Senator Harry Reid Opens Clean Energy Summit With A Bold Speech On Climate Change: ‘We Must Act Today’

Sen. Reid: “… deniers still exist, fueled and funded by dirty energy profits. These people aren’t just on the other side of this debate. They’re on the other side of reality.”

It appears that advocates of clean energy are getting the message: If you want to talk about clean energy in a political context, you must talk about the environmental imperative.

In a speech opening up this year’s 5th National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave one of the most powerful public speeches on climate that any national policymaker has made in years.

Reid joins Senators Al Franken, John Kerry, Bernie Sanders, and Sheldon Whitehouse, all of whom have made excellent climate speeches on the Senate floor in the last year. However, today’s speech was done in a much more prominent public forum in front of top journalists, regulatory officials, and policymakers.

Here’s the climate portion of the speech, which was used to set up the pressing need to develop more renewable energy and efficiency:

Twenty-five years ago, President George H.W. Bush promised to use the “White House effect” to combat the “greenhouse effect.” Yet a quarter century later, too many elected officials in Washington are still calling climate change a liberal hoax. They falsely claim scientists are still debating whether carbon pollution is warming the planet.

Of course, if those skeptics had taken a stroll along the Potomac River on a 70-degree day this February, they would have seen cherry trees blossoming earlier than at any time since they were planted 100 years ago. Washington experienced its warmest spring since record keeping began in 1895.

And back in the skeptics’ home states, the harbingers of a changing climate are just as clear as those delicate February blossoms – and infinitely more perilous.

This year alone, the United States has seen unparalleled extreme weather events – events scientists say are exactly what is expected as the earth’s climate changes.

The Midwest is experiencing its most crushing drought in more than half a century – or maybe ever. Presently, disasters have been declared in the majority of U.S. counties. More than half the country is experiencing drought, and seventy-five percent of the nation is abnormally dry this year.

Corn crops are withering and livestock are dying – or going to slaughter early – as heat waves parch America’s breadbasket, breaking records set during the Woody Guthrie Dust Bowl years.

Now ravaging wildfires have replaced the dust storms of the 1930’s. Devastating fires have swept New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada and other parts of the Mountain West, destroying hundreds of homes and burning millions of trees. These fires are fed in part by vast areas of dead forest ravaged by beetles and other pests that now survive through warmer winters.

On the East Coast, extreme thunderstorms and high winds called “derechos” – literally meaning straight-line storms – have eliminated power for 4.3 million customers in 10 states in the mid-Atlantic region. One 38-year veteran of the utility industry told the New York Times this: “We’ve got the ‘storm of the century’ every year now.” At the height of this storm – while the power was out and the air conditioning wasn’t working – the East Coast experienced record high temperatures.

Down south, the Mississippi River is nearly dry in various places, with shipping barges operating in only 5 feet of water. Just Friday, barges were grounded because the water level was so low. And New Orleans’ water supply is now being threatened by salt water moving up the Mississippi due to extremely low water.

But while record drought has struck many parts of the United States, torrential rains have poured down in others. In June, the fourth tropical storm of the hurricane season – a season which typically begins in the fall – dropped 20 inches of rain on Florida.

And our nation’s infrastructure is literally falling apart because it wasn’t designed to withstand these conditions. Runways are melting, trapping planes. Train tracks are bending, derailing subways. Highways are cracking, buckling and breaking open. The water used to cool power plants – including nuclear power plants – has either run dry or reached dangerously high temperatures.

And that’s just in the United States – just through the month of July.

Arctic sea ice is also at its lowest point in recorded history.

This month, the massive ice sheet atop Greenland experienced sudden and almost uniform melting – a phenomenon not seen in the modern age.

This spring, rain fell unexpectedly in Mecca despite 109-degree temperatures. It was the hottest downpour in the planet’s recorded history.

The Amazon River Basin has experienced super-flooding – reaching record high levels due to long summer rains and greater than normal glacial melting.

Massive forest fires have swept Siberia.

Monsoons in Bangladesh left hundreds dead and nearly 7 million people homeless.

And last week more than 600 million people in India were without power. Late monsoons and record temperatures increased demand for electricity to irrigate crops and air condition homes, overloading the fragile power grid and causing the blackout.

Scientists say this is genesis – the beginning. The more extreme climate change gets, the more extreme the weather will get. In the words of one respected climate scientist: “This is what global warming looks like.”

