ask him, well, I notice that your neighbor has wind turbines all the way up to the edge of your land, and you don’t have any wind turbines. You have a couple of oil wells. Is there any reason you don’t have wind turbines?
And I expected something along the lines of, oh, those are for those sissy tree-huggers, or something. And he said, yes, there is a reason. And I said, well, may I ask what it is? And he said, I’ve been on the list for two years. I’ve been waiting for my wind turbine. I said, well, why do you want one. He said, because the check arrives in the mail.
In Texas, we have entire towns going 100 percent renewable because it is the cheapest way for them to get their energy. We have Fort Hood, which is the biggest military installation in the U.S., signing a new electricity contract for wind and solar because they can save the American taxpayer $165 million by going green. (Applause.)
Green is no longer just a color of money — or the color of trees, I should say. Green is also increasingly in Texas, around the U.S., and even in China, becoming the color of money, as well. Wind and solar are the way of the future. And we’re seeing it happen — as a scientist, though, I have to say my only concern is we’re not seeing it happen fast enough.
MR. DICAPRIO: Mr. President, this has been an unusual election year, to say the least. (Laughter.) And Gallup regularly polls Americans with an open-ended question about the issues that matter most to them. And the environment consistently polls low on that list, around 2 percent. As you know, climate change is a long-term problem. It requires long-term solutions. How can we all do a better job of engaging the public, especially those who are skeptical, in a meaningful and productive debate about the urgency of these issues and inspire them to be a part of the solution now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, climate change is almost perversely designed to be really hard to solve politically because it is a problem that creeps up on you. There’s no single hurricane or tornado or drought or forest fire that you can directly attribute to climate change. What you know is, is that as the planet gets warmer the likelihood of what used to be, say, a hundred-year flood, that’s supposed to happen only every hundred years, suddenly starts happening every five years, or every two years.
And so the odds just increase of extreme weather patterns. But people, they don’t see it as directly correlated. And the political system in every country is not well-designed to do something tough now to solve a problem that people are really going to feel the impacts of in the future. The natural inclination of political systems is to push that stuff off as long as possible.
So if we are going to solve this problem, then we’re going to need some remarkable innovation. Katharine is exactly right that solar and wind is becoming a job generator and an economic development engine. But what’s also true is we’re going to need some real innovation in things like, for example, battery storage. How do we keep wind and solar stored without too much leakage so that when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, we still have regular energy power. We’re still going to need some really big technological breakthroughs.
But with the technology that we have right now, my goal has been to build that bridge to this clean energy future. To make sure that over the next 20 years, using existing technologies, we do everything we can even as we’re creating the even more innovative technology, so that by the time those technologies are ready we haven’t already created an irreversible problem.
And that’s going to require mobilization. It is going to require us all doing a better job of educating ourselves, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and ultimately expressing that in the polls. And in order to do that, I think it is important for those of us who care deeply about this — and Katharine is a wonderful example of the right way to do it — to not be dismissive of people’s concerns when it comes to what will this mean for me and my family. Right?
So if you’re a working-class family, and dad has to drive 50 miles to get to his job, and he can’t afford to buy a Tesla or a Prius, and the most important thing to him economically to make sure he can pay the bills at the end of the month is the price of gas, and when gas prices are low that means an extra 100 bucks in his pocket, or 200 bucks in his pocket, and that may make the difference about whether or not he can buy enough food for his kids — if you just start lecturing him about climate change and what’s going to happen to the planet 50 years from now, it’s just not going to register.
So part of what we have to do I think is to engage, talk about the science, talk about the concrete effects of climate change. We have to make it visual and we have to make it vivid in ways that people can understand. But then we also have to recognize that this transition is not going to happen overnight, and you’re not starting from scratch. People are locked into existing ways of doing business.
Look, part of the reason we have such a big carbon footprint is our entire society is built around interstate highway systems and cars. And you can’t, overnight, suddenly just start having everybody taking high-speed trains because we don’t have any high-speed trains to take. And we have to build them. And we should start building them. But in the meantime, people have to get to work.
So I think having an understanding that we’re not going to complete this transition overnight, that there are going to be some compromises along the way, that that’s frustrating because the science tells us we don’t have time to compromise; on the other hand, if we actually want to get something done, then we got to take people’s immediate, current views into account. That’s how we’re going to move the ball forward.
And I’ll just give you one example. And generally — this is a pretty sympathetic crowd, but some folks will push back on this. When you think about coal, we significantly reduced the amount of power that we’re generating from coal. And it’s going to continue to go down. Well, number one, coalminers feel like they’ve been battered, and they often blame me and my tree-hugger friends for having created real economic problems in places like West Virginia, or parts of Kentucky, or parts of my home state of southern Illinois.
Interestingly enough, one of the reasons why we’ve seen a significant reduction of coal usage in the United States is not because of our regulations. It’s been because natural gas got really cheap as a consequence of fracking. Now, there are a lot of environmentalists who absolutely object to fracking because their attitude is sometimes it’s done really sloppy and releases methane that is even a worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It leaks into people’s water supplies and aquifers, and when done improperly can really harm a lot of people. And their attitude is we got to leave that stuff in the ground if we’re going to solve climate change.
