March 21, 2007

HEARING ON VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE'S PERSPECTIVE ON GLOBAL WARMING

Statement to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee

Madam Chair:

Thank you for holding this hearing today. I want to welcome Vice President Gore to the Committee. I look forward to hearing his testimony.

Vice President Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, has been enormously successful in raising public consciousness of global warming and the threat it presents to human society and the environment.

As Clare Boothe Luce said, "No good deed goes unpunished." The documentary seems to have spawned an industry of climate change skeptics, many of whom are more interested in engaging in ad hominem attacks against the Vice President than they are in fostering open and honest scientific debate.

We have heard from the scientists. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it clear that global warming is happening and the causes are largely anthropogenic. On a subject of this magnitude and complexity, there will always be some disagreement. The problem is that the media give a handful of skeptics "equal play" when it comes to the subject of global warming, which leads lay observers to conclude that the issue is still being debated at a fundamental level. That's not so.

We have heard from enlightened business leaders who formed the Climate Action Partnership to advocate national strategies for fighting global warming.

And we have heard from regional, state, and local officials about their innovative initiatives to slow, stop, and ultimately reverse the growth of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Consider California: if it were its own country, it would have the world's 8th largest economy. So when Californians set out to reduce their GHG emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels over the next several decades, we shouldn't underestimate the impact that will have in fighting global warming.

I'm proud of what Marylanders are doing to fight global warming. Several cities, including Baltimore, Annapolis, Rockville, and Gaithersburg, are participating in the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which commits them on a voluntary basis to implement Kyoto agreement within their municipalities.

Later this year, Maryland will become a full partner in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). "REGGIE," as it is known, is a cooperative effort by several Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants by stabilizing CO2 emissions at current levels from 2009 to 2015, and then cutting them 10 percent by 2019.

We need to take these actions because Maryland is particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. Tide gauge records for the last century show that the rate of sea level rise in Maryland is nearly twice the global average. Studies indicate that this rate is accelerating and may increase to two or three feet along Maryland's shores by the year 2100.

More than 12 percent of the State's land is designated under the National Flood Insurance Program as a Special Flood Hazard Area. An estimated 68,000 homes and buildings are located within the floodplain, representing nearly $8 billion in assessed value.

Spokesmen for Allstate Insurance, one of our largest insurers, recently announced that the company will stop writing new homeowners' policies in coastal areas of the State, citing concerns that a warmer Atlantic Ocean will lead to more and stronger hurricanes hitting the Northeast.

About a third of the marshes at Blackwater Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore have been lost to sea level rise over the past 70 years.

Smith Island, the only inhabited island community in Maryland and the subject of a recent documentary on global warming, has lost 30 percent of its land mass to sea level rise since 1850.

According to a 2005 report of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, Maryland is the 3rd most vulnerable State to flooding and has the 5th longest evacuation times during a tropical storm or hurricane event.

So we don't have a choice. We need to do everything possible to curb global warming and rising sea levels.

We are fortunate Vice President Gore has made it his life's mission to educate people about global warming, the threat it presents, and the need to start acting now to combat it. I appreciate the initiatives that private sector and state and local public sector leaders in Maryland and across the Nation are taking. But the fact is we need national leadership on what is the most pressing environmental, economic, and national security issue of our generation. And we need it right away.

Thank you, Madam Chair.