Leaders from around the globe are meeting right now in Copenhagen to forge an agreement on solving the growing threat of global warming. Their work could not come at a better time: with each passing week and month, the evidence of an already-changing climate mounts and the urgency of our need to act grows.
Despite the efforts of global warming science deniers to distract Americans from the facts, the scientific consensus is stronger than ever that global warming is driven by human-generated atmospheric pollution, and that its effects are appearing more rapidly than previously anticipated. The World Meteorological Organization announced this week that the year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record. Despite a cooler summer in North America, parts of Asia, China, and Africa experienced their hottest years on record, and the current decade is on pace to set a new temperature record.
Meanwhile, insect infestations are killing millions of acres of forests across the Western states like Oregon. And the projections for what lies ahead are dire: a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, joined by multiple other studies in recent months, is projecting that sea levels could rise three times faster than the last international scientific report.
While we must continue to counter the efforts of the science deniers, who are driven by fossil fuel interests, we also need to focus on the good news: solving global warming will help our environment, grow our economy, and strengthen our national security. The solution to global warming calls for a major investment in clean energy solutions. That means millions of jobs making our buildings more efficient and building clean energy technologies ranging from wind farms to solar electric systems to electric vehicles. It means retrofits to put Americans to work and cut families’ energy bills. It means smarter transportation systems that provide options like public transportation that help families avoid high prices at the pump. And it means cutting our dependence on foreign oil.
These benefits underscore the imperative that the United States plays a leading role in the international effort to combat global warming. In Washington, we’ve seen the House pass comprehensive climate change and clean energy legislation, and I’ve joined my colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works to complete work on a bill. Our plan establishes a pollution reduction and investment program that would go beyond what the House proposed; to cut pollution 20 percent by 2020 and more than 80 percent by 2050.
This is an excellent start to the process, but there are still ways to strengthen our efforts, including increased investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and an aggressive plan for deploying electric vehicles. This spring, after other committees finish their work, the full Senate will take up that bill.
Just this week, the EPA released its formal finding that global warming pollution endangers the public health and welfare. This is a major step forward that gives President Obama the tools to immediately require reductions in global warming pollution even if congressional action is delayed. The administration already plans to institute new rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, and new power plants and industrial facilities will soon be required to use pollution-cutting technology.
I am hopeful that the negotiations in Copenhagen produce strong commitments from leaders around the world to take real measures to reduce the pollution that causes global warming. This is an opportunity for our nation to mend fences in the international community and develop alliances to address this critical challenge.
To those who are trying this week to stand in the way of progress, I pose these questions:
Would you rather spend one billion dollars a day on foreign oil, or invest in red, white and blue jobs creating renewable energy here in America?
Would you rather have your children breathe dirty air or clean air?
Would you rather America become dependent on importing new technology from overseas, or become a world leader in exporting clean energy technology and products to the rest of the world?
Would you rather America be a weak oil-addicted nation or a strong energy independent nation?
To me, the choice is clear.