And I get all that. On the other hand, the fact that we’re transitioning from coal to natural gas means less greenhouse gases. Same thing with nuclear power. People don’t like nuclear power because they have visions of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, what are we doing with the storage of the waste. Nuclear power generally evokes a lot of stuff in our imaginations. But nuclear power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.
So we’ve got to make some decisions. If we’re going to get India or China to actually sign on to reducing carbon emissions, then we’re going to have to have a conversation with them about nuclear power, and help them with technologies that ensure safety and we can figure out how to store it until we invite the perfect energy source — crystals or whatever, and Scotty is there beaming us up — (laughter.) But until then, we’ve got to live in the real world.
So I say all that not because I don’t recognize the urgency of the problem. It is because we’re going to have to straddle between the world as it is and the world as we want it to be, and build that bridge. And what I always tell my staff, and what I told our negotiators during the Paris agreement is better is good. Better is not always enough; better is not always ideal, and in the case of climate change, better is not going to save the planet. But if we get enough better, each year we’re doing something that’s making more progress, moving us forward, increasing clean energy, then that’s ultimately how we end up solving this problem.
And that’s when we can start creating political coalitions that will listen to us, because we’re actually recognizing that some people have some real concerns about what this transition is going to do to them, to their pocketbook, and we’ve got to make sure that they feel like they’re being heard in this whole process. (Applause.)
MS. HAYHOE: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, first of all. And second of all, I think that this really underscores one of the biggest lessons that I, as a scientist, have learned. So, so often we feel like facts and information are what’s going to make people care.
And so many times, I have somebody come into me and say, Katharine, if you could just talk to my mother, if you could just talk to my brother-in-law, if you could just talk to our city councilperson and give them the facts — it’s real, it’s us, it’s bad, we have to fix it — that will change their minds. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that facts are not enough. In fact, the more literate we are about science, the more polarized we are about climate change.
The most important thing to do is not to pile up scientific reports until they reach a tottering pile of about eight feet, where they’ll tip over and crush somebody. The most important thing to do is to connect this issue to what’s already in our hearts. Because one of the most insidious myths I feel like we’ve bought into is that I have to be a certain type of person to care about climate change. And if I am not that person, then I don’t care about it because I care about these other things. But the reality is, is that if we’re a human living on this planet — which most of us are — as long as we haven’t signed up for the trip to Mars — I don’t want to know if anybody has. I think you’re crazy. (Laughter.)
MR. DICAPRIO: I did —
MS. HAYHOE: Oh, you did? Oh, I’m sorry, I take that back. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’ll acknowledge he’s crazy. (Laughter.)
MS. HAYHOE: All right, we’ll go with that. (Laughter.) So if we’re a human living on this planet, this is the only planet we have. It’s our home. If we’re a parent, we would do anything for our children’s sake. If we’re a businessperson, we care about the economy. We care about the community that we live in. We care about our house. We care about the fact that we want to have clean air to breathe; we want to have enough water to drink; we want to have a safe and secure environment in which to live.
The single most important thing I feel like I’ve learned is that we already have all the values we need to care about climate change in our hearts, no matter who we are and what part of the spectrum we come from. We just have to figure out how to connect those values to the issue of climate. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: Katharine, well put. Yes. Does our planet — and this is one of the questions I posed to many scientists while doing the film — does our planet have the ability to regenerate if we do the right things? Or has there been enough lasting damage that can never be undone? Have we put enough carbon into the atmosphere that we’re going to feel the repercussions of climate change for decades to come? And a second question to that — do you see any cutting-edge technology besides solar and wind, any bright spots on the horizon that suggest we can rapidly change this course? For example, fusion.
MS. HAYHOE: Yes. So just like smoking, we know that if you’ve already smoked for a certain amount of time there’s some damage that has been done. When is the best time to stop smoking? Today? If not today, tomorrow? If not then, the next day? But we know that the longer we’ve been doing it the greater the repercussions.
So, in the case of climate change, if we could flip a magic switch and turn off all our carbon emissions today, we would still see the impact of the Industrial Revolution on our planet for well over 5,000 years. That’s how long we would see it.
But, on the other hand, there’s still plenty of time to avoid the worst of the impacts. If we act now. Every year that goes by without serious action is one more year of smoking, essentially, that increases our risk of lung cancer, so to speak. Except we’re not talking about our own lungs, we’re talking about the planet.
So there is an urgency to it. But there’s also hope, because by acting we can change the future. The future really is in our hands, because for the first time in the history of the human race on this planet, we are the ones in the driver’s seat of climate. It is both frightening as well as an opportunity that we cannot afford to lose.
