The reality is that we are already seeing the impacts of global warming today. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2012 was the warmest year ever on record in the United States. During 2012 we experienced 11 weather disasters that each caused $1 billion or more in damage. 2012 was also one of the driest years on record, and drought enveloped two-thirds of the country while 9.2 million acres burned by wildfire.
In Congress we deal far too little with the reality that doing nothing to reverse global warming means economic devastation beyond comprehension. We have members here who are happy to spend well over $600 billion a year on a defense budget, but are not willing to invest a dime to protect this country from the threat of global warming, which the U.S. Intelligence Council ranks alongside nuclear war as one of the most severe threats to peace and stability.
This reckless policy of ignorance has got to stop. Our children and grandchildren deserve the legacy of a safe and stable planet. That is why today we are introducing major global warming legislation to deal with the crisis.
The legislation I have introduced with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) will put us on the track toward fighting global warming. This legislation includes a price on carbon and methane emissions. This fee on the largest fossil fuel polluters affects less than 3,000 entities nationwide but covers 85 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions according to the Congressional Research Service. This legislation ends the fossil fuel subsidies, and protects communities by requiring fracking operations comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and disclose chemicals they use.
To protect families from fossil fuel companies jacking up prices, 60 percent of the carbon fee revenue will be rebated, per capita, to every legal U.S. resident.
To protect U.S. manufacturers, this legislation includes a border fee on imported fuels and products, unless the nation shipping them already has their own similar carbon price. That ensures a level playing field for U.S. businesses, while creating an incentive for international cooperation.
To transform our energy system, this legislation makes the boldest ever investment in energy efficiency and sustainable energy. That includes weatherizing 1 million homes a year as President Obama called for previously. It means tripling the budget for ARPA-E to do advanced research, and investing hundreds of billions through incentives and a public-private Sustainable Technologies Fund in energy efficiency, solar and wind and geothermal and biomass, and clean transportation technology. We also provide funds to train workers for jobs in the sustainable energy economy. We provide funds to help communities become resilient in the face of extreme weather, and we pay down the debt by roughly $300 billion over ten years.
We have the opportunity right now, with the President’s commitment in the State of the Union, to make progress. The President can and must use his authority to cut down on power plant pollution, and reject the dangerous Keystone XL project. But he cannot give up on a comprehensive legislative solution, and neither can we. We will never fully deal with this crisis until Congress passes strong legislation. Senator Boxer and I are going to fight as hard as we can to do that, and we will work to rally support from American families all across this country that care deeply about their children and grandchildren’s future, and want to protect them from this planetary crisis.