The Dernogalizer

December 16, 2009

Senator John Kerry’s Speech at Copenhagen

Taken from his website

Thank you also for the privilege of allowing me to share some thoughts at this historic meeting.

For seventeen years now we’ve been coming together.  Through enormous transitions in our politics — new Presidents, new Prime Ministers, new friends who quickly became old friends; we’ve taken a long journey together.

From Rio to Copenhagen, with 14 COPs in between, through all the hurdles and the challenges, two constants have remained:  First, the urgency of the science that tells us we must act.  Second, we have never wavered from our determination to get the job done.  And that’s why we’re on the brink of making history now.

Back in 1992 an American President personally traveled to climate talks in Rio to help plant the seeds of possibility, the promise of a beginning; But that promise was allowed to wither on the vine. In the years that followed the United States joined with other major polluters to delay, divide and deny.  We simply failed to lead in the manner this challenge demands.

But this is a new day.  Just as in Rio, an American President is now coming to these talks in good faith—this time, to promise a new beginning and to re-commit the United States to being part of a global solution.

Seventeen years is a long time to pursue an urgent goal.  But history reminds us that sometimes even urgent struggles take time.  Consider the hundred years of conflict inNorthern Ireland.  At the moment when peace was finally achieved after tireless efforts, Senator George Mitchell, said simply:  “We had seven hundred days of failure and one day of success.”

And that’s why we’re gathered here again: Because we know that, in one day, with one agreement, we can put the world on a safer path.  And in the coming hours and days, the world expects us to get the job done.

Even back in 1992, we all came together for a simple reason:  we accepted the science. I’ve often said that global climate change is an issue where no one has the luxury of being “half-pregnant.”  You either are or you aren’t.  And so it is with climate change. You either understand and accept the science – or you don’t. Folks this isn’t a cafeteria where you can pick and choose and accept the science that tells us what is happening, but then reject the science that warns us what will happen.

If Dick Cheney can argue that even a 1% chance of a terrorist attack is 100% justification for preemptive action—then surely, when scientists tell us that climate change is nearly a 100% certainty, we ought to be able to stand together, all of us, and join in an all out effort to combat a mortal threat to the life of this planet.

In recent days it has been interesting to watch people who have never even accepted the basic science now suddenly transform themselves into climate change investigators, wannabe Inspector Clouseaus looking for some sort of smoking gun to erase decades of constant and unequivocal research.

There isn’t a nation on the planet where the evidence of the impacts of climate change isn’t mounting. Frankly, those who look for any excuse to continue challenging the science have a fundamental responsibility which they have never fulfilled:  Prove us wrong or stand down.   Prove that the pollution we put in the atmosphere is not having the harmful effect we know it is. Tell us where the gases go and what they do.  Pony up one single, cogent, legitimate, scholarly analysis.  Prove that the ocean isn’t actually rising; prove that the ice caps aren’t melting, that deserts aren’t expanding. And prove that human beings have nothing to do with any of it. And by the way — good luck!

Ladies and Gentlemen: Here in Copenhagen, now and forever, amateur hour is over. It’s time for science fact to trump science fiction.

Experts from the world’s leading universities and think tanks—including The Fletcher School and the Heinz Center—have created a new “climate scorecard” called C-ROADS that more accurately predicts where we’re headed. It shows that if you take the best, latest offers of every country, and assume they will be perfectly, completely implemented—guess what? None of it is nearly enough to get the job done.

Right now our best efforts may limit us to a rise of 3.9 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, even though the world’s major economies agreed this year in Italy that anything beyond 2 degrees would be catastrophic.  That’s why Copenhagen is not about one country or one faction simply making a demand of another.  It’s the science itself, demanding action from all of us.

As fingers point in one direction or another, as frustration grows with the politics of one country or another, let’s not lose sight of the reality that no country individually, and none of us collectively, are doing enough.

So why then are these next three days so important? Because it is crucial that we get started. By setting a price on carbon and committing ourselves to reduce emissions, we send a signal to the marketplace that will revolutionize global supply and use of energy. It will forever alter the patterns of capital investment and consumer behavior. I believe in the power of the free market. And when the free market is unleashed to solve a problem, our innovators and entrepreneurs can eclipse all the predictions and render all the models obsolete. If you don’t believe me let me remind you that in 1992 when we met in Rio there were about 26 sites on the internet. Type Copenhagen into Google today and you get 43 million hits.

The 12 months since we gathered in Poznan have seen a series of successes that add up to a changed and changing world.  And I’m proud to say that nowhere has that change been more pronounced than in the United States, where we are at last moving in the right direction.

In January, we swore in a President who promised to “mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change.”  And he has.

Since January, we have made the single largest investment in clean energy in our nation’s history: eighty billion dollars which will result directly in emissions reductions.  At the Major Economies Forum we led the world in agreeing to cut global emissions in half by 2050.  We have set bold, binding targets to raise the fuel economy of America’s cars and trucks for the first time in three decades—and now accelerated those targets by four years. This Monday, our Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a $350 million dollar clean energy fund for advanced economies to help pay for wind, solar, and efficiency projects in the developing world.