So, technologies. You’ve already gone through great ones. There are so many amazing ones. Like in West Texas were some smart guys who had an idea. They saw oil wells. What if we used wind energy to pump water down those oil wells under high pressure so that when it wasn’t windy we could let that water back up to turn the turbines and make electricity. That’s a pretty cool idea.
I would love to live in a house where the shingles are solar panels, where the walls are painted with solar paint, where I had one — power walls in the garage storing the energy overnight, and I plug in my electric car when I get home. We would all like to live in a world where our bike paths and even our highways are made out of solar panels, where everything that we do is constantly being renewed, and we know that we have a source of energy that is never going to run out on us and that does not pollute our air.
I was amazed — and this is a scientist speaking here — I was amazed to learn that here in the United States, on average, every year, 200,000 people die from air pollution from burning fossil fuels. It’s over 5 million around the world — 200,000 people. Imagine if those 200,000 people were dying from a different cause. Imagine some of the causes we’re told about today whenever you turn on the news — things that we should be afraid of. Air pollution, simple air pollution alone gives us all the reason in the world we need to shift towards clean energy. Add on climate change, add on the fact that, as the President mentioned a while ago, developing countries need energy. There’s a billion people living in energy poverty today, with no access to energy.
But if you add up all the fossil fuel resources in Southeast Asia and Africa, they have less than 10 percent of the world’s fossil fuels. So the answer for the billion people living in energy poverty is not to do it the same way we did 300 years ago. I mean, that’s honestly a very colonialistic attitude to say, no, you have to go back to the 1700s and do it that way. It’s like saying you have to go through the party telephone, and then you can get your own telephone, and then you can get a cellphone in another 150 years. That’s not the way the world works.
We are leapfrogging over the old technology, and the answer is we can do it because it’s taking us to a better and a more secure place. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: I got the opportunity to sit with the head of NASA, and you’ll see a lot of this in the film, but he basically projected the next 20 to 30 years. And he started talking about specifically the United States and the possibility of another Dust Bowl coming up. I asked about my home state of California and the wildfires and the droughts that are occurring there. And he said you can expect to continue that.
Do you agree that — we’re going to feel some of the repercussions of climate change in the form of rising sea levels, more intense hurricanes, and we’re going to see droughts and wildfires like that start to occur in the future. What do you think the future is going to look like for us if we do not take immediate action? Do you think we’ll be able to sustain the projected levels of what’s going to happen to our planet for the next 20 years? Or do you think that if we don’t take immediate action things are going to get exponentially worse?
MS. HAYHOE: So nine times out of ten, the way climate change affects us is not through some strange thing that we’ve never seen before. It’s not like a biblical plague of locusts arriving. It’s through taking what you just referred to — it’s taking the ways that we’re already vulnerable to climate and weather today.
How is D.C. vulnerable? Heatwaves, flooding, snowstorms. How is Texas vulnerable? Droughts, dust bowls, flooding. When we look at all the ways we’re already vulnerable, and nine times out of ten, that is exactly how climate change is going to impact us — by changing the risks of these events. And that’s what you already talked about. It isn’t a single event where we can point out, we can say, okay, that event was definitely climate change, but that event was 100 percent natural.
It’s more like climate change is taking the natural weather dice — and there’s always a chance of rolling a double six, an event that has a huge impact on us, economically. And climate change is sneaking in when we’re not looking and it’s taking another one of those numbers and replacing it with a six, and then another number and replacing it with a six. So the chances of rolling that double six are increasing the further we go down this road.
THE PRESIDENT: One thing I’d say, Leo, and I think Katharine alluded to this — another analogy to think about is we’re heading towards a cliff at 90 miles an hour. And if we hit the brakes, we don’t come to an immediate stop without spinning out of control. And so what we have to do is we have to tap the brakes. And if we tap the brakes now, then we don’t go over the cliff.
So when you think about climate change, there’s a big difference between the oceans rising three feet or the oceans rising 10 feet. Three feet is going to be expensive and inconvenient and disruptive. And we already see that — if you live in Miami right now — and I think, in fact, in your film you reference this — there are sunny days where, at noon, suddenly there’s two feet of water in the middle of the streets. And the reason is because as the oceans and the tides rise, Miami is on pretty porous rock, so it’s not even sufficient to build like a wall because it’s coming up through the ground.
And it’s going to be really expensive for Miami with three feet of water — or three feet of higher ocean. But it’s probably manageable. Once you start getting to 10 feet, then you don’t have South Florida. There will still be Florida, but it will be the Florida that will look like maybe a million years ago. And that’s a lot of property value. South Beach and Coral Gables and there are a lot of really nice spots. (Laughter.)
My hometown of Hawaii, Honolulu — Honolulu will still be there, but three feet just means you’re moving houses a little bit back from the beach. Ten feet means the beach doesn’t exist. And so the ramifications of whether we work on this now, steadily and make progress, or we don’t could mean the difference between huge disruptions versus adaptations that are expensive and inconvenient, but that don’t fundamentally change the shape of our society or put us into potential conflict.
