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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

Quigley Remarks on #RepInTheRockies Climate Change Tour, Overlap With Paris Agreement Withdrawal

Jun 7, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), a member of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), spoke on the House Floor about his recent #RepInTheRockies climate change tour and how it coincided with President Trump’s disastrous decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Read the full speech below or click here for the video. 

“Mr. Speaker, last week, I spent our congressional recess in the Rocky Mountains, the National Park, home to some of America’s most unique and breathtaking natural wonders, in an attempt to better understand the mounting impacts climate change has on our national parks and all of our public lands around the country. 

“More than four and a half million people from across America and the world visit the Rockies every year to take in the snow-capped peaks, the winding rivers, and the endless evergreen forests. They see herds of elk and big horn sheep, and hear the screeching call of the mountain pika, a small furry creature that I can personally attest, makes one of the most distinctive sounds in the mountains.

“Visitors to the park, like me, can experience all four seasons in an hour as they drive up Trail Ridge Road from the sunny low elevation valleys, to the top of twelve thousand foot peaks covered in twenty foot snow drifts. It’s impossible not to appreciate the intricate balance of nature while standing in that environment—the way that each species is finely tuned to survive in its surroundings, and the way that each depends upon the other.

“Unfortunately, this careful balance is being shaken to its very core by man-made climate change, as well as the denial of its existence by a very small group of post-science, post-research skeptics.

“For centuries, bark beetles and lodgepole pines maintained a special relationship. Beetles, held in check by deep, cold winters, ate and killed some of the largest and oldest trees, opening up valuable forest real estate for new, younger trees to thrive.

“Now, however, thanks to warmer global temperatures, those cold winters haven’t come and beetle populