Global Climate Change

By: Ron Kind
By: Ron Kind
Date: Nov. 16, 2004
Location: Washington, DC

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE -- (House of Representatives - November 16, 2004)


Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, I thank my good friend, the gentleman from Washington State, for yielding me a little bit of time for this very important discussion.

First of all, I commend him for it, his leadership throughout Congress and the Nation, in trying to draw attention to and highlight an incredibly important issue not only for the current generation but future generations. That is, how are we going to, as the world's most powerful Nation, economically, militarily, culturally, our influence throughout the world is going to address one of the seminal issues of our generation, and that is global climate change and warming, what we can do policy-wise to try to effectuate the needed changes in order to stem the terrible results that might occur if we do not start acting today on it.

The science is in. My colleague from Washington has cited the scientific studies. In fact, even the current administration now is releasing recent reports indicating that climate change is real, that global warming is occurring, that it is heavily influenced by man-made objects and that it is something we cannot ignore any longer.

The problem we have, however, with the administration is lack of leadership and a lack of ideas and a solution on how to address it. They have the science before them. The President during an initial report that said, hey, this stuff is real, it is happening, we have got to take corrective action, excused the record as the work of bureaucrats within the EPA and various agencies that was putting the science together. But a more recent study that just came out in August highlighted the very real effects and the tracking data of climate change and the fact that it is heavily influenced by man's action on this globe.

The question is now what are we going to do with the science. It was interesting to note and see that Russia has been the latest signatory to the Kyoto treaty which now puts the treaties into effect because they had to have a certain number of nations that produced a certain amount of these greenhouse gasses to first sign the treaty before it would be implemented. Russia now puts them over the top. Granted there are some problems with Kyoto, issues that need to be addressed and cleaned up and further corrected; and that is why there was an overwhelming vote against the Kyoto ratification in the Senate about a year ago. But what has been lacking in this debate on a global basis is U.S. leadership and what are we going to do about it.

I know the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) has been one of the champions of a new Apollo energy program, one that makes sense for us not only addressing the global climate changes that is occurring now but makes sense for us economically in regards to our long term energy needs as a Nation. If we do not get our energy policy right, we will not be very successful in growing the economy and creating jobs.

We have seen what the dependence and addiction to foreign oil has done to us economically. We have been looking at $2 a gallon for gas prices for too long. It is a hidden tax on working families that are paying more out of their pocket at the pump in order to pay for these increased energy costs. Gas prices this winter will be 30 to sometimes 40 percent more in the upper Midwest and in the northern regions that will be relying on heating bills to get through the winter season. And we see the implications foreign policy-wise of our addiction to oil in the Middle East and why we are so heavily involved there right now. There is something we can do about it.

I guess what is so frustrating, serving on the Committee on Resources, as my friend from Washington and I do, is there are certain steps that we can be taking in order to wean ourselves off from this dependence on foreign oil in order to move to a new energy policy that emphasizes alternative and renewable energy sources: the wind, the solar, the geothermal, the biofuels, the ethanol. And also a major investment in the energy source of the future, fuel cell development, so we become a hydrogen-based energy society as opposed to a carbon fossil fuel base that we are currently dependent upon and that is creating these greenhouse gases.

So the question now becomes what are we going to do about the science that is staring us in the face. Are we going to continue to ignore it, claim we cannot do both, grow the economy and address global climate change at the same time? I believe we can. And I believe there is job creation involved if we do start bringing these new technologies online, creating new businesses and new industries to deal with the new Apollo energy program for this country.

We should see the leadership from the White House setting dates certain for certain goals of achieving greater alliance on alternative and renewable energy sources, but we are not. In fact, the energy bill that is currently pending before Congress is better suited for the 1950s as opposed to the 21st century. There is a lot of new technology that can be developed that will spur economic growth and jobs if we have the political will to do it. And I believe at the end of the day this can be a win-win scenario, not only for job creation in this country but in addressing the root causes of global climate change, something that the rest of the world is waking up and realizing and starting to take action on their own.