I’m using examples here in the United States. Poor countries are obviously much more vulnerable. If you see a change in monsoon patterns in the Indian subcontinent where you’ve got potentially a billion people who are dependent on a certain pattern of rains, the Himalayas getting a certain amount of snowpack, et cetera, and those folks’ margin of error is so thin that you might end up seeing migrations of hundreds of millions of people, which invariably will create significant conflict.
There’s already some really interesting work — not definitive, but powerful — showing that the droughts that happened in Syria contributed to the unrest and the Syrian civil war. Well, if you start magnifying that across a lot of states, a lot of nation states that already contain a lot of poor people who are just right at the margins of survival, this becomes a national security issue.
And that’s why, even as we have members of Congress who scoff at climate change at the same time as they are saluting and wearing flag pins and extolling their patriotism, they’re not paying attention to our Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon who are saying that this is one of the most significant national security threats that we face over the next 50 years.
ll of which is to say that as hard as it is for us to start acting now to solve a problem that has not fully manifested itself yet, this is going to be a really important test for humanity and our political system. And it’s a test that requires everybody to do better. It requires me to do better, as somebody who’s got a voice. It requires Katharine and scientist to communicate more effectively. Everybody should take a lesson from Katharine on how to explain this stuff in ways that people understand. (Applause.)
it requires us reaching out to the faith community in ways that Katharine has done a really good job of, because there are a lot of evangelicals who are actually generally on the conservative side of the spectrum that care deeply about this planet that God made. It requires us to reach out to sportsmen and hunters and fishermen who may not agree at all on Second Amendment issues, but they sure like and understand the notion that they’ve got a forest where they can go out and — although they probably don’t want to be mauled by a grizzly bear — (laughter) — that looks a little severe. (Laughter.)
So all of us I think are going to have to do better than we’re doing in elevating this issue. And as I said before, better is good. We can start with existing technologies. I’ll just use one last example on this.
If we just had the energy efficiency of Japan, which is an island nation that doesn’t have a lot of fossil fuels, and so, historically, in their development path have been much more conscious about energy efficiency, we could reduce our energy consumption by 20 percent without changing our standard of living. Simple stuff like when you leave a room the light automatically goes off instead of it still be on.
A lot of companies are doing some smart work because it affects their bottom line. Our ability to measure in houses sort of smartly how much energy we’re using and minimizing waste of energy and heat can make a huge difference. Folks in Texas — air conditioning is a great invention, but nothing gets me more frustrated than seeing somebody and it’s 100 degrees outside and they’re wearing a sweater indoors because the air conditioning is turned up too high. But we do that everywhere — partly because of building design. You can’t open the windows, and so, as a consequence, you can’t use natural temperature regulators.
There’s a bunch of stuff that seems kind of simple and stupid, but would make a big dent. All those things have to start getting factored in. But we’ve got to change our politics. And as Leo said, it’s got to come from the bottom up. Until on a bipartisan basis, politicians feel that their failure to address this will cost them their seats, potentially, or will threaten their careers, then they’re going to continue to operate in ways that I think are really unproductive. (Applause.)
MS. HAYHOE: I began to study climate science over 20 years ago, and I have lived through the period where climate change has become one of the most politicized issues in the entire United States to where the number-one predictor of what our opinions are about climate change is nothing more than where we fall on the political spectrum.
The reality is, as my husband says, who is an evangelical pastor, a thermometer is not Democrat or Republican. It does not give us different numbers depending on how we vote. The science is what it is. If we say gravity isn’t real, and we step off a cliff, we’re going down anyway. But the solutions are political. Do we go with a cap and trade? Do we go with a carbon tax? Do we go with technological incentivizes? What do we do about other countries? How do we build states and businesses and communities? These are political and they should be debated up and down the halls. But what should not be debated is the fact that we are all human, we share this amazing home that we live in, and it is in all of our best interests to make sure that we leave it a better place for our children. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: This is my last question. President Obama, you use the Antiquities Act to preserve more acres of land and sea than any President since Teddy Roosevelt. (Applause.) I was going to say, let’s give him a round of applause, but they did that automatically. (Applause.) The great Teddy Roosevelt. How important is it to have a President who not only believes in the science of climate change, but one who understands that we must conserve these natural resources to create conditions that are conducive to a sustainable life for future generations?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, this goes to the point Katharine made about values. And I mentioned I grew up in Hawaii. Those of you who have been there, it’s a really pretty place. And the native Hawaiian traditions are so woven with nature and the sea and outdoors, and so that seeps into you when you grow up there.
But I tell you, I don’t know any place in the country where there isn’t someplace that evokes the same kind of sense of place and beauty. It may be a desert landscape. It may be a forest somewhere. It may be a mountain. And as my girls start getting older, I start thinking about grandkids — not soon. (Laughter.) But it’s natural you start thinking about sort of the next stages of your life and the idea that my grandkids wouldn’t see something I had seen, that — you can be a conservative Republican in Alabama, but you’ve got a memory of your dad taking you out hunting, and you being quiet and still, and you want to do that same thing with your kid. And it may be different than me taking my grandkid bodysurfing at Sandy Beach, but there’s the same feeling of wanting to pass that on. Of feeling deeply about it and caring deeply about it.
