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. [Read more…] about Nelson: Time to act on climate change is now
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report yesterday showing that the entire continental U.S. experienced its warmest May ever on record. The report comes on the heels of a 2017 NOAA report that found the average high tide flooding in the U.S. last year was also the highest ever recorded.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said today he wasn’t surprised, and once again called on Congress act to combat the effects of climate change and sea-level rise.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that climate change and sea level rise are putting people’s lives and their property at risk,” Nelson said today on the Senate floor. “It’s reality.”
Nelson told his Senate colleagues of the real threat that Florida faces from rising seas, and invited all of them to come with him to Florida so he can show them firsthand the impacts that sea-level rise is having on the state.
“This is a sunny day in Miami Beach,” Nelson said, showing a picture of a flooded street in Miami Beach during king tide.
“What’s happened in Miami Beach is happening in the Los Olos area of Ft. Lauderdale,” Nelson continued. “St. Petersburg – which is on the opposite coast, the Gulf coast, where the city has designed its new pier out of floating docks to accommodate the rising seas as they rise up and down in Tampa Bay. Or how about St. Augustine, where the public works department is seeing nuisance flooding from high tides that overwhelms their storm water system.”
Nelson said the solution is twofold: the U.S. needs to increase its investment in new technologies such as “wind, solar, electric vehicles and more efficient buildings” and local governments need to “make our communities more resilient.”
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 sea level rise.
“We’ve heard countless stories from local government officials that if they could have invested before the natural catastrophe that hit them, if they could have invested before, they would have saved the federal government a lot of money by avoiding the enormous cost of the disaster response and relief itself, not to mention reducing the risk of human life,” Nelson said.
Following is a transcript of Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor.
U.S. Sen Bill Nelson
Remarks on the Senate floor
June 7, 2018
Sen. Nelson: Mr. President, I want to talk today about what’s happening to the coastal communities in Florida.
Now, the presiding officer represents the state that has the most coastline, Alaska, but next to Alaska, my state of Florida has more coastline than any other state, and I would venture to say that since Alaska has very few beaches, it ought to be very clear that the state of Florida has more beaches than any other state.
And that of course is an attraction that becomes an economic engine because people from all over the world want to come to enjoy the sands of Florida’s beaches and enjoy the bounty of nature that the Lord has provided but we better watch out because we’re starting to mess it up.
Yesterday, NOAA, that’s the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released data that the contiguous united States had the warmest May on record. The entire continental U.S., warmest May on record. The heat is having real world impacts.
Also, NOAA released its 2017 State of High Tide Flooding and 2018 Outlook. During 2017, the average high tide flooding in the U.S. was the highest ever recorded. And in 2018, NOAA predicts that high tide flooding will be 60% more frequent across U.S. coastlines than it was 18 years ago in 2000.
Primarily because of the local sea level rise. Now, doesn’t this suggest something? In the lower latitudes, our seas are rising. It should not surprise us.
It doesn’t surprise this senator. And we got a glimpse of this when four years ago, I took our Commerce Committee to Miami Beach and in fact had a hearing. One of the witnesses was a NASA scientist, Dr. Pierce Sellers, a very prestigious scientist and former astronaut who, unfortunately, we lost to cancer just recently. And this is what he said at the hearing. He said by the end of the century, the intensity of hurricanes will increase, but even if hurricane frequency and intensity were not to change, rising sea levels and coastal development will likely increase the impact of hurricanes and other coastal storms on the coastal communities. And the resulting effects on their infrastructure.
Well, Mr. President, I’d like you to take a peek at a picture. You know, a picture tells the real story. This is a sunny day in Miami Beach, a sunny day that the king tide is flooding Miami Beach.
Okay, that’s obvious. Look it here. But this happens frequently at high tide. So what has the city of Miami Beach had to do? Spend tens of millions of dollars on big, big pumps, raise the level of the road to try to alleviate this problem.
This is happening with some frequency in south Florida where Dr. Sellers had testified back in 2014 that projections, no, forecasts, no, measurements actually showed that the sea had risen over the last four decades 5 to 8 inches. All right.
Let’s take another look at another flooding. Now, this is Miami Beach. That’s down at the southeast part of the peninsula of Florida. But this is downtown Sarasota. Sarasota is on the gulf coast, and it’s up closer to the middle of the peninsula. In other words, about 150 miles north of the latitude that Miami Beach would be. This, the Vice Mayor brought me these pictures of Sarasota. Look at this car on the street. Pictures don’t seem to tell a false story. And then we held another field hearing in West Palm Beach a year ago, and the Broward County Resilience Officer came to Palm Beach County for that hearing and showed a video of a man biking along the city of Ft. Lauderdale sidewalk submerged in water.