Thirty-three of our fifty states have voluntarily entered into compacts to reduce emissions. As a result, over half the American economy is already preparing to implement mandatory emissions reduction policies, and three regions are currently setting up emissions trading systems.  More than 1,000 mayors are taking strict measures to aim towards Kyoto targets–and a number of cities are actually getting close on their own. Across America, grassroots initiatives are sprouting up as citizens lead their leaders.

It was against that backdrop that the House of Representatives finally passed comprehensive climate change legislation with billions of dollars for international adaptation, technology transfer, deforestation and, for the first time in American history, a national mandatory emissions target.

And just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a wakeup call to Capitol Hill: If Congress won’t legislate, the EPA will regulate.

In the last ten months, we’ve accomplished more than we did in the previous ten years.   Two years ago in Bali, in a room much like this one, a delegate from Papua New Guineachastised the United States saying “If…you are not willing to lead, then please, leave it to the rest of us, please get out of the way.”   Well, we’re here today. The United States is back and President Barack Obama is coming to Copenhagen to put America on the right side of history.

But, as energized as I am about all we’ve done this year, we still need to complete the task in the United States Senate. Frankly, meeting that challenge early next spring can be significantly assisted by what is achieved here. In the Senate and in America, the concerns that kept us out of Kyoto back in 1997 are still with us today, and we need to preempt them here in Copenhagen.

Make no mistake: I don’t offer these insights to defend inaction.  I simply want to describe for you the reality of what it will take to get this done.

Some of my colleagues in Washington– like some leaders elsewhere— remain reluctant to grapple with a climate crisis mostly measured in future dangers, when they’re confronted every day with the present pain of hardworking people in a tough economic time. To pass a bill, we must be able to assure a Senator from Ohio that steel workers in his state won’t lose their jobs to India and China because those countries are not participating in a way that is measureable, reportable and verifiable. Every American – indeed, I think all citizens—need to know that no country will claim an unfair advantage.

Shared responsibility must include an obligation to share information about each country’s good faith efforts to keep its commitments. After all – that’s what an agreement means. People need to trust the process, and that trust is built through transparency.

There is nothing new or threatening about such transparency.  We have it in nuclear arms agreements and in trade agreements.  Countries have accepted the international rules and enforcement mechanisms of the WTO and flourished, and today we must share with each other, in good faith, our efforts to meet the new standards that come with our international climate commitments.

Without an agreement here in Copenhagen that addresses this core issue of transparency, it will be exceedingly difficult to persuade already doubtful elected officials that they are safe in asking their citizens to go along. Senators and Congressmen alike are determined that there must be consequences for any country that thinks they can duck altogether or fake their participation in a solution.  Once a treaty is in force, countries that fail to make a good faith effort toward reducing emissions will find that they cannot dump high carbon intensity products into our markets. That is a fair response to non-compliance with a binding international agreement.

One of the last barriers to bold American leadership is the knowledge that even if we take tough steps forward, our efforts can be totally eclipsed by rising emissions from others. You may not know it, but when the US Senate talks about climate policy, fundamentally, all of you are in the room—because our debate always comes back to the need for a global effort.

Let me be clear: America will continue to honor the bedrock principle of common but differentiated responsibility. “Differentiated” means less developed countries can adopt different reduction targets at different rates reflecting their economic and energy realities. But let’s be honest here: our common responsibility demands that if we’re serious about solving climate change, then every country that contributes significantly to the problem today or will contribute in the future, must be a part of the solution in a way that is transparent and accountable.

I recognize that there is an inconsistency in asking other countries to grow differently than we did.  Industrial pollution did not begin in the developing world. For a century and a half theUnited States and the countries of Europe became modern economies with scant knowledge of the damage we were doing to our climate. But for the last twenty years, at least, we haveknown—and that only adds to our responsibility.

I am sympathetic to developing countries’ concerns:  because of our emissions it’s their crops that will disappear; because of our inaction, it’s their fields that turn to desert; and their people, who will be worst affected, are least equipped to meet this challenge.  Those are legitimate issues.  But for developing countries, winning the right to repeat our mistakes will be cold comfort if it leads us all to climate catastrophe—especially when there are alternative technologies and energy sources available to allow them to develop sustainably.  To help developing nations take responsibility, climate finance must be resolved in negotiations this week to become a core element of a Copenhagen agreement.

Today, there is no excuse for America not to act when we account for just five percent of the world’s population, but 20 percent of its emissions.  By the very same token, when 97 percent of new emissions over the next two decades will come from the developing world, that is more than “an inconvenient truth” in our larger struggle.  It is a core issue.  By 2020China’s emissions will be 40% larger than America’s.  It is inescapable that ultimately, the only workable way forward will be a global solution where all major emitters take on binding commitments.