And I think one of the ways for us to tackle the climate change issue is also to lift up the power and the values that are embodied in conservation. It’s kind of a twofer. When we went out to Midway Islands, which is already a historic site because in part this was the turning point of World War II. There are people who revere this site because of its history in World War II, and the incredible courage and bravery of people who were outnumbered but ultimately were able to turn back a Japanese fleet that was on its way to Hawaii.
But we were up there, and this is water that’s just untouched. And you’re seeing monk seals diving in and swimming next to you, and turtles that are climbing up on the beach just to sun themselves, and it used to be there were 60,000 birds and now there are 3 million birds on this island — bunch of species that were about to go extinct. It all came back just in the span of one generation because of conservation. Well, not only is that creating incredible beauty, but it also means now that you have this huge preserve of ocean that is not contributing to climate change.
And so I think these two things go hand in hand. In the same way that the issue of air pollution and disease is, in some ways, a way to get at the climate change issue if people aren’t directly concerned about climate change. In China, frankly, part of the reason that people are — that the government there was willing to work with us, they’re number-one priority is political stability. And what they started noticing was the number one Twitter feed in China was the air quality monitor that was put out each morning by the U.S. embassy. It was the single thing that more Chinese looked at than anything because people couldn’t breathe in Beijing.
And smog is not the same as carbon dioxide, but it is generated by the same energy pattern usages. So if that’s where people are at right now and they want to be sure their kids are healthy, then let’s go after that. If they’re interested in conservation as a way to start thinking about climate change, let’s go after that. There are so many entry points into this issue and we’ve got to use all of them in order to convince people that this is something worth caring about.
But at the end of the day, the one thing I’m absolutely convinced about is, everybody cares about their kids, their grandkids, and the kind of world we pass on to them. And if we can speak to them about our responsibilities to the next generation, and we can give people realistic ways to deal with this so that they don’t feel like they’ve got to sacrifice this generation to do it, they have to put hardship on their kids now in order to save their grandkids — then I tend to be a cautious optimist about our ability to make change. But events like this obviously make a big difference and really help. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: Mr. President, Katharine, thank you so much for your time. I’m truly honored to premier this film here on the White House lawn. Like I said, this was a three-year endeavor. I learned so much and I’m going to let the film speak for itself as far as everything that I experienced on this journey.
Thank you so much for your time. Let’s give them a round of applause. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Appreciate you. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. DICAPRIO: Thank you all for showing up.
THE PRESIDENT: Have fun, everybody.MR. DICAPRIO: Enjoy the film.
A few weeks before Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) became the Democratic nominee for vice president on the Hillary Clinton ticket, he joined other senators to discuss the fossil-fuel industry’s “web of denial” preventing action to end their climate pollution. Below is a transcript of his July 12, 2016 speech.
Thank you, Madam President. I join rise to join my colleague to talk about the critical issue of climate change and especially the facts around climate change but also the fact that there are many who would deny the facts. This is a really important issue to the commonwealth of Virginia. Climate change is not a distraction. It’s not a next year or next decade issue. Climate change in Virginia is a today issue.
Earlier today, I was in Norfolk, Virginia, which is in the Hampton Roads area near the Atlantic Ocean. Norfolk and the surrounding communities is the largest concentration of naval power in the world. It’s the center of naval operations. The headquarters of the U.S. Atlantic fleet. And it is already having to spend millions of dollars to elevate the piers where aircraft carriers come and go due to sea level rise. The Hampton Roads area is listed as the second most vulnerable community on the east coast of the United States to rising sea levels after New Orleans.
This is a challenging issue in a lot of ways.
I have friends who live in these communities who bought homes recently but now their homes aren’t marketable. For most Americans, certainly for me, my home is the most valuable asset I own. And if you have that and then you suddenly can’t sell it because climate is changing sea level is rising, flooding is more recurrent, no one will buy your home, it’s a very, very serious issue.
In addition to the effect on individuals and businesses because of sea level rise, the effect on the naval station is significant. Current estimates are that rising sea levels in Norfolk will take the main road entrance into the center of American naval power and have that under water by 2040, three hours a day just because of normal tidal action. In times of storms it would be worse.
So imagine in America that counts on its navy, that counts on that naval presence around the globe having its largest naval base inaccessible because of sea level rise.
We have an interesting community. One of the most unique areas is Tangier Island. It’s been continually inhabited since the 1600’s as a community for men and women. The folks who have traditionally made their living by going out and catching crabs and oysters and fish, and this is a small island with a few acres. It’s one of the only places you can go in the United States where you can hear English spoken as Shakespeare would have spoken it with a language that is an Elizabethan language. The community is isolated in that way. You hear this beautiful English spoken there and the community has many wonderful virtues but the Chesapeake Bay is coming up around this community and eroding it. I received a letter from a middle school student within the last month, a handwritten letter that might have been the most heartfelt piece of communication I’ve received in four-plus years in the senate saying would are you doing about sea level rise, what can you do to help us deal with these issues so that Tangier as an island does not completely disappear.