But if the world's largest economy and the world's greatest consumer of fossil fuels remains on the sidelines, as this administration has decided to do, we will not see tremendous progress being made on this front regardless of what other countries throughout the globe are trying to do right now. That is why I commend my good friend from Washington State for getting up here on a late evening here, Tuesday night, to continue talking about this very important issue. And it is an issue that the younger generation gets. I do not know if it is intuitive or if they have just gotten enough information themselves, but they know the problems we are facing ecologically and environmentally.

They also believe in this whole global warming science that is out there right now. I believe they also believe that it is their generation that will pay the highest price if action is not taken today with the policymakers we have right now. I believe it was one of the more important issues in the last Presidential campaign that did not receive the attention that it deserved. I pledge tonight to continue working with my friend from Washington State to continue to draw attention on this important issue, to see what we can do working in a bipartisan fashion, because this is going to be an issue that we will have to lock arms together and jump into the icy waters on if we will have significant progress on it.

And there can be a lot of different areas of the sensible center that we can pursue in this Congress in the upcoming session, and hopefully being able to work with the administration even though they are doing new personnel changes right now, to address one of the more pressing and important issues changes of our day, that is, global warming. And what this generation is going to leave as a legacy for the next generation to inherit.

Unfortunately, there has been too much dithering. There has been study after study and scientific report after scientific report, all pointing in the same direction; but it is falling on deaf ears right now. And we do not have the luxury of time on our side. The longer we delay in taking affirmative action on this, the harder it will be to address this at the end of the day. So the clock is ticking.

We will continue speaking out on this. We will continue working amongst ourselves trying to form these bipartisan coalitions, trying to develop a greater consensus in our country to address this. I think the American people are there as well. I think given the option, they want to see us moving to a more sustainable energy policy that is more ecologically and environmentally friendly for their children and grandchildren as well. Lord knows the rest of the world is waking up to the possibilities that exist out there. And there is so much potential with the creativity and the innovation that this country has, that the American workers and with the science that we are developing in this country.

What is lacking and what the missing ingredient I believe is is the political leadership and the will to get it done. That is really what is at stake. And I thank my colleague for having this Special Order this evening talking about this issue and for his leadership on it as well.


Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, I think the gentleman is right. I think this really comes down to two different visions, two different camps of what we can and cannot do. The optimist versus the pessimist. The optimist which we are members of happily really do believe we have the innovation, the creativity, technological know-how to lead the rest of the world in developing the changes that have to be made in regards to energy use and new energy technologies coming on line.

Conservation could be a big part of what we are talking about as well. It is something that unfortunately the Vice President poo-poos every time someone tries to bring it up, is the things we could be doing to develop more energy-efficient machines that we rely on for our quality of life.

It was interesting that when California just a couple of years ago was going through their energy crisis, energy consumption dropped 11 percent within the first month through increased energy conservation practices. So conservation can also be a part of this. What does this mean for the average person back home in western Wisconsin, the district that I represent?

We have a very good manufacturing company called the Trane Company. It is one of the largest employers in western Wisconsin, over 2,000 workers. They manufacture high-efficiency commercial heating and cooling units to be sold. They are so efficient and so good at what they do that those machines are already in full compliance of what the Kyoto treaty calls for. If we unleash this potential, that means creating more jobs in districts like the third congressional in western Wisconsin, with new companies being able to expand by developing a market share with these new machines, these new technologies that are crying out to be developed.

But again it is a question of political leadership and whether or not we have enough visionary people to see where we can take it and what steps we have to do and what each of our roles is going to be as consumers, as manufacturers, as producers, as policymakers because there is going to be a role for all of us to play, but it will require a buy-in.

