Global warming is real and unequivocal. The International Panel on Climate Change states in its recent report that there is a growing body of evidence which demonstrates that increases in greenhouse gas concentrations, due to human emissions, have caused most of the warming observed over the past half century.
The proof is evident from observed increases in air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels. From the shifting migration patterns of butterflies in western states to heavier downpours in the Midwest and East, the effects of global warming are already affecting our own backyards.
The threat of climate change is clear. All aspects of our society will be affected. Left unchecked, we will face more violent weather patterns. Tropical diseases will increase their geographical reach. Changing patterns of rainfall and mountain runoff will lead to water shortages and crop failure. Rising sea levels will cause large scale human migration. Ocean acidification will destroy coral reefs and the chain of sea life they support, endangering a leading food source for up to one-third of humanity. We have a moral obligation to the next generation to take action now to prevent or at the least mitigate these consequences.
As the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the world, the U.S. must take a leadership role in reducing emissions. One way to do that is through the research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies and energy efficiencies. The U.S. can and should be the international leader in this emerging market, which is poised to be the next tech boom.
In an effort to spur this innovation and set our nation on a course to reducing the threat of global warming, last week the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act (H.R. 2454). This historic legislation will create clean energy jobs, combat global warming and put our country on a path to dramatically reducing its dependence on foreign sources of energy. It achieves these objectives through a combination of mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from major sources, a clean renewable energy standard for electricity production, greater energy efficiency, and conservation measures and subsidies to support the development of carbon sequestration technologies.
The bill was not perfect. I would have preferred to see tougher mandates to clean up the oldest, dirtiest sources of pollution: coal-fried power plants. But politics is the art of compromise, and the long term gains from this legislation outweigh the compromises needed to gain enough votes for passage.
The ACES Act represents a new direction for American energy and the environment, and will ultimately strengthen our energy security and protect our environment. We are setting in play an ambitious program to transform the way we produce and consume energy, one that moves us away from the precipice of environmental and ecological disaster. The current debate, which I wholeheartedly welcome, is long overdue.