The developing world is already making enormous progress.   China has committed to a 40-45 percent carbon intensity reduction; Brazil has pledged a remarkable 80 percent cut in its all-important emissions from deforestation; and India too has broken new ground with an offer to cut its emissions intensity by 20-25 percent.  Yes, many would like to see more, and yes these commitments must be made part of an international agreement, but these countries’ decision to join in announcing targeted reductions is an historic breakthrough and they deserve our applause for getting this far.

And in America, we too are making progress.  Every day we are building support in the Senate, across the political spectrum.  Lindsey Graham, a conservative Republican Senator from South Carolina, has become a trusted partner.  Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who wrote the amendment that effectively ended U.S. participation in Kyoto, who has championed American coal for fifty years, said just this month, and I quote: “To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say ’deal me out.’West Virginia would be much smarter to stay at the table.”   Twelve years after the Byrd-Hagel Amendment, we finally have Robert Byrd at the table. The two key Senate Committees have already advanced major proposals and the Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, has stated publicly that we will take this on early next spring.

Let me say to all of you wondering about whether we will pass something: the naysayers predicting defeat are wrong. With a successful deal here in Copenhagen, next year, the United States Congress—House and Senate—will pass comprehensive energy/climate legislation that will reduce America’s emissions.  And though we have yet to reach full agreement on a method, more and more businesses and lawmakers are convinced that the only way to meet an emissions reduction target is to price carbon.

Today in Copenhagen, we are close to making history.  This can be a watershed moment if we go home with a comprehensive political agreement at the highest level that includes a global emissions reduction target and commitments by all countries to take actions to achieve that target.  We also need to support developing nations in improving the frequency and transparency of their reporting, and establish a structure to assess our progress toward our stated goals. In addition, we should build on the Bali Action Plan to ensure that REDD plays an important role in the agreement here.

A final but critical component of any agreement here in Copenhagen is finance.  Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress injected over $1.2 billion into a variety of international climate change priorities, including efforts to advance clean energy technologies and reduce deforestation. This is a beginning to support a global fast-start financing contribution on the order of $10 billion.  I believe the United States should be prepared to do more as other countries clarify their own efforts for transparency and mitigation.  Clearly, funding must ramp up significantly in future years as part of a global deal which includes a structure to direct financing in an effective and accountable way. We need to consider innovative ideas to meet this financing challenge, including focusing and expanding the efforts of our development banks, dedicating revenues from putting a price on carbon, and exploring other internationally-agreed sectoral mechanisms.

And vitally, we must agree on a process to come back together next year to transform theCopenhagen political agreement into a binding international treaty. That process should not delay and I believe an early summer date of June or July 2010 is realistic and necessary.

The truth is we are reaching the limits of how far each of us can go if we go it alone. People in every country are asking, “If we go forward will others follow?”  We need to build trust—in the process and in each other.  Brazil and Indonesia must be confident that the international community will provide sufficient financial support. Europe and Japan need to be convinced that the rest of the world will join in taking sufficient steps forward.

It is easy to get lost in the ups and downs of a week like this one.  Emotions run high.  While we may sometimes want to walk away from each other, none of us can truly afford to walk away from this problem.

An old American patriot described today’s situation very well.   As America fought for its independence, Benjamin Franklin said, “we must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

When the desert is creeping into East Africa, and ever more scarce resources push farmers and herders into deadly conflict, then that is a matter of shared security for all of us.  When the people of the Maldives are forced to abandon a place they’ve called home for hundreds of years—it’s a stain on our collective conscience, and a moral challenge to each of us. When our own grandchildren risk growing up a world we can’t recognize and don’t want to, in the long shadow of a global failure to cooperate, then—clearly, urgently, profoundly—we all need to do better.

There are issues of war and peace. And then, there are issues of life and death like this one that are no less morally compelling than war itself.  We have an obligation to save the lives of millions of people who risk famine, dislocation, disease and death, simply because they are forced – not called on—but forced to suffer the indifference of wealthy nations  and their addiction to the status quo.

We can stop the climate-driven wars of the future.  We can keep would-be climate refugees in their homes.  We can keep islands on the map and stop climate-fueled droughts and storms before they ever start.

Here in Copenhagen we have an opportunity to realign the way nations have dealt with each other. By reaching agreement on finance, emission targets, and a transparent system for global action, we will be recognizing globally that the stewardship of the planet and our appetite for resources will be managed in a new way in a new era.

None of this will be easy– we know that — but we can find the answers if we find the will to demand them. This is not a moment when the world can afford to settle for less.  This is a moment to demand what is necessary and deliver what is right—not to weigh what is the least that our country can offer up in Copenhagen—but to act boldly and find out what is the most we can accomplish here together.

I have seen this process through more highs and lows than I care to remember.  Today we are closer than ever to getting the job done.

People fail for seven hundred days and succeed for one.  People strive for 17 years and succeed for one.  We need to trust the science.  We need to trust each other, put aside our grievances, focus on the bottom line and have the courage to take risks together and make Friday our day of success.

# # #


Whitney Smith

Press Secretary

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.)


November 10, 2009

Senator Kerry Destroys AEI Shill

I wish all the climate bill opponents would get this kind of rebuttal.