In other words, what’s happened in Miami Beach is happening in the Los Olos area of Ft. Lauderdale. Then we took the committee to St. Petersburg which is on the opposite coast, the gulf coast, where the city has designed its new pier out of floating docks to accommodate the rising seas as they rise up and down in Tampa Bay.
Or how about St. Augustine, where the public works department is seeing nuisance flooding from high tides that overwhelms their storm water system. But all of these examples of how sea level rise affects coastal Florida on sunny days, not rainstorm days, and the NASA scientists at our hearing were talking about how climate could exacerbate damage from hurricanes.
Why? Because if the water is warmer, that’s the fuel for a hurricane. That’s what is sucked up into that vortex as the hurricane feeds itself. The hotter the water gets over, the more ferocious and likely frequency of those storms. Warmer ocean water fuels hurricanes, making them more intense. And the sea level rise compounds the storm surge and the rain-induced flooding.
So let me show you another image. Here’s an image that shows what Florida’s coastal communities face when the sun is not this is during a rainstorm. Here’s flooding in Jacksonville.
Where is Jacksonville? It’s at the north end of the peninsula. It’s right next almost to the Georgia line. And you can see obviously a sign that says “No skateboarding” is almost completely engulfed by the rising water.
And then you think about what about a place further south on the latitudes, Puerto Rico? Hurricane Maria absolutely ravaged that island, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that climate change and sea level rise are putting people’s lives and their property at risk. It’s reality.
I am going to continue to extend an invitation to our colleagues — I want you to come with me to Florida and I want to show you these impacts. I’ve had the privilege of taking several of our colleagues to the Florida everglades to see this unusual ecosystem that we travel about in an airboat where alligators are plentiful. I want you to come and see what’s happening as a result of the rising water.
And the real question is, what are we going to do about it? There are two pieces to the solution. One is we’re going to have to stop putting so many gases into the air called greenhouse gases. CO2 carbon dioxide and methane are the two big culprits. And part of the solution is climate mitigation. It means we must invest in new technology in the economy of the future, things like wind, solar, electric vehicles, and more efficient buildings.
And we’re going to have to make our communities more resilient to the greenhouse gases and the warming that they already have done in the system. And this is called climate change adaptation. You don’t have to agree with climate science to know that it makes sense. It makes dollars and cents to do this. We’re talking about strengthening our building codes to withstand wind events. We’re talking about restoring the function of the floodplains so that when two to three feet of rainwater suddenly gets dumped in one place, it can absorb and gradually recede.
We’re talking about rebuilding natural flood protection, like sand dunes and beaches. And in the Commerce committee, we’ve heard countless stories from local government officials that if they could have invested before the natural catastrophe that hit them, if they could have invested before, they would have saved the federal government a lot of money by avoiding the enormous cost of the disaster response and relief itself, not to mention reducing the risk of human life.
Now, the proof is in front of our very eyes. The photos that we’ve shown — let’s show the rest of them here. The photos that we have shown, they don’t lie. And yet here we are upon another hurricane season. Of course, we hope the big storms don’t come, but the likelihood is that they are. And, remember, they don’t necessarily go just to Florida.
Remember Hurricane Sandy? Look what it did to the northeast. We hope we don’t see any more of these harrowing images, but as we hope, we’re going to have to act because what we’ve shown here in these photos today is not about projections. It’s about real-time observation. Let’s quit ignoring the obvious. Mr. President, I yield the floor.
One day after President Trump signed an executive order to roll back many of the Obama administration’s policies aimed at combating climate change, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and others filed legislation to nullify the order.
“Florida is ground zero when it comes to the effects of sea-level rise and climate change,” Nelson said today. “Rolling back these policies puts Florida’s economy and environment at risk – and it’s a risk Floridians shouldn’t have to take.”
The legislation would block federal agencies from implementing the actions outlined in an executive order Trump signed Tuesday instructing the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies to begin undoing several initiatives aimed at limiting harmful emissions from power plants.
In addition to Nelson, the bill is cosponsored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Text of the bill can be found here, and below is a background story on the president’s executive action.