The gentleman mentioned the Apollo program of the 1960s. When President Kennedy first announced the goal to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade, most of the scientific experts did not think it was possible. We were experimenting with Saturn and Jupiter II missiles that if they were not exploding on the launch pad at the time, quickly exploded after launch or dovetailed into the oceans off the launch pad. And for the President at the time to conceive of putting a live human being on top of these flying bombs that were blowing up typically on the launch pad, and safely launching them out into outerspace and then landing them softly on the Moon, and then relaunching them from the Moon and landing them softly on the Earth's surface so that we do not lose anyone, was a vision that very few people in the scientific community in the early 1960s thought could be achieved by the end of the decade.

But it was that political leadership and vision and marshaling the resources and the best and the brightest that our Nation had to offer that enabled us to achieve that dynamic mission by 1969.

It was an incredible technological achievement, and it was spurred by a vision that President Kennedy had for our Nation at the time.


Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman would yield, we are seeing a very exciting development. In Wisconsin, people think the Dairy State, a lot of farms. There are still a lot of family farms in that. The operations are getting better. The livestock herds are getting larger.

One of the grant programs that I and others were able to include in the last farm bill was a methane digester grant program going to these family farmers to start developing methane digesters. That is using the waste that these livestock herds are producing and converting it into energy.

Again, it is another small piece of the energy puzzle that we need to be looking at in further developing as this Nation, because there is not going to be a silver bullet that is going to provide the cure-all for all of this, but it is finding out where the pieces need to fit in, whether it is solar, whether it is the wind turbine farms, whether it is methane digesters, whether it is the further development of hydrogen fuels in this society.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote a really interesting article just a couple of months ago in regards to the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he said that that is not our only intelligence failure in Iraq, not being able to find these weapons of mass destruction. If we do not learn from this, that our dependence on their oil in that region is a large cause of what is happening over there right now, and that, too, will be another intelligence failure on our part if we do not derive the lessons of our dependence on the oil in the Middle East and start converting to a new energy policy for a new century and wean ourselves off from that dependence, which would then start forcing those regimes in the Middle East instead of basing their whole economic model on the natural resources that are being extracted from their soil and instead forcing them to diversify their economic base, and have them start drilling their human capital more than their natural resources, that is going to lead to the type of transformations and reforms that we desperately need throughout the Muslim and the Arab world right now.

But so long as we, the largest consumer of these fossil fuels, remain the supply line for those regimes and their economic base, as long as we remain addicted to what they have got, we are not going to see the type of economic and political and the cultural reforms that that region of the world desperately needs right now.

That, too, is something that we have got to wake up and realize, in light of what is happening in the Middle East today, that a lot of this stems from our dependence on their energy that they are producing and our inability to start pivoting now and seeing the long-term ramifications that this has and the national security implications that I believe it holds for our Nation in future years.


Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman would yield, it is one of the fascinating conversations I like to have with our astronauts. We are very proud of Mark Lee who is an astronaut who grew up in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Western Wisconsin. Of course, Deke Slayton was from the Sparta area in Western Wisconsin. I had a meeting with one of the Shuttle astronauts down at Cape Canaveral about a year-and-a-half ago, and I asked them all, what is the one thing that really leaves an impression upon you when you are out in space and looking back. They all say it is the greater respect for our environment and our ecosystem on this planet because, from their perspective, out in space looking back, I think they see intuitively how fragile our environment really is and the atmosphere and this planet that we all share together, and I think they all understand that much more work needs to be done on this front.

The fact that we have had an energy bill now pending for the last couple of years I think speaks more to the dysfunctional nature of this Congress recently that has become so polarizing, so partisan, and there is not enough outreach, not enough effort to find that sensible center on policy, to try to come together and work in crafting truly bipartisan bills where we understand it is going to be a process of give and take and that compromise should not be a four letter word in trying to make our democracy function.

But unfortunately, there is this 218 strategy where the leadership on the other side just wants the minimum number of votes, and more Republicans, the better, in order to get anything passed around here that it makes great achievements virtually impossible today.

