Video and Transcript: Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Al Franken Team Up for a Colloquy on Climate Change

Yesterday evening (14 December 2011) Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, Rhode Island) and Al Franken (Democrat, Minnesota) spent an hour on the floor of the U.S. Senate repudiating climate change denialists and arguing for serious U.S. action on climate change.

"Ignoring or flatout contradicting what climate scientists are telling us about the warming climate and the warming planet can lead to really bad decisions on natural energy and environmental policies here in Congress," said Senator Franken. "So today Senator Whitehouse and I want to take some time to talk about climate science and about the fact that a scientific consensus on climate change has been reached. Climate change is happening and is being driven by human activities."

See the video of the proceedings below; and here is the full transcript of the colloquy [PDF] as published in the Congressional Record.

In contrast to the arguments being pressed by denialists, the Senators presented emerging evidence of growing climate disruption. Here is an excerpt from Senator Whitehouse's remarks:

"The challenge of climate change being extremely real, one of the things that is so frustrating about this campaign of phony, manufactured doubt is that in real life we are seeing the predictions of climate science come true around us.

Climate scientists predicted the atmosphere would warm, and the atmosphere is warming. Climate scientists predicted the ocean would absorb heat, and sure enough, the ocean has absorbed heat and ocean waters are warming.

Climate scientists predicted the ocean would absorb CO2 and that would then lower the pH level of our ocean waters. The ocean is now more acidic than it has been in 2 million years, threatening coral reefs, shellfish, and the tiny creatures, such as plankton, that make up the base of the entire oceanic food chain.

Climate scientists predicted glaciers and Arctic sea ice would melt and, sure enough, we are seeing record melting. We just saw that notorious leftwing publication, USA Today, report: `Federal Report Arctic Much Worse Since 2006. Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past 5 years for the worse. It is melting at a near record pace and it is darkening and absorbing too much of the sun’s heat.'

Climate scientists predicted ecosystem shifts, and we are seeing ecosystem shifts, such as the million-plus acre forests in the American West—dead to the bark beetle, gone from being green and healthy forests to just mile after mile of brown and dead trees."

Senator Whitehouse noted that throughout the corporate world, businesses are seeing these changes and are responding. After presenting a list of companies that "have gone public with the need for us to do something about climate change," and noting that "these are not fringe organizations" but "are the core of the American business community, and they recognize what is going on," he singled out Coca-Cola. He said the company "has taken probably the most iconic product in America—the Coke can—and has redesigned it to reflect what the climate change is doing in the Arctic and to polar bears" (see WWF and The Coca-Cola Company Team Up to Protect Polar Bears). He continued:

"Coca-Cola is a serious American business, and here is what they say: `The consensus on climate science is increasingly unequivocal—global climate change is happening and man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a crucial factor. The implications of climate change for our planet are profound and wide-ranging, with expected impacts on biodiversity, water resources, public health, and agriculture.' So we put against that the core business community — iconic companies such as Coca-Cola, putting their very label behind the need to address climate change — and the phony-baloney-paid-for scientists who are creating this doubt, and it is time to close this episode."

"Climate change is real, and failure to address it is bad for our standing in the global economy, bad for the Federal budget, and bad for our national security," Senator Franken concluded.  "We can do better than that for our children and our grandchildren and posterity."

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