Dozens of new reports from scientists around the globe link extreme weather to climate change.  Not every flood or drought can be attributed to human-induced transformation of our planet’s weather patterns. But scientists report that these extreme events are dozens of times more likely because of those changes.

The seriousness of this problem is not lost on your average American. A large majority of people finally believe climate change is real, and that it is the cause of extreme weather. Yet despite having overwhelming evidence and public opinion on our side, deniers still exist, fueled and funded by dirty energy profits.

These people aren’t just on the other side of this debate. They’re on the other side of reality.

It’s time for us all – whether we’re leaders in Washington, members of the media, scientists, academics, environmentalists or utility industry executives – to stop acting like those who ignore the crisis or deny it exists entirely have a valid point of view. They don’t.

Virtually every respected, independent scientist in the world agrees the problem is real, and the time to act is now. Not tomorrow. Not a week from now. Not next month or next year. We must act today.

We’ve argued over and over on this blog that it’s impossible to talk about clean energy without talking about climate and public health.

In 2009 and 2010, supporters of a comprehensive climate bill tried virtually every messaging strategy — except talking about climate. We all know how that turned out. And today, the boom in unconventional fossil fuels has diminished traditional clean energy talking points around innovation and jobs. Of course, renewable energy spurs entrepreneurial innovation and creates jobs — but so too do carbon-intensive fossil fuels like tar sands, shale oil, and shale gas.

Given the new reality in today’s energy market — and the new climate reality — we must communicate the environmental imperative of clean energy.

Kudos to Senator Reid for making that case today.

36 Responses to Senator Harry Reid Opens Clean Energy Summit With A Bold Speech On Climate Change: ‘We Must Act Today’

  1. Ken Barrows says:

    Speech isn’t bold; action is.

  2. Zimzone says:

    Give ’em hell, Harry.
    Just yesterday Inhofe was making more snide quips about people concerned about AGW.

    OTOH, Nevada, with it’s eternal sunshine, should be leading the Nation in solar energy, but the ‘dirty dudes’ don’t want to subsidize clean energy.

  3. frederick hiller says:

    Go Harry Reid. This is yet another reason, perhaps one of the most important reasons, to vote Democratic and never to allow climate change deniers like Mitt Romney to be elected.

  4. I sure hope the voters vote out the deniers & delayers on Nov. 6. Give em hell, Harry!

  5. Dan Ives says:

    Yeah, because all that lofty rhetoric the Democrats reliably spew has been scientifically proven to preserve a livable climate.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for the great and timely speech, Harry. I wish the White House would send someone with a backbone to announce the same facts.

  7. Andy Olsen says:

    Thank you for saying the words, Senator Reed. (That goes for you, too, Stephen Lacey).

  8. Tim says:

    Meanwhile, Inhofe’s home state suffers through it’s second year of severe to extreme drought.

  9. catman306 says:

    I like it when politicians, especially real leaders, utter the word ‘climate’ in public, at a podium. If they are speaking from the non-reality side of the climate disruption issue, someone is sure to correct them.

    More please!

  10. Harry Middlemas says:

    Bravo. Yes it is just a speech, but words can and do lead to action. This is the speech Obama should be giving.


  11. Sasparilla says:

    Its important to remember the Senate led by Senator Reid did not take up a climate change bill when the Democrats had a veto proof majority (2009) and when some Senators tried to put one together on their own (2010) a vote did not happen – these were times when things could’ve been done and the record under his leadership was no action.

    It’s great to see him talking it up when its its politically gainful for him on climate change, but he had the keys to the vote cabinet when we had the fleeting opportunity to actually do something on climate change and no vote happened.

  12. M Tucker says:

    Thank you Mr Majority Leader! My God what a speech! If only President Obama had made such a speech. President Obama take note. Americans are suffering. American excellence is in peril. I understand that it is election season and I understand about swing states but after the election, if you are reelected, you must pick up the message. Maybe this will make national news. Maybe the news pundits will speak about it for more than two minutes. Maybe those pundits will invite a few actual respected climate scientists to devote 15 minutes or 30 minutes or, could we dream of it, a whole hour to this issue and just what the hell has been happening around the world for the past several years. I know you love to talk more about the silliest of nonsense issues like “what did Romney buy at the store” but this is life and death! This is about people’s livelihoods and the future of their families. This rates as much time as mass murder!