On issues like the environment and energy policy, it is something that is going to require the Nation coming together if we are going to be make significant strides.

It is going to be interesting that later this week we are going to be dealing with another vastly important issue, and it is not one that is really short term, but it has long-term implications, raising the national debt ceiling limit. This is not something that we are going to see tangible results tomorrow if we start addressing it, but it does have future long-term implications about economic growth, and it is the same thing in regards to global warming. It is something people are hearing about now, and they are starting to see the science come in, but it is not something that is going to a direct and immediate impact on their lives tomorrow.

What we are talking about is what this means for the next generation and the generation after that and why it is incumbent upon us to start worrying about this today rather than punting it for future generations. I am concerned that the same attitude is being taken with the huge accumulation of debt in this country today, that all we have to do this week is jam another $900 billion increase in the debt ceiling in a bill that has to pass in order to keep the government functioning, and there is very little thought about the long-term implications of what these decisions mean in the future.

Again, this is a classic issue, and I have enjoyed working with my colleague from Washington State and look forward to working with him on this in the future because it is an issue that obviously is not going to go away anytime soon, and it is going to require a lot of hard work.


Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, if the gentleman will yield for one final point, this has been a consistent pattern with this administration. Even with their own agencies producing reports on global warming, the President on down has kind of pooh-poohed the findings. And in fact at one time the President commented on one of the global warming studies that came out of the EPA that it was just the work of a bunch of career bureaucrats, as if to discount the findings of that report. But the most recent one, just released in August, was signed off on by the agency heads of those departments, so it is a little more difficult then for the President, with these political appointees, to claim they are just a bunch of bureaucrats doing what bureaucrats supposedly do, in his eyes, and that is producing a bunch of invalid, nonscientific-based reports, when in fact the information out there is just to the contrary.

This administration has tended to base policy more on faith-based initiatives rather than science-based findings and studies, and that is very disturbing. Because if your instinct is wrong on something as important as this, it could lead this Nation down a disastrous course that could take decades to try to reverse and change, if it is not too late already.

That is why during the course of the election there were so many scientists around the Nation writing letters and indicating their concerns and displeasure in regards to the administration's practice of discounting scientific research and findings on the important topics of the day, and that pattern has been consistent from day one.

Now we have a second term that is about to begin. We have new political appointees that will be made. Many of the Secretaries have submitted their resignations, so there will be a turnover in leadership, and what will be very interesting and I think very important in the days and weeks to come is who the President is deciding to head up these very agencies that will have so much influence and so much say in the future course of the policy that this Nation will follow which will have implications not only for us here at home but on a global basis. So these appointments are going to be very important in the days to come.

When my colleague and I were in Norway, studying their alternatives and renewable energy plan, we received a briefing on the global circulatory system and how that could be impacted from global warming. I do not know if too many people watching tonight realize our oceans have this circulatory pattern to it with the water flow.

The gentleman from Washington mentioned the gulf stream a little earlier that warms in the southern climates and goes up north and keeps the Northern Hemisphere warm and the shoreline free of ice accumulation. The fear with global warming is that as the water goes to the north, it will not cool. And if it does not cool, it will not drop. And if it does not drop, it will not continue the circulatory pattern in the other oceans throughout the world and so the whole system could shut down. Like the blood that rushes through our body, if it stops pumping and stops circulating through our body, you can imagine the disastrous consequences.

The Earth's environment and ecosystem is based on that ocean circulatory system that would be adversely affected if global warming continues at the pace that it currently is. It could potentially shut down, creating an environmental havoc that perhaps is only realized in the imagination of Hollywood producers right now in the movies they are starting to produce but which may not be that far off from reality. This too I think is a huge implication that we have to start studying more and taking seriously in the policy decisions that we face in the upcoming session of Congress.

Again, Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his leadership on the issue and for garnering some time this evening.