Sen. Bernie Sanders at a markup meeting of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, 03/21/13. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)
I support Gina McCarthy to be the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator. When her Senate confirmation hearing was held on Thursday, the debate among senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee wasn't really about her qualifications. It was about global warming. It was about whether or not we are going to listen to the leading scientists of this country who tell us we're facing a planetary crisis.
It was clear at the hearing that Senator John Barrasso, from coal-producing Wyoming, does not want the EPA to address the global warming crisis. What he wants is for us to continue doing as little as possible as we see extreme weather disturbances: super storms, floods and heat waves all over the world.
It was clear at the hearing that Senator Jim Inhofe, from oil-producing Oklahoma, does not want the EPA to curb climate change. What Senator Inhofe has written and talked about is his belief that global warming is one of the major hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people. He blames Al Gore, the United Nations, and the Hollywood elite. He didn't dispute that at the hearing. In fact, when I asked him about it, his conspiracy theory thickened. "I would add to that list MoveOn.org, George Soros, Michael Moore, and a few others," he said.
So that is the issue. Do we agree with Senator Inhofe that global warming is a "hoax" and that we do not want the EPA, the Department of Energy or any other agency of the federal government to address that issue? Or do we agree with the overwhelming majority of scientists who tell us that that we must act boldly and aggressively to protect the future of this planet?
That's the real issue at stake in this debate and that's the reason I'm supporting Gina McCarthy. That is why I want the EPA to be vigorous in protecting our children and future generations from the horrendous crisis that we face from global warming. That is why I have introduced legislation to tax carbon and methane greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded for the continental United States. More than 24,000 new record highs were set in the U.S. alone. It was the hottest year in recorded history in New York; Washington, DC; Louisville, Kentucky; even my home city of Burlington, Vt., and other cities across the country.
Last year's drought -- affecting two-thirds of the United States -- was the worst in half a century, contributing to extraordinary wildfires burning more than 9 million acres of land, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Heat waves and droughts are not limited to the U.S. Australia, for instance, experienced a four-month heat wave with severe wildfires, record temperatures, and torrential rains and floods causing $2.4 billion in damages, according to The New York Times.
Global warming is also resulting in extreme weather disturbances of all kinds. NOAA's Climate Extremes Index tracks extreme temperatures, drought, precipitation and tropical storms. It reported that 2012 set yet another distressing record for the most extreme climate conditions recorded.
Ronald Prinn, director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science, concluded that what we have heard recently from scientists is that their earlier projections regarding global warming were wrong. That in fact they underestimated the problem and that the conditions that they were worried about will likely be worse than what they had originally thought. "There is significantly more risk than we previously estimated ... [which] increases the urgency for significant policy action."
Global warming is real. It is not a hoax. It is a planetary crisis but one that we have the knowledge and technology to address.