  13. Mike Morton says:

    Rmember that a simple majority is no longer enough to pass a bill if the other party (ie Republican) wants to filabuster it. The new reality is that 60 votes are needed in most cases.

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Climate change is already mass murder, ME

  15. M Tucker says:

    The veto is a power the President has. As Mike Morton points out the Senate requires 60 votes or nothing happens. The climate bill did not originate in the Senate it originated in the House when Democrats had the majority prior to the 2010 elections. The Senate majority leader (D Harry Reid) can count votes and he knew it had no chance of passing. The way things are going Democrats are very likely to lose the majority in the Senate this election cycle. It will be a very close thing. With Republican control of the House and with Senate rules allowing the domination of the minority that issue if frozen. And if Republicans do take the Senate I for one will be happy if the supermajority vote stays the way it is. But, if that happens, watch for a Republicans attempt to change the rule at the start of the new Congress.

    As for this speech being a political advantage for Reid…I don’t see it. He is not speaking from the floor of the Senate he is speaking at a clean energy summit in Las Vegas. Despite all the reporters I doubt if it will even make the national evening news.

  16. Phil Blackwood says:

    Agreed! Come on President Obama. Lead from in front on this issue. Talk about it!

  17. Leif says:

    My state of WA has a production credit paid in part by the tax base and part volunteer. Last year my system supplied ~2/3 of my electrical consumption as well as payed me ~$1400.00+. I have a small system, 2.25kW, and live in the NW. Imagine the money generated if every home in Nevada had access to that resource? Into the pockets of the population not the ecocide fossil industry. What is not to like people? Financing for every suitable home in the Nation could easily be covered by a carbon tax. Add in a tax on international monetary transactions and you would have a good start on a GREEN ECONOMY. ——–PROFITS to the PEOPLE, not the POLLUTERS—– (GE-PPP?)

  18. Leif says:

    Quantifiable mass murder at that. The round numbers of humans directly killed by climate disruptions each year would be staggering.

    Profits to the People, not the Polluters. They will at least spend it on food and rent for starters. Perhaps even have some left over to help with health care instead of ER.

  19. Sasparilla says:

    As I pointed out in my comment above and is very important to remember, the Democrats had a Veto proof majority (60) in the Senate in 2009 and very close to that in 2010 however Reid did not let a climate bill be voted on and, like the President, just let climate change action die, when we had the chance for action, without trying.

  20. Roger says:

    Harry and Phil, You are so right about this being the speech that Obama should be giving.

    The most important job a leader has is to protect those who chose him to be their leader–the American people, right?

    Did anyone else get a card from the White House showing Obama turning his back to the camera–as he seems to be doing to us all?

    P.S. Please sign our petition asking President Obama to lead on climate:

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I doubt that Inhofe is personally feeling any pain. The Right have an infinite capacity to ignore suffering when it befalls others. When calamity hits them they blubber in search of the sympathy they do not extend, or look for scapegoats.

  22. Lionel A says:

    Shame Harry Reid was not at the recent Senate Hearing on Climate Issues to weigh in on Inhofe and his zombie arguments, Inhofe even raised the non-issue of 1970s ice age reporting. I watched most of the Archived Webcast and was sickened by the behaviour of Inhofe, Sessions and Christy. Boxer made some excellent points at times making Christy look uncomfortable – good. Boxer also mocked Sessions’ lengthy lauding of Christy quite nicely.

    But what is required is that every attempt that the likes of Inhofe make to deceive an audience and the people of the US should be jumped on immediately. It should be made clear that attempts to lie will have consequences for the liar. If they claim ignorance then they are not fit to hold office. Sessions seems ignorant, how do such float to the top of society?

  23. Ron Carswell says:

    Hemp oil could make America energy independent, if Congress had any brains they would push it in the farm bill. DUH?

  24. Dick Smith says:

    So what are you gonna do about it Harry?

    And Harry, what do think about your buddy Barack abandoning the 2C target yesterday?

    What was that? Harry, I can’t hear you?

  25. Cainer says:

    The Dems had their 60 seat majority for about all of a month in 2009. Al Franken wasn’t sworn in until the first week of July, the Senate went on summer recess shortly thereafter, and then senator Kennedy died in August. Even when they had their 60 they still had a handful of blue dog dems and of course joe Lieberman to contend with. It wasn’t an automatic 60 vote majority because the dems don’t march in lockstep like the GOP. Too bad the GOP didn’t have some supportive members in this fight.