October 12, 2009

Landmark Op-Ed Means Climate Legislation

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 10:24 am
Tags: , ,

I knew as soon as I read the Op-Ed in the NY Times Sunday co-authored by South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham and John Kerry.

As Energy Smart Now concludes “Let us hope that that “legitimate bipartisan effort” emerges and is reality-based. If it does, again, this might well go down as the most important OPED to appear in an American newspaper in 2009 … and perhaps even longer.”

I am now convinced that the US will pass climate legislation in the Senate.  The 60 votes will be there.  How do I know?  Well, aside from having my useful analysis of the Senate from the summer to move names around, I am certain that if Lindsey Graham supports the bill, John McCain will come along without too much kicking and screaming.  They see energy issues very similarly.  I already considered the 2 Maine Republican Senators to be good enough on this issue to support a Senate bill.  This means the Democrats can survive losing 4 of their own flank in a Senate vote, since at least 4 Republicans are going to vote with the Democrats.  Knowing the ability of the Senate leadership to count votes and the behind the scenes work of the Obama administration, there’s just too much room to work with now for this bill to not reach 60 votes for cloture.

And I actually think we could get to 60 without weakening the bill’s emissions target.  The indications from Kerry and Graham were that the current framework of 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 didn’t move too fast.

“First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change.”

Now there are going to things in here that a lot of activists, myself included won’t like.  However upon first glance these current concessions are ones I can live with.  More provisions for streamlining  nuclear?  Go ahead, have a field day, I’ve already written about why no nuclear plants are getting built.  It’s not the permit process that’s the issue.  The plants cost over $10 billion dollars these days when they’re projected to cost half.  You can’t get around that.

Money for clean coal?  Well thats nothing new from the House bill.  Once again, sure lets throw some money away on clean coal.  Will clean coal technology exist anytime soon?  Nope.  Is it a waste of money?  Yep.  Do I think it’s okay for us to bribe some Senators with money for technology that will not come to fruition in order to get them to agree to regulate the emissions of the coal industry?  Yeah, I do.

Offshore oil drilling?  Oh no!  Except we already know that even if we drilled for more oil offshore, we wouldn’t get any for 10-15 years.  Even when we did, it would be a very minimal amount each day.  Am I willing to trade away the burning of a little bit of oil a decade from now so that we can reduce oil consumption by millions of barrels of oil a day sooner and invest in a new transportation system with plug-in and electric vehicles?  Yeah, I am.

So, while I might not like some of the above, we aren’t giving much up since we know all these things don’t work anyways.  It’s a landmark deal, and it’s in our favor.

Now what I’m not willing to trade on is the important things in the bill.  The emissions target.  The renewable electricity standard(which the energy and natural resources committee already screwed up).  The investment in clean energy technologies.  The energy efficiency standards and new building codes.  The money being used to prevent international deforestation.

Activists need to fight for the important things to keep the bill from being weaker than it already is in those areas.  We will get climate legislation.  The difference in the quality of that legislation will be how many swing Senators can be pushed into supporting the framework Graham and Kerry lay out without demanding real concessions like I listed above.

That’s where we come in.

**Update** For the record, Climate Progress, Bill Sher, and Grist think this is huge too(and that the concessions are minimal).

September 30, 2009

The Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act

As I yesterday,Barbara Boxer and John Kerry have released their piece of climate legislation, The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act(full text).  If you aren’t up for the heavy reading, here is an overview, a summary, and a section by section summary.  Here is a press release about the legislation.  Below is an op-ed John Kerry has out in Politico about why we need to pass this bill.

A new path for energy use

For decades, politicians have talked about the importance of ending America’s addiction to oil and investing in energy that is made in America and that works for America — from coal and nuclear to solar and wind.

But with the Clean Jobs and American Power Act, which we are introducing Wednesday, we at last have an opportunity to put our country on that path — a path more critical because of the urgent threat of global climate change.

The Clean Jobs and American Power Act is aimed at no less than the reinvention of the way America produces and uses energy. It will be a challenge, but America has never shied away from a challenge before.

Reinventing the way we use energy can also be the cornerstone for decades of economic growth and a stronger, more powerful America. Today, 15 million Americans are out of work. We send $1 billion per day overseas to feed our oil addiction. Scientists and generals warn that climate change caused by carbon pollution threatens our health and our national security. Each of these factors weakens America.

Rarely have we faced so many challenges, but rarely have so many challenges also culminated in such an enormous opportunity — an opportunity to put millions of Americans back to work, to invest in homegrown innovation and to protect our children’s health and our environment.

The Clean Jobs and American Power Act takes a comprehensive approach to meeting our energy challenge head on.

It sets ambitious carbon pollution reduction targets, creates powerful new incentives for companies to find the most cost-efficient ways to meet them and makes historic new investments in technology and efficiency that will improve every sector of our energy economy. And it does not raise the deficit by one single dime.

