On the heels of a newly-released report by the Trump administration detailing the very real threats posed by climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) took to the Senate floor today to urge his colleagues to act – and act now – to combat the effects of global warming and sea-level rise.
“My beautiful home state, Florida, which I’ve had the great privilege of serving, is ground zero for these impacts,” Nelson said. “For the sake of your states and mine, for the good of our planet, for the good of our children, for the good of future generations, take climate change seriously. Listen to the experts and come together to work on solutions. And instead of saying I’m not a scientist, listen to the scientists. Don’t try to censor their warnings or hide from the truth.”
Nelson said the solution to climate change is trifold: stop politicizing the issue, work to limit greenhouse gas production and help make coastal communities more resilient to rising seas.
As the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce committee, Nelson filed legislation earlier this year to make federal financing available to communities who need to upgrade their infrastructure to address climate change-related events, such as tidal flooding, beach erosion or saltwater intrusion caused by rising seas. He also led efforts to protect federal scientists from political interference.
“Instead of saying making changes could cost money, think about the cost to our economy and our society if we don’t act,” Nelson said. “We must act and we must do it now.”
Following is a rush transcript of Nelson’s full remarks and here’s a link to watch video of his speech.
Sen. Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
November 29, 2018
Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, 30 years ago a gentleman by the name of Dr. James Hanson was the director of the NASA Goddard’s institute for space studies. He testified to the U.S. Senate energy and natural resources committee that he was 99% certain that the year’s record temperatures were not the result of natural variation. This is 30 years ago. It was the first time a lead scientist drew a connection between human activities, the growing concentration of atmospheric pollutants, and a warming climate.
This senator was a young congressman at the time representing east central Florida and Florida’s space coast and just two years prior, I had flown for six days on the 24th mission of the space shuttle, in this case our orbiter was the space shuttle Columbia.
Growing up on the Indian river on Florida’s Atlantic coast, it’s easy to think that nature’s bounty is endless, that the sand beaches, the crystal clear water, the blue sky, and the warm sun, it would continue forever. It would be like Camelot. But peering out the window back at the planet from the window of a spacecraft, when I looked even all of the Earth suddenly took on a new meaning. I realized how thin the line was between our protected, shared home, the planet and how thin that line is between uninhabitable space.
So when Dr. Hanson testified about the greenhouse effect and how that thin layer of an atmosphere was becoming polluted , it got my attention because I remembered looking at the rim of the Earth and seeing that little thin film as we orbited the Earth every 90 minutes. And since his 1988 warning, the evidence is unfortunately confirming Dr. Hanson’s prediction in 1988.
We saw just recently extreme events in 2017 and 2018 alone included back-to-back record Atlantic and gulf hurricanes and unprecedented and devastating wildfires. Global temperatures are rising and so are the seas. Why? The extra heat is absorbed by the oceans which cover two-thirds of the Earth. That extra heat when absorbed in water causes water to expand. And we see in 2016 and 2017 they’ve had two of the highest global temperatures ever recorded since we began measuring in 1880.
2018 is on a track to be the fourth hottest year on record. Warmer air and water make the environment more hospitable to toxic algae blooms. Mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases and things like poison ivy, and these are three things that I think we can all agree that we need less of, not more. The oceans are warming and they are fueling the intensification of hurricanes.
And we saw that just recently in Irma and Michael and creating the conditions that warming water is that bleach coral reefs and feed toxic algae blooms. My beautiful home state, Florida, which I’ve had the great privilege of serving is ground zero for these impacts. According to the fourth national climate assessment report released by the administration just last week, the day after Thanksgiving, climate change is expected to make south Florida more vulnerable to diseases like the Zika virus.
Florida could see more than 3 — than $’46 billion in property value — $346 billion in property value to be lost over the course of this century.
But this question stretches beyond property value. A Florida Department of Health assessment determined that almost 600,000 people in south Florida are going to face extreme or high risk from sea level rise. Warming water, nutrient enrichment, overfishing and coastal development are all contributing to the dire situation of one of our nation’s crown jewels, the coral reefs of the Florida keys.
And so the real question is, what are we going to do about it? Well, I think there are three things we ought to consider.
First, we truly cannot afford to politicize the air we breathe. The science is not up for debate. The greenhouse gas emissions are heating the atmosphere which in turn heat our oceans supercharging the hurricanes, leaving us vulnerable to drought, and threatening the water we drink and the food we eat. Reports of political censorship or political interference with science are unacceptable, and they are foolish if we ignore the science. We do so at our peril.
I think secondly we ought to consider that we’re going to have to stop putting so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so fast. And this is called climate mitigation. And it means that we must invest in new technology in the chill of — in the economy of the future, things like wind and solar, electric vehicles, and more efficient buildings. Each one of them would have a huge impact in lessening the amount of derivatives of carbon that we put into the atmosphere.
And third, I think we should consider that we’re going to have to make our communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change, climate change that is already upon us and climate change that in the future we’re not going to be able to avoid, like you just can’t cut off the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere and the warming that results therefrom that’s already in the you talk to the scientists, there’s something just beyond about 4 degrees fahrenheit more of the average annual global temperature that if it rises beyond which there is no return. We have a chance but time is of the essence. And so we ought to consider climate change adaptation. You don’t have to agree with climate science to know that it makes sense to do this.
So I want to urge our colleagues ole both sides of this aisle that separates Republicans from Democrats, you need to take this seriously. For the sake of your states and mine, for the good of our planet, for the good of our children, for the good of future generations, take climate change seriously. Listen to the experts and come together to work on solutions. And instead of saying I’m not a scientist, listen to the scientists. Don’t try to censor their warnings or hide from the truth.
Instead of saying making changes could cost money, think about the cost to our economy and our society if we don’t act. Coastal communities inundated with catastrophic flooding, midwestern droughts that raise food prices, and soaring health costs.
These are some of the cost that are coming to our country, indeed to our society, indeed to civilization of planet Earth. We must act and we must do it now.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.