Merkley resolution urges quick climate change action

WASHINGTON – Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced a Senate resolution Tuesday outlining key findings of the recent Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change report and last week’s National Climate Assessment and urging immediate action to address the problem.

The resolution affirms the signing members’ recognition and acceptance of these findings, and calls for bold action to combat climate change. Merkley was joined on the resolution by 24 of his Senate colleagues.

On Oct. 8, the IPCC released a report outlining the consequences of rising global temperatures and the ways in which climate chaos will become substantially worse as the planet continues to experience pre-industrial levels of warming.

The report showed that the difference between warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius is substantial, and limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is affordable, feasible, and necessary to protect people from the worst impacts of climate change. The report concludes that unless the current path of climate change is slowed, massive impacts — such as limited water supply availability, sea-ice free Arctic summers, mass die-offs of coral reefs, and intense and unprecedented heat waves — will become reality as soon as 2040.

On Friday, the Trump Administration released the National Climate Assessment, a congressionally mandated report from American climate experts throughout the federal government. Despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to bury the report on Black Friday, Merkley said, the report has gained widespread attention for its alarming findings — which include evidence that the U.S. is already feeling the effects of climate change, and conclusions that our nation will suffer thousands of deaths and over $500 billion per year in crop damage, lost labor, and extreme weather damages by 2100.

“The Trump Administration clearly wants to bury the findings of this new report, just like they want to bury their heads in the sand rather than acknowledge the truth about our climate. But we won’t let them,” said Merkley. “Climate chaos is already wreaking havoc on the US, most prominently from massive forest fires and more powerful hurricanes. We need to act boldly to save our economy and our environment. We are paying for our inaction, and the catastrophic events we’re experiencing are just a sliver of what’s to come if we don’t dramatically reduce carbon pollution.”

Specifically, the IPCC report found that:

  • The last 50-year period in the Northern Hemisphere has the warmest average temperature of any 50-year period in 500 years;
  • At current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, by 2040, Earth will warm by 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
  • At a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature rise, the global population exposed to water stress could be 50 percent lower than if the global temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius;
  • At warming at or above 2 degrees Celsius, the world could experience loss of greater than 99 percent of all coral reefs on Earth and mass migration from regions most affected by atmospheric changes.

For U.S.-specific impacts, the National Climate Assessment found that:

  • The U.S. is already experiencing impacts from the changing climate, including threats from rising seas and increased flooding;
  • 2 degrees Celsius or higher warming would cost the U.S. a 15% drop in corn and soybean yields;
  • The U.S. economy will lose over $500 billion annually from lost labor, crop failure, and damages related to extreme weather if we continue on our current course;
  • By 2100, climate change could cost the U.S. up to a tenth of GDP, more than double the losses of the Great Recession.

A similar resolution was introduced in the House last month by Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05) and 85 Democratic members, following the release of the IPCC report.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with IPCC recommendations is vital in avoiding the worst climate impacts of our generation and generations to come,” said Rep. Quigley. “With the new majority in the 116th Congress, House Democrats will ensure that common-sense climate policy is a cornerstone of our legislative agenda as this chamber finally steps up to protect our environment, our economy, and our public health in accordance with science and facts, which illustrate the devastating consequences of a warming world. I’m proud to join Senator Merkley in introducing this bicameral resolution to meet the challenge of greenhouse gas emissions head on.”  

The Senate resolution is cosponsored by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

A copy of the full resolution can be found here.