For these reasons and many others in Virginia we take this very, very seriously and we have to deal with it. I’ll tell you something else about Virginians. Virginians believe in science. The Virginia political figure we most admire was the preeminent scientist of the day, Thomas Jefferson. Virginians overwhelmingly believe in science. 70% of Virginians accept the scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that it is urgent that we do something about it. 70% of Virginians believe in that proposition.
But I’m here today because my friend from Rhode Island asked me to come and talk about the fact that there is an organized effort, not just a battle about the policy about climate science but to knowingly try to misrepresent the status of climate science and suggest that climate change is not occurring. They’re denying it exists. They’re denying that it’s a concern. They’re working against any reasonable solutions.
Now, of course, we’ve got to be open to points of view and reasonable differences of opinion and have a debate, but when the science is settled on some things and people are in an organized way who know better are trying to fight against it, we should be suspicious. So a group of senators are speaking today and tomorrow to discuss these organizations that constitute what my friend from Rhode Island has termed a web of denial, an organized effort to deny science.
And so let me just talk a little bit because a number of these deniers are companies that at least have P.O. boxes or nonprofit organizations that at least have P.O. boxes in Virginia. The same Virginia where Tangier Island is disappearing, the same Virginia where the navy is having to spend to shore up their infrastructure also has some shadowy organizations that are trying to deny the real science involved.
There’s an organization called the Science and Public Policy Institute. And it purports to summarize available academic literature. Here’s a quote. “They further note that availability in sea level is observed but to date there’s no detectable secular increase in sea level rise. They also report that no increase in the rate of sea level rise has been detected for the entire 20th century.” closed quote.
This is a group, they throw in a few sciencey words like “decadal variability.”
This is at odds with the conclusions of virtually every scientist who studied this issue, including scientists at Virginia universities, Old Dominion University, Institute of Marine Sciences, William & Mary. Those scientists says sea level rise — on the Virginia coast it’s anywhere from one and a half additional feet to 7 feet by the year 2100. Now, they will acknowledge some question about is it going to a foot and a half. Is it going to be 7 feet, but they don’t challenge the basic science surrounding sea level rise.
So which is it? One and a half to 7 feet or you don’t need to worry about it? Don’t worry, be happy.
Without getting a Ph.D. in atmospheric science and building your own quantitative models, how do you know who is right?
Here’s a clue. Look at who funds these organizations.
In the case of ODU, William & Mary, the Virginia institute of Marine Sciences which is one of the most preeminent marine sciences institutions in the nation along with Scripps in San Diego and Woods Hole, Massachusetts, it’s not hard. They are state universities. They’re funded by the general assembly of Virginia which is two Republican houses. And they are reaching a scientific conclusion that says climate change is serious.
But with the Science and Policy Institute, it’s a bit nebulous and it’s kind of hard to figure out. But there’s online sources that enable you to track how organizations are funded through foundations with ties frankly to the energy industry. According to one of these sources, it’s called DeSmogBlog, one of this institute’s, the Science and Public Policy Institute’s major funders is the Donors Capital Fund which has distributed $170 million to various conservative causes and describes itself as being, quote, “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise,” close quote.
A New York Times article as far back as 2003 documents a connection between this foundation and an organization that also has a point of view, ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil is a funder or in the past has been a funder of this organization. Now, why don’t—why doesn’t an ExxonMobil or conservative organization just publish the material on their own websites under their own bylines? Well, my guess is that they have scientists who actually know the science and there’s been recent information about ExxonMobil. They understand the climate science. They couldn’t publish this under their own byline and meet their own standards of truthfulness but they are providing funding to an organization that’s denying climate change.
In other words, the organization is a delivery vehicle for information that is meant to be seen as impartial scientific information but is in fact not impartial at all. So when you see one group saying that there’s been no sea level rise and another saying there’s been a lot and we could be in for more and if you’re wondering who to believe, take a look at who’s funding the research.
Here’s another organization, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Quote — here’s a quote from them. “Regulations prescribing a reduction or complete cessation of Virginia’s CO2 emissions will have absolutely no effect on global climate. “
If there’s Virginia regulations that even eliminate Virginia CO2 “it will have no effect on global climate.” That’s an interesting quote because it’s not technically a lie because it’s literally true. Virginia’s share of world CO2 emissions is infinitesimally small. It wouldn’t affect the entire globe in a measurable way but that’s like saying one vote? Your vote is not going to make a difference or one cigarette won’t hurt you so go ahead and have one.
This argument is a kind of a classic hide the ball argument that makes a statement that’s technically true but it essentially is promoting a false point of view that oh, well, we shouldn’t do anything about it. So again it’s the use of a literal truth that’s basically designed to pitch a message that’s grossly misleading.
