Prepared remarks submitted in advance to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
Statement of Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, July 7, 2009
Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Inhofe, and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on moving America toward a clean energy economy.
We face many serious and immediate challenges. American families and businesses are struggling in a recession and an increasingly competitive global economy. We have become deeply dependent on a single energy source to power our cars, trucks and airplanes, and spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to import nearly 60 percent of the oil we use.
We face an unprecedented threat to our very way of life from climate change.
To solve these challenges, the Administration and Congress need to work together to spur a revolution in clean energy technologies. The President and I applauded the historic action by the House to pass a clean energy bill, and we look forward to working with the Senate to pass comprehensive energy legislation.
I want to focus today on the threat of climate change. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that carbon dioxide from human activity has increased the atmospheric level of CO2 by roughly 40 percent, a level one- third higher than any time in the last 800,000 years. There is also a consensus that CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions have caused our planet to change. Already, we have seen the loss of about half of the summer arctic polar ice cap since the 1950s, a dramatically accelerating rise in sea level, and the loss of over two thousand cubic miles of glacial ice, not on geological time scales but over a mere hundred years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected in 2007 that, if we continued on this course, there was a 50 percent chance of global average air temperature increasing by more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit in this century. A 2009 MIT study found a fifty percent chance of a 9 degree rise in this century and a 17 percent chance of a nearly 11 degree increase. 11 degrees may not sound like much, but, during the last ice age, when Canada and much of the United States were covered all year in a glacier, the world was only about 11 degrees colder. A world 11 degrees warmer will be very different as well. Is this the legacy we want to leave our children and grandchildren?
Denial of the climate change problem will not change our destiny; a comprehensive energy and climate bill that caps and then reduces carbon emissions will.
America has the opportunity to lead a new industrial revolution of creating sustainable, clean energy. We can sit on the sidelines and deny the scientific facts, or we can get in the game and play to win.