Based on the successful bipartisan plan that reduced acid rain, a market-based pollution reduction and investment system will set ambitious yearly targets. It will reduce carbon pollution 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, a decrease that scientists consider the minimum necessary to avert a climate disaster.

This system is tough on corporate pollution, taking aim at America’s largest polluters: those emitting 25,000 tons of carbon each year. The 7,500 facilities covered in 2012 — mostly power plants, industrial facilities and petroleum and petrochemical operations — account for nearly three-quarters of America’s carbon emissions. Farmers and nearly all small business are exempt. More than 98 percent of all American businesses fall below the threshold.

The bill is designed to offer big polluters options: Those that need more time to clean up their emissions can pay for the continued right to pollute. Those companies that decrease pollution quickly and affordably stand to profit.

This bill creates powerful new market incentives for developing clean energy and improving energy efficiency. Americans invented the technologies behind wind and solar energy, but countries like China and Germany have surged ahead of us. This bill provides new funding for research and deployment to make us the world leaders once again.

Every dollar spent on clean energy creates nearly four times as many jobs as a dollar invested in oil and gas. These are good-paying, regionally diverse jobs for American workers of all educational backgrounds — and best of all, they can’t be shipped overseas.

As we transition to this new energy future, we need game-changing investments and improvements throughout our entire energy system. We can’t afford to ignore any homegrown energy resources. Because coal will remain an important part of America’s economy, we must help the coal industry reinvent itself — that includes rewards for installing new technology to capture and store carbon pollution before it reaches the air we breathe.

Natural gas will receive similar incentives to increase cost-effectiveness and galvanize technological advances. We will also make the investment in research, development and worker training needed to build the next generation of American nuclear power plants.

Of course, the cleanest and cheapest kilowatt of energy is the one you never use. More than 1,000 U.S. cities have adopted tough environmental standards for new construction and for refitting existing buildings. We respond to the urgent requests of our governors and mayors by funding these efforts.

As our energy economy races ahead, no one should be left behind.

This bill protects everyday consumers. Rebates on monthly electric bills will ensure that energy remains affordable for low- and middle-income families. And a new market-based mechanism will kick in as needed to keep prices stable.

This bill also includes targeted protection for our manufacturing sector, to ensure that American companies remain competitive and keep jobs here at home. New programs will train workers to succeed in the new clean energy economy.

We can do all those things, and more, to make America safer and stronger. But only if we reinvent the way America uses energy.

It won’t be easy. For too long, Washington let Big Oil and special interests stand between us and our goals. This has hurt our economy, helped our enemies and risked our security. But the time has come to put America back in control, and the Clean Jobs and American Power Act at last turns rhetoric into reality and puts us on that path.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and the lead sponsor of The Clean Jobs and American Power Act.

September 10, 2009

John Kerry on Climate Change and Natural Security

Filed under: Energy/Climate,National Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 4:34 pm
Tags: , ,

Al Gore isn’t the only former candidate for President to become a champion on climate change.  John Kerry has taken a very strong leadership role as of recent, especially on regarding national security issues and the Copenhagen negotiations.  The Senate draft bill is going to be sponsored by him.  He even had his own blog post a week ago.  Kerry gave a great speech at George Washington University today, and the content of it are posted below.

Kerry Calls Climate Change “New Challenge to Global Stability”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John Kerry (D – Mass.), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered an address at George Washington University discussing the national and global security threats of climate change.

“Worldwide, climate change risks making the most volatile places even more combustible,” said the Chairman.  “Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world.  It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale.   We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system.   In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.”

The full text of the Chairman’s speech as prepared is below:

Eight years ago today, on September 10th, 2001, America experienced one last moment of complacency before plunging into crisis.  That day, the world was already being transformed, but too few knew or understood the new era we were about to enter.

On September 10, Washington was consumed with business as usual.  The top headline in the New York Times read, “Fear of Recession Ignites Discussion of More Tax Cuts”—we know how that turned out.

Cable news was wrapping up an entire summer of wall-to-wall coverage of Americans under attack.  Unfortunately, the grave threat they warned us about came not from al Qaeda or Bin Laden, but from sharks attacking swimmers at the beach.

In retrospect, it’s hard to fathom the level of collective naiveté, but that was America’s reality on “the day before.”  In the weeks and months that followed, so many in rooms just like this one shared the same regret:  Washington simply didn’t connect the dots in time.

Well, today Adil Najam, Michael Oppenheimer, and I, along with many others, are working to connect the dots on another emerging threat.   Once again the world is being upended, and too few are taking action.  The latest science warns that we have a ten-year window – at most – to prevent catastrophic, irreversible climate change.  That means we are once again living in a “day before” moment that cries out for action.

This is not hype.  I’m not trying to compare two challenges that, frankly, are incomparable to each other or anything else in our history.  I’m not arguing that we view the wide-ranging threat of climate change entirely through the narrow lens of terrorism—though there are good reasons to think that climate change could worsen the terrorist threat.