So let’s ask about this group, the Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Who funds a group that would say something like that? Again the Donors Capital Fund that funded the first organization I discussed as well as the Chase Foundation of Virginia and the Roe foundation which support a list of conservative causes. If you call an organization the Virginia Institute for Public Policy it sounds kind of neutral and probably trying to do a good thing.
But if you go back and look at who’s funding it and you find the funding sources are heavily linked to the energy industry, groups like ExxonMobil you understand they’re not quite as impartial as they suggest.
Another group called the CO2 coalition, quote, “Concerns about carbon dioxide being a pollutant are not valid. Climate change is proceeding very slowly and the likely increase of the temperature for the 21st century is 1 degree celsius or less,” closed quote.
Well, yes, is that technically true? The temperature of the earth is increased by 1 degree since industrialization and 197 countries just signed an agreement in Paris last year to try to limit any further increase to no more than 1 degree additional. This group make it is sound like who cares about 1 degree. 100 degree is 1.4 degrees more than normal, enough to make you sick. The number of .08 sounds tiny in the abstract but if that’s your blood alcohol content, that gives you a DUI in Virginia. The number sounds small. Gosh, why would that make a difference? That gets you a DUI because you’re impaired. So, yes, the group using the one temperature, one degree in temperature makes it sound like it’s not that big a deal but it is that big a deal.
Now, here’s the last one I want to say, Madam President, before I close. This is kind of a doozy because it’s from an open letter to Pope Francis on the topic of the pope’s environmental encyclical. The group is called the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. Not like going big if you’re going to pick a name for yourself.
Their quote starts with a quote from the 19th Psalm. “The heavens declare the glory of god and the firmament claims his handiwork.” Then the group goes on to declare in their own words, “By using fossil fuels to generate energy to lift billions of god’s children, precious children out of poverty, we liberate from the tomb of earth the carbon dioxide on which plants and therefore all the rest of life depend. In light of these considerations, we believe it is both unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels for energy.”
So somebody is really using scripture to argue that making our energy production cleaner, safer, cheaper violates the Christian tenet of caring for the poor? I’m a Christian and many of us in this body have a deep faith background in one faith or another but I’ll use a non-Christian phrase to describe that argument. It takes a lot of chutzpah to claim your religious faith and compassion, especially when the organization refuses to reveal how it is funded.
In closing, Madam President, we certainly don’t want to imply that all groups that, you know, have an agenda or have a point of view are motivated by funding sources. But the web of denial that the senator from Rhode Island is asking us to come out and talk about tonight is one that includes a number of organizations that are climate deniers. They are denying science, that they actually in my view know to be true. There comes a point when the truth becomes so hard to deny that those who deny it or simply not credible.
And you have to ask the question then why are you denying it? I assert that most of these organizations understand the science and they accept the science. And they realize it to be true. Why do they deny the science? The answer is greed. That’s the basic answer.
Many of the organizations that we’re discussing are funded primarily by fossil fuel interests, and if they can delay even by a year or two years or five years or even six months, the enactment of policies that would move us toward fewer fossil fuels, it will hurt their bottom line. And so rather than come up here and argue about what the right transition should be, they’re handing funds over to organizations that are trying to confuse the American public about science itself. So let me close and read from Pope Francis’ — the Cornwall Institute on Stewardship. I’ll read a quote. “Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.”
Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently. Future generations. We look at things differently. We realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to you, we can no longer view relate any in a utilitarian way geared entirely to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional but a basic question of justice since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.
Science and faith have a number of things in common, but one of the most important things they have in common is their first duty has to be to the truth. I hope all actors in the political process, whatever their views, will remember that and have that same commitment. Thank you, Madam President. With that, I yield the floor.
Message from Ben Santer: Here is a message of support I sent to Tom Karl on November 17, 2015. I remain deeply concerned by the unwarranted Congressional scrutiny that the 2015 Karl et al. Science paper continues to receive.
I have no concerns about public distribution of this letter.
Dr. Thomas R. Karl
Director, National Center for Environmental Information
Veach-Baley Federal Building
151 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801-5001
I just wanted to express my gratitude and scientific appreciation for the critical research you and your NCEI colleagues have performed over the last several decades. You have been pioneers in many different areas: in producing observational estimates of global-scale changes in land and ocean surface temperatures, in identifying non-climatic artifacts in temperature measurements, in developing rigorous scientific methods of adjusting for such artifacts, and in accounting for the incomplete, time-varying coverage of observations.
NCEI has made its surface temperature data sets freely and openly available to the entire climate science community, thus enabling important research on the nature and causes of climate change, climate variability, and climate model evaluation. NCEI staff have clearly and thoroughly documented each surface temperature data set that NCEI has released – in scientific publications, in presentations to policymakers and professional societies, and in extensive online material. No scientific organization has done a more thorough or transparent job in developing and analyzing observations of 20th and early 21st century changes in Earth’s climate.
