Heinrich To Leader McConnell: Climate Change Is Real

Heinrich To Leader McConnell: Climate Change Is Real

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – In remarks on the Senate Floor, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, challenged Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow the Senate to take serious action on climate change.

Earlier this week, Heinrich joined U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in sending a letter to Majority Leader McConnell calling on him to hold a full day of floor debate on climate change. In the letter, the senators warned of the serious threat posed by climate change and urgent need for leadership and action.

Today, Heinrich joined Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Environment and Public Works Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) and all 47 Senate Democrats in introducing a resolution acknowledging that climate change is real, that it is caused by humans, and that it requires immediate action in Congress.

As one of the few members of Congress with a background in science, Senator Heinrich has consistently called for aggressive action and policies to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and has championed investment and incentives for clean energy. 

Senator Heinrich’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Mr. President,

I rise today to state the obvious.

To state in clear terms what scientists have been warning us about for decades.

The scientific data could not be any clearer.

Climate change is real.

Climate change is here.

And we are causing its devastating impacts and disruptions.

And unless we start to implement policies to curb our carbon emissions and mitigate its impacts, climate change will continue to wreak havoc upon communities across our nation and around the world.

These are the facts.

These facts present us with the greatest and most existential global challenge humanity has ever faced.

There are not two sides to these facts.

The Earth’s five warmest years on record have all happened since 2014.

This is not a coincidence-or an unexplained phenomenon.

This is the direct result of our actions-and of our inaction.

Only the willfully ignorant refuse to acknowledge these facts, and the gravity and urgency of what we face because of the fact of human-caused climate change.

Unfortunately, the current occupant of the White House, and too many here in Washington, must be counted in that camp.

President Trump’s decision to upend the Clean Power Plan and pull out of the Paris Climate Accord was perhaps the most consequential representation of his inward looking, isolationist vision for America.

It was a dangerous abdication of our nation’s leadership role on the international stage.

And if we choose to accept his failure to lead here in Congress, we will continue down a path toward very real and very costly climate disruptions.

In the coming weeks, Majority Leader McConnell says that he plans to call a vote here in the Senate on a Green New Deal resolution.

I wish this were a genuine effort to address our climate challenge.

But it clearly is not.

This is a political stunt by the Majority Leader to divide those who actually want to address this crisis, rather than offer up any substantive solution of his own.

The Majority Leader would have you believe that solutions to climate change are too costly or too impractical to be taken seriously.

I don’t know about you.

But to me, it is that view that is wildly out of touch, and, frankly, dangerous.

President Trump and Republicans love to talk about the cost of climate action.

What we should be focusing on is the much steeper cost of inaction-and the economic benefits of America leading the clean energy transition. 

As an engineer, I am certain that our capacity to confront the challenges that we face, large and small, rests heavily on our ability to make policy that is driven by facts, by data, and by the best available science.

And the latest data on climate change should be deeply alarming to all of us. 

Last fall, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report based on the research of thousands of our world’s leading climate scientists.

It laid out in stark terms how critical it is for us to find a way to limit the planet’s warming. 

Unless we can reduce global carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, and reach net zero emissions by 2050, it will be nearly impossible to keep global temperatures below a rise of 3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.

I know that just sounds like a lot of numbers. 

But what those numbers mean in terms of real ecological, economic, and humanitarian costs is incredibly important.
Global average temperatures have already risen by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and that change is wreaking havoc on communities around the world. 

One month after the U.N. released its landmark report, 13 federal agencies finalized the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a report mandated by Congress to study the evidence and impacts of climate change.

That report provided clear and indisputable evidence that the destructive wildfires, catastrophic hurricanes, and extreme flooding we have seen in just the last couple years are directly linked to human-caused climate change.
These disasters are costing us billions of dollars each year.

The Pentagon has correctly called climate change a threat multiplier, meaning climate impacts will amplify threats to our national security.

These are massive problems today-right now-not in some far off date in the future.

We need to recognize what the science is telling us.

And we need to recognize that the impacts and disasters we have seen so far are just the beginning of what’s to come unless we take concrete actions right now to reduce our carbon emissions.

Things are only going to get more chaotic, unpredictable, and expensive unless we change our trajectory. 

That will require global cooperation, scientific ingenuity, and serious, sober policymaking based on the facts in front of us to put us on a better path forward.

I am proud that some of my colleagues are stepping up to think through what those actions and solutions should be.

We can have a healthy debate about the best ways to achieve reductions in our carbon emissions.

But we can’t credibly dispute the science that is telling us how urgent it is to act.

The facts are the facts-chemistry will keep happening whether we believe in it or not.

Yet instead of allowing us to productively debate the solutions to the greatest challenge we face as a global community, the Majority Leader is planning to waste our time with a political stunt. 

Since Republicans took control of the Senate they have not brought a single bill to the floor that would seriously address carbon emissions.

Not a single one.

And they have taken many actions that have actually made the situation worse.

This is not the serious legislating we were sent here to do.

This is not problem solving.

The United States Senate is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body.

We are supposed to come together here on the Senate Floor and in our committees to think through the greatest issues and challenges of our times.

We are supposed to propose and debate policies to meet those challenges.

I would welcome a long overdue debate on which policies would most efficiently and effectively address our challenges.

I know that climate change often feels too big and too hard to fix.

But frankly, we need to get out of that mindset.

Because climate change is a problem we can solve.

Because climate change is a problem we must solve.

The good news is that we already have the technologies and the hard working people to do it.

Clean energy technologies have rapidly evolved in recent years.

So many of the clean energy technologies that seemed unrealistic a decade ago have become the new normal.

I see a future where my two boys will use a reliable, cheap, resilient grid that is 100 percent powered by clean energy because of technologies invented with American ingenuity.

Technologies built and installed with American labor.

But we need to invest in deploying these technologies with the urgency necessary to make real progress on time to meet goals to reduce our carbon emissions.

This should be a bipartisan priority.

Not only for its impact on curbing carbon emissions.

But also because it will create millions of jobs in communities all across America.

Some states are already moving in this direction.

In my home state of New Mexico, new wind farms and solar plants are bringing in billions of dollars of private investment and creating thousands of new jobs.

But without aggressive, forward-looking national policies and incentives, we will not move fast enough to save the economic security that a stable climate provides.

The scale of this transformation will be gigantic.

There’s no doubt about that.

But this great nation is up to the challenge.