Trump Signs Executive Order Unwinding Obama Climate Policies
By CORAL DAVENPORT
Published: March 28, 2017
President Trump signed on Tuesday a much-anticipated executive order intended to roll back most of President Barack Obama’s climate-change legacy, celebrating the move as a way to promote energy independence and to restore thousands of lost coal industry jobs.
Flanked by coal miners at a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Trump signed a short document titled the “Energy Independence” executive order, directing the agency to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s policies to fight global warming.
The order also takes aim at a suite of narrower but significant Obama-era climate and environmental policies, including lifting a short-term ban on new coal mining on public lands.
The executive order does not address the United States’ participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement, the landmark accord that committed nearly every country to take steps to reduce climate-altering pollution. But experts note that if the Trump program is enacted, it will all but ensure that the United States cannot meet its clean air commitments under the accord.
But energy economists say the order falls short of both of those goals — in part because the United States already largely relies on domestic sources for the coal and natural gas that fires most of the nation’s power plants.
“We don’t import coal,” said Robert N. Stavins, an energy economist at Harvard University. “So in terms of the Clean Power Plan, this has nothing to do with so-called energy independence whatsoever.”
Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, said in an interview on ABC News on Sunday that the order will help the United States “be both pro-jobs and pro-environment.”
But coal miners should not assume their jobs will return if Trump’s regulations take effect.
The new order would mean that older coal plants that had been marked for closing would probably stay open for a few years longer, extending the demand for coal, said Robert W. Godby, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming.
But even so, “the mines that are staying open are using more mechanization,” he said.
“They’re not hiring people,” he continued.
“So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs,” he added.
Legal experts say it could take years for the Trump administration to unwind the Clean Power Plan, which has not yet been carried out because it has been temporarily frozen by a Supreme Court order. Those regulations sought to cut planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. If enacted, they would have shut down hundreds of those plants, frozen construction of future plants and replaced them with wind and solar farms and other renewable energy sources.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Trump highlighted his support of coal miners, holding multiple rallies in coal country and vowing to restore lost jobs to the flagging industry. At a rally last week in Kentucky, Mr. Trump vowed that his executive order would “save our wonderful coal miners from continuing to be put out of work.”
While coal mining jobs have dropped in the United States, they do not represent a significant portion of the American economy. Coal companies employed about 65,971 miners in 2015, down from 87,755 in 2008, according to Energy Department statistics.
And though the percentage of coal mining jobs dropped sharply, economists said that was not driven by the Clean Power Plan. Rather, they blamed two key forces: an increase in the production of natural gas, which is a cheaper, cleaner-burning alternative to coal, and an increase in automation, which allowed coal companies to produce more fuel with fewer employees. The rollback of Mr. Obama’s regulations will not change either of those forces, economists say.
“The problem with coal jobs has not been CO2 regulations, so this will probably not bring back coal jobs,” Mr. Godby said. “The problem has been that there has not been market demand for coal.”
The coal industry nonetheless cheered the move.
“These actions are vital to the American coal industry, to our survival, and to getting some of our coal families back to work,” said Robert E. Murray, the chief executive of Murray Energy, one of the nation’s largest coal mining companies.
But even Mr. Murray conceded that he did not expect Mr. Trump’s order to return coal mining numbers to their former strength. “I really don’t know how far the coal industry can be brought back,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s directive also eliminates about a half-dozen of Mr. Obama’s smaller executive orders and memorandums related to combating climate change.
For example, the order would require White House economists to recalculate a budgeting metric known as the social cost of carbon that, under the Obama administration, limited pollution by arguing that global warming outweighed economic benefits for industries. It would also eliminate a requirement that federal agencies consider the impact on climate change when analyzing all future environmental permits.
Combined, the measures are likely to ensure the United States’ emissions of planet-warming pollution remain too high to meet the terms of the Paris climate accord.
The aim of the Paris deal is to reduce emissions enough to stave off a warming of the planet by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the level at which, experts say, the Earth will be irrevocably locked into a future of extreme droughts, flooding and shortages of food and water.
But analysts say Mr. Trump’s order signals that the United States will not meet its pledges under the Paris deal to cut its emissions about 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
“Meeting the U.S. terms of the Paris Agreement would require full enforcement of the current regulations, plus additional regulations,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University. “It takes a comprehensive effort involving every country doing what they committed to and more.”
He said Mr. Trump’s order “sends a signal to other countries that they might not have to meet their commitments — which would mean that the world would fail to stay out of the climate danger zone.”