I am deeply concerned that NCEI’s science is now being subjected to Congressional scrutiny and criticism. Such scrutiny and criticism is not warranted. The leadership of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology should understand that science is dynamic rather than static. All observational temperature data sets have evolved in important ways over time, in tandem with improvements in the ability to identify and adjust for inhomogeneities introduced by changing measurement systems, changing measurement practices, and changes in the spatial coverage of measurements. This is true not only for surface temperature data sets, but also for measurements of the heat content of the world’s oceans, and for satellite-based estimates of temperature change in Earth’s lower and upper atmosphere. Evolution of observational temperature data sets is a normal, on-going scientific process. It is not evidence of non-scientific behavior.
If our country is to take informed decisions on how to address problems arising from human perturbations to the climate system, we need access to the best-available scientific information on how Earth’s climate has actually changed. NCEI provides such critically important information to the scientific community, policymakers, and the public. You and your NCEI colleagues deserve our sincere thanks and our continued support.
With best regards,
Distinguished Member of Scientific Staff, Lawrence Livermore National Lab
Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences
On Meet the Press this Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) rejected the science of fossil-fueled global warming. Kasich told host Chuck Todd that manmade climate change is “some theory that’s not proven”, in response to a question about Pope Francis, who recently authored the influential climate encyclical, Laudato Si’.
CHUCK TODD: You brought up the environment. [Pope Francis] is somebody who believes that climate change is manmade and that man needs to do something about it. Do you agree with him?
GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: Well, I think that man absolutely affects the environment. But as to whether, you know, what the impact is, the overall impact, I think that’s a legitimate debate. But what I do think is, you know, in my state of Ohio, you know, we preciously take care of Lake Erie. We’ve reduced emissions by 30% over the last ten years. We believe in alternative energy. So of course we have to be sensitive to it. But we don’t want to destroy people’s jobs based on some theory that’s not proven.
Todd did not correct Kasich, moving on to a question about conservative activist Erick Erickson.
The National Journal’s Clare Foran published an attempt by the Kasich campaign to deny Kasich’s climate denial: “The governor has long believed climate change is real and we need to so something about it. The debate over exact percentages of why it is happening is less important than what can be done about it. We know it is real, we know man has an impact, and we know we need to do something.”
In reality, the carbon-dioxide greenhouse effect is a physical fact known since the 1800s. The only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement about this fact.
The First Law of Climate Policy: Global warming won’t stop until we stop burning fossil fuels.
In an interview with USA Today, petrochemical baron Charles Koch reiterated his rejection of the scientific consensus on industrial global warming.
“You can plausibly say that CO2 has contributed” to the planet’s warming, he told USA Today reporter Fredreka Schouten, but he sees “no evidence” to support “this theory that it’s going to be catastrophic.”
Koch may have been forced to admit that carbon-dioxide pollution is warming the planet by research he funded—the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, which replicated previous global temperature reconstructions.
In fact, the only scientifically plausible systematic explanation for the rapid and continuing warming of the planetary climate since 1950 is industrial greenhouse pollution. The world’s national scientific societies and the world’s practicing climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement that dangerous impacts of global warming are already being observed, and globally catastrophic impacts are inevitable if further carbon dioxide pollution is not curtailed.
The $100 billion fortune of the Koch brothers is built upon decades of greenhouse pollution. To protect their business, the Kochs have spent billions supporting a vast infrastructure of politicians and advocacy organizations to reject the science of climate change and prevent regulation of climate pollutants.
UPDATE: Greenpeace’s Connor Gibson has more.
Jeffrey T. Salmon in 2008
At the time, Salmon was the executive director of the ExxonMobil-funded George C. Marshall Institute.
Under his direction, the Marshall Institute was a major purveyor of climate denial, rejecting the scientific consensus and arguing against any limits on carbon dioxide pollution. Salmon instituted the practice of accepting corporate contributions at Marshall, starting with Exxon. In a 1996 appearance on CNN, Salmon said, “If you want to reduce carbon emissions for some reason, let’s hear that reason; let’s not hear that it’s global warming, which there’s no indication that human action is contributing to.” In 1993, Salmon wrote that there is “no solid scientific evidence to support the theory that the earth is warming because of man-made greenhouse gases.” In 1992, a Salmon op-ed in USA Today claimed, “New findings suggest that the greenhouse problem is a non-problem.”
A George W. Bush appointee to the Department of Energy, Salmon moved over into his current position in July 2008. As a civil-service job, Salmon’s position is protected from removal by the current administration, an example of the practice known as “burrowing.” Salmon served in the Department of Energy for the entire Bush administration, starting in March 2001, as Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary Spencer Abraham. In 2002, he joined the Office of Science as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the Office of Science Ray Orbach. In 2006, when the Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the office of the Under Secretary for Science, he became the Associate Under Secretary below Orbach.
Under Obama’s first Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, much of the Department of Energy’s science research funding was directed through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), funded by the 2009 stimulus bill.
Salmon, who has a doctorate in politics, was a speechwriter for both Dick Cheney when he was secretary of defense.