  26. iShrug says:

    Harry needs to check into an assisted living facility. Weather happens. The propaganda put out by government and so-called “non-profits” about climate is disingenuous (I am being generous here). Teaching kids that humans are responsible for it, and stealing taxpayer dollars to subsidize inefficient “renewable energy” projects is criminal. If these things are so great, there would be no problem finding willing investors. Forcing taxpayers to invest in them, by backing loans, makes no economic sense. People should have a choice about how to invest their money. We should not be forced into investing in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

  27. Chiefengr says:

    iShrug really ought to try reading instead of writing. Like the recent release by physicist Richard Muller:
    Warning: Knowledge of facts may confuse your unfounded opinion.

  28. M Tucker says:

    “Stealing taxpayer dollars to subsidize MASSIVLY POLLUTING OIL, COAL, AND GAS projects is criminal. If these things are so great, there would be no problem finding willing investors. Forcing taxpayers to invest in them makes no economic sense. People should have a choice about how to invest their money. We should not be forced into investing in…” climate destroying CO2 polluting industries!

  29. iShrug will not have the last word! Renewable energy is quite efficient & is growing fast even with little government support. This climate emergency will be with us for a long, long time & many are already suffering (Manila half under water).

  30. Daniel Coffey says:

    Now that time has run out the political class is taking note and giving speeches. Should we be glad or sad? It is worth noting that they are trying to get ahead of the fact that they have utterly wasted at least 2 decades in which we could have done a great deal more and suffered a great deal less.

    Now they will tell us what we already know, but it is too late to really head off the bad things which are going to continue to take place for the next century, whether we are here or not.

    In triage, it is important to know what is important. Harry Reid is right to focus on wind and solar at the utility scale, but I fear that the Republicans and the environmental community will press for the usual slow-walk: solar on rooftop to the exclusion of the bigger things which are desperately needed.

    It is time to massively deploy non-carbon systems, not just a few thousand megawatts of capacity. As we cross 400 ppm CO2 and after decades of energy accumulation in the environment, oceans, ice and atmosphere, we are courting quick disaster if we don’t now!

  31. Mark says:

    Anything other than a speech in the works from Harry Reid?

    I’d like to know what that is.

  32. Maria Felix says:

    I believe we are killing our atmosphere and our planet with nuclear toxins, waste, carbon pollution and the likes. What I don’t understand is that when the banks cried the sky is falling without giving much notice, our government quickly created largest bailout in history. Took money from our already financialy ailing families food table and gave it to the banks. When the world is crying that we are distroying our planet, our elected officials say “I need proof. I want to see it happen first than maybe we can make a plan to do something about it in the FUTURE???” What future is that? Is it our kids future, grandkids future? They know of the nuclear waste in our land fields. They know of the carbon gases. They know of all the toxic pollutions. They also know that the US is the largest dispenser. They say they clean them??? Where do they dispose of it???? Do they send it to the moon or just move it to another part of our planet??? How much of it is okay to keep producing? When will it end?

  33. GreatScott says:

    When will YOUR Government actually enforce existing laws punishing the polluters and thieves instead of accepting bribes and looking the other way?

  34. PJMD says:

    If Reid is serious, he will push for a carbon tax-swap asap. These days, addressing climate change and jobs will be a winning strategy for whoever runs with it. I’m not counting on Romney and Paul, so we must goad Obama to finally address this. Anyone have Axelrod’s personal email? Time for a wake up call!

  35. Rene Pugh says:

    I have an idea as a way to help Inhofe,Sessions and their merry band of climate change deniers get up close and personal experience w/ the ravages of climate change.As a group,supervised by the great outdoorsman Al Gore,they should be driven to the worst drought stricken farm area in the US.They set up camp on a parched cornfield w/ 1 canteen of water per person,a container of dried corn and w/ only the clothes on their backs….No other personal items or amenities….no cell phones,iPads,cars or the like….just them,their wqter and dried corn.They are to remain there indefinitely or until they see the reality which hopefully Al Gore may help them with.This group of climate change ostriches(head always in the sand) will have no visitors and,oh, Al Gore gets to leave every day…..he doesn’t need convincing!

  36. Last week a chunk ice the size of Texas was blown away and melted in a cyclone. The media coverage was 0. We must act, I put solar on my house this year and will continue doing my part.