The real lesson of “the day before,” ladies and gentlemen, is that when we see a threat on the horizon, we can’t afford to wait until it arrives.  Unless we take dramatic action – now— to restrain global climate change, we risk unleashing an aggressive new challenge to global stability, to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions, and yes, to America’s national security.

Frankly, we have no excuse to be caught by surprise in 2009.  It was 1988 when Al Gore and I held the first Senate hearings on climate change, and NASA scientist Jim Hansen testified that the threat was real.  Four years later, Al and I and a group of Senators went to Rio and worked with 177 other nations to put in place a voluntary framework for greenhouse gas reductions.  Unfortunately, 17 years after Rio, 12 years after Kyoto, we are further behind than ever.

Facts, as the saying goes, are “stubborn things,” and here are a few incontrovertible ones:  Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen 38% in the industrial era, from 280 to 385 parts per million.  Scientists have warned that anything above 450— a warming of 2 degrees Celsius– would result in an unacceptable risk of catastrophic climate change. Some scientists even set the maximum at 350, but that’s too terrifying for many to contemplate since we’re currently at 385. In short, the science is screaming at us, more definitively than ever.

And the simple reality is, we’re not doing nearly enough about it. The Heinz Center, MIT, and The Fletcher School analyzed the latest climate modeling from the 17 countries who have offered to do anything – China, 20% energy intensity reduction; Europe and the US, 80% reduction by 2050.  The result?  Even if we met today’s ambitious goals, we’re projected to hit 600-700 ppm by century’s end. Bottom line: none of the current proposals get the job done.  In short, the challenge is growing more – not less—urgent.

Let me be clear:  The threat we face is not an abstract concern for the future.  It is already upon us.  A new study in Science shows our CO2 emissions have already reversed a 2,000 year cooling trend in the Arctic, and the last ten years are the warmest since 1BC!   At the other end of the globe, a 25-mile wide ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to the Antarctic landmass shattered earlier this year.

We are deluding ourselves if we think these problems stop at our borders:  the tiny coastal village of Newtok, Alaska, recently voted to relocate 9 miles inland because melting coastal ice shelves made their old home too dangerous. No longer can Newtok’s residents “see Russia from their porch” (if they ever could)—but go to Alaska and you can see with your own two eyes the impact of its permafrost melting.  You need only talk to Alaska’s Senators to hear worrisome stories of warming’s direct impact on their state. Not projected impact—current impact.

Alaska’s melting is not a future prediction or possibility.  It is being measured, and it is happening now.  More than one-third of Americans live in coastal counties.  As climate change intensifies, we risk repeating the story of Newtok, Alaska further south and on a terrifying scale.

People are taking notice.  Our Pentagon and intelligence community have begun planning for climate contingencies, and security experts have been sounding the alarm.   In 2007, eleven former Admirals and high-ranking generals issued a report from the Center for Naval Analysis labeling climate change a “threat multiplier” with “the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today.”  In 2008, a National Intelligence Assessment echoed these warnings from inside government.   General Anthony Zinni was characteristically blunt in assessing the threat.   He warned that without action—and I quote—“we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”   This not an alarmist talking—it’s the former commander of all American forces in the Middle East!

Why, with so many other regional problems brewing, would a CENTCOM commander be so concerned about climate?  Well, the Middle East is home to six percent of the world’s population but just two percent of the world’s water.  A demographic boom and a shrinking water supply will only tighten the squeeze on a region that doesn’t need another reason to disagree violently.

Worldwide, climate change risks making the most volatile places even more combustible.  Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world.  It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale.   We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism, and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system.   In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.

I’d be the first to acknowledge, the individual data points may sometimes be murky. But the pattern they create is irrefutably clear: We don’t know if Hurricane Katrina or the California forest fires were caused by climate change, but we do know that we are rapidly heading for a world where climate change causes worse Katrinas and worse forest fires.  We don’t know with certainty whether severe drought pushed Darfur over the edge, but we do know that increasingly severe droughts worldwide will exacerbate ethnic tensions and conflicts even further.

Nowhere is the nexus between today’s threats and climate change stronger than in South Asia–the center of our counterterrorist operations and the home of Al Qaeda.  Scientists are now warning that the Himalayan glaciers, which supply water to almost a billion people from China to Afghanistan—including three nuclear powers—could disappear completely by 2035.

Think about what this means: Water from the Himalayas flows through India into Pakistan.  India’s rivers are not only vital to its agriculture, but absolutely central to its religious practice.   Pakistan, for its part, is heavily dependent on irrigated farming to avoid famine.  At a moment when the American government is pouring troops and resources into Afghanistan and preparing to invest billions to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to deliver for its people, it’s infuriating to think that climate change could work so powerfully against our long-term goals.

Meanwhile, by some estimates, next year more people will be displaced worldwide by environmental changes and natural disasters than by war.   Because food security depends on water security, which climate change threatens, yields from rain-fed crops could drop by up to 50% by 2020—pushing more people off their land.   Africa, no stranger to the instability, conflict, and competition over resources that drive people from their homes and create refugees and internally displaced people, will now confront these same challenges with an ever growing population of “EDPs”—environmentally displaced people.

