Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The President’s Address On Climate Change And Power Plant Emissions

I agree with the President that climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time, but it is also a challenge uniquely suited to our strengths as a country.  Our scientists, researchers, universities and entrepreneurs stand ready to design and build new, less polluting energy sources.  Vermont’s and our country’s farmers and forestland owners stand ready to grow renewable fuels.  American businesses will innovate and develop new energy technologies that will reduce pollution and grow our economy with jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.  Our workforce stands ready to modernize our power plants and retrofit our buildings to meet 21st Century efficiency standards. 

I stand ready to support the President, and Vermonters want to do our part.  The important goals the President has laid out today will create jobs, save lives and protect and preserve our treasured natural resources for future generations.

No single step can accomplish the goals that President Obama has presented today, but we must begin now, and take these critical first steps together.  We owe it to our children and grandchildren to address these threats and be responsible stewards of the earth.  Just as any Vermonter who has hiked the 200 miles of Vermont’s beautiful Long Trail can tell you, the journey begins with a commitment to reach a goal, and a first step in that direction.

Climate change is not a far-off or remote challenge.  The impacts are overtaking us today around the globe and in Vermont.  In the past two years, hurricanes Irene and Sandy devastated the Northeast, while huge swaths from Texas to the Midwest have been gripped in a historic drought, and tornadoes have raked the heartland.

We can no longer willfully ignore these impacts or continue to deny the facts:  The science is clear and definitive that human-induced climate change is happening and it is happening rapidly.  We are obligated to reduce carbon emissions, and efforts to do so have the support of the American people.

Not only is the science clear, but the human and economic costs of climate change are hitting home.  The severe weather events of just the past two years have caused damages in the United States in excess of $188 billion and left more than 1100 people dead.  If we do not act now then the toll is sure to mount, with ever more destructive and deadly weather pounding our coasts, parching our nation’s agricultural center, and rising sea levels threatening our coastal communities.  If we do not act now, the devastating impacts of climate change will only get worse.

But climate change is not just about weather disasters.  For instance, we also have seen asthma rates double in the past 30 years, and our children and grandchildren will only suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution worsens.  We already reduced smog and acid rain and have set limits for mercury, lead, and arsenic.  It is time to set a limit on carbon pollution that causes climate change and assaults the public health.

The President’s proposal will allow the United States to take further important steps toward the environmental quality and good jobs that will come with a cleaner and safer energy future.  We can act now so that future generations – our children and grandchildren -- will know that we took the steps that helped make their world safer and cleaner.  


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