Many of the worst impacts of climate change will be human tragedies—natural disasters, more virulent disease, and people forced to flee their homes.   Some will directly touch on our security and vital national interests.  Others will require America, as the country with the world’s best and fastest expeditionary capacity, to offer direct assistance.  And even when our security and our resources are not directly challenged by the impacts of climate change, our leadership will be—and our conscience ought to be.

In addition to the increased demand for expeditionary capacity, the effects of a changing climate will also pose significant practical challenges for our military.  Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, a vital hub for our military operations across the Middle East, sits on an atoll just a few feet above sea level.  Norfolk, VA, home to our Atlantic Fleet, will be submerged by one meter of sea level rise.  All of our Navy’s piers are actually cemented to the ocean floor—which means that any rise in sea level will literally require the Navy to rebuild all of them.  Are these problems insurmountable?  No.  But they will be expensive, and they risk compromising our readiness.

We all know the future has a way of humbling those who try to predict it too precisely.  But we also know, from scientists and security experts, that the threat is real, grave, and growing.   And if we fail to connect the dots—if we fail to take action—the simple reality is that we will find ourselves living not only in a ravaged environment, but also in a much more dangerous world.

Even as we make the case for climate change as a national security issue, we should remember that there are other costs of inaction.  We also run the risk of missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead the world into a new economic era.  If we take the steps and invest the resources necessary to meet this challenge, we can spark an economic renaissance of new technologies, new industries, and – just when we need them most—millions of new jobs.

With more than 15 million Americans out of a job, the need couldn’t be any more compelling for an economic strategy to get people back to work in good, high-paying jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

Some say we can’t afford to act.  They have it exactly wrong—we can’t afford not to act!  We are already falling behind unnecessarily.   It was Americans who developed the technological foundations of wind, solar, and advanced battery power.  And yet just one of the top five wind power manufacturers is American; just one of the 10 largest solar panel producers is American; only two of the top 10 advanced battery manufacturers are American.

The world’s largest producer of renewable energy is not the United States, but Germany. And the economic benefits, as well as the environmental gains, are obvious:  More than 280,000 Germans are employed in the renewable energy sector—a nine-fold increase in the past decade.  While other countries debated how much their emissions could increase, since 1990 Germany has actually cut its emissions by over 20%!

Just think – for all the talk that China won’t act to prevent climate change, China today is producing cars a third-more fuel efficient than ours and making massive new investments in wind power and mass transit.

The fundamental challenge is this: Are we going to step up and put in place the policies that will galvanize entrepreneurs, drive development of new clean technologies,  re-energize our economy and tackle global climate change – all at the same time?   What’s at stake is not whether the 21st century will be a green economy – it has to become one, and it will.  The question is whether America will lead, and reap the jobs that come with being ahead of the curve.

To do that, we need to act now.  And to persuade Washington to act, we need to continue to win these arguments, and win them publicly.  We have to educate and mobilize the American people.  And I can tell you from my own conversations with colleagues, we have to educate Senators too!    In the Senate, I’ve held hearings on climate and security and invited ASP experts like including Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, who is speaking at today’s conference—but also former Senator and Secretary of the Navy John Warner, who is doing a heroic job traveling the country and raising awareness on this issue.  He’s doing more in retirement than some sitting Senators are!

I’ll tell you, if we had ten John Warners in the Senate, we’d already have a bill on the President’s desk.  But unfortunately, not everyone in politics appreciates the urgency of this issue.  After the last few months of health care demagoguery, we all know what’s coming when the Senate takes up climate change legislation.   In this atmosphere of economic fear and political fear-mongering, one thing is certain: we won’t pass the strong legislation we need without a fight.

And make no mistake, the other side is gearing up.  In the first half of 2009, the environmental community raised about $10 million to lobby for climate change legislation.  This is impressive, but the oil and gas industry spent nearly $83 million lobbying against the bill.  One DC lobbying firm actually forged letters—complete with the names and logos of a Hispanic nonprofit and (believe it or not) a local branch of the NAACP – urging House members to vote no on the House climate change bill!

In Washington, having truth on your side isn’t always enough to ensure that David beats Goliath.  It’s up to us to get the message out.  That’s why I’m pleased that the American Security Project is taking this on.  I want to congratulate you on a hard-hitting set of ads, which I encourage all of you to watch at  You know, the 9/11 Commission report found that in the lead-up to the attacks, we suffered from a “failure of imagination.”   We need to close the “imagination gap” on climate change and help people to envision a new kind of threat—and ads like yours are a helpful step in that direction.

As we weigh the options going forward and make our case to the American people, we also need to consider a simple comparison.  What if Al Gore, John Kerry and thousands of scientists and security experts and leaders around the world are wrong? What’s the worst that would happen if we do the things we’re proposing? Well, if we respond adequately, change our energy habits, provide new technologies and solve the problem on a global basis, the worst that would happen is we are all healthier because of cleaner air; we will have transformed our economies and created millions of clean energy, high value added, sustainable jobs; we will have lived up to our environmental responsibility to create sustainable development policies, planted and saved forests and reduced disease and toxic poisoning that comes from antiquated industrial practices; we will have lived up to our humanitarian responsibilities to help developing countries avoid disease and dislocation; and we will have hugely enhanced our security by becoming less fossil fuel and foreign-oil dependent.  That’s the worst that will happen if we’re wrong!

But what if the deniers and delayers are wrong?  What are the consequences then?  Plain and simple: sheer catastrophe.  Folks, is there even a choice here?  I believe there isn’t.

When you look past the trumped-up fears and partisan talking points, the science is clear, the economics is clear, the security argument is strong, and so are the actions we need to lead the world in taking.   The more people understand the real implications of our choices—the upside of action, and the immense cost of doing nothing—the more I really believe they will embrace the argument we are making.

We all know about the August 2001 memo warning President Bush that terrorists were determined to strike inside the US.  36 days later, they did.  Today, scientists are warning us that climate change is arriving faster than expected, and stronger than expected.   Time is short.  This is our memo.  These are our warnings. The moment to act on them is now.

So let’s have the honest discussion the American people deserve.  Let’s put America to work, marshalling the best of our markets and our minds to lead the world in solving this problem, and let’s act now—before it’s too late—to keep America safe.  Thank you.

July 24, 2009

Senators Boxer and Kerry refute Palin

Last week, I made a quick post about how terrible Sarah Palin’s Washington Post op-ed was.  Today Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer strike back, with a well written rebuttal.  Reposted below.

What Palin Got Wrong About Energy

By Barbara Boxer and John F. Kerry

Friday, July 24, 2009

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin put the global warming debate front and center last week with a plea to avoid the “personality-driven political gossip of the day” and focus more “on the gravity of . . . challenges” facing our country.

We share her hopes for a substantive dialogue. But we want to put facts ahead of fiction and real debate ahead of rhetorical bomb-throwing.

Palin argues that “the answer doesn’t lie in making energy scarcer and more expensive!” The truth is, clean energy legislation doesn’t make energy scarcer or more expensive; it works to find alternative solutions to our costly dependence on foreign oil and provides powerful incentives to pursue cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

Palin asserts that job losses are “certain.” Wrong. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and American Clean Energy and Security legislation will create significant employment opportunities across the country in a broad array of sectors linked to the clean energy economy. Studies at the federal level and by states have demonstratedclean energy job creation. A report by the Center for American Progress calculated that $150 billion in clean energy investments would create more than 1.7 million domestic and community-based jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.

Palin seems nostalgic for the campaign rally chant of “drill, baby, drill.” But she ignores the fact that the United States has only 3 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, while we are responsible for 25 percent of the world’s oil consumption.

In fact, the governor’s new refrain against global warming action reminds us of every naysayer who has spoken out against progress in cleaning up pollution.

Whether it was the debate over the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Superfund law or any other landmark environmental law, one pattern has always been clear: Time and again, pessimists — often affiliated with polluting industries — predicted job losses and great costs to taxpayers. Each time, our environmental laws have cleaned the water we drink, the air we breathe and the communities we live in at far lower cost than initially expected.

Take the acid rain program established in the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. The naysayers said it would cost consumers billions in higher electricity rates, but electricity rates declined an average of 19 percent from 1990 to 2006. Naysayers said the cost to business would be more than $50 billion a year, but health and other benefits outweighed the costs 40 to 1. Naysayers predicted it would cost the economy millions of jobs. In fact, the United States added 20 million jobs from 1993 to 2000, as the U.S. economy grew 64 percent.

The carefully crafted clean energy bill that we will present to the Senate, building on the Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the House, will jump-start our economy, protect consumers, stop the ravages of unchecked global climate change and ensure that the United States — not China or India — will be the leading economic power in this century.

By creating powerful incentives for clean energy, it will create millions of jobs in America — building wind turbines, installing solar panels on homes and producing a new fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles.

It will also help make America more secure. A May report by retired U.S. generals and admirals found, “Our dependence on foreign oil reduces our international leverage, places our troops in dangerous global regions, funds nations and individuals who wish us harm, and weakens our economy; our dependency and inefficient use of oil also puts our troops at risk.”

We do not charge that Palin wants to keep sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas annually to import oil from countries that, in many cases, are working to harm Americans and American interests around the world — or that she wants another nation to lead the way to the innovative clean energy solutions that will be eagerly gobbled up by the rest of the world. But those would be the tragic results of the do-nothing policies she has espoused. Our nation’s approach to energy must be balanced and must provide incentives for all the available clean energy sources to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

We are already working every day in the Senate to pass legislation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create millions of clean energy jobs and protect our children from pollution. We respectfully invite Gov. Palin to join that reality-based debate — one that relies on facts, science, tested economics and steely-eyed national security interests. Our country needs nothing less, and our planet depends on it.

Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. John F. Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Gov. Sarah Palin’s op-ed, “A ‘Cap and Tax’ Dead End,” was published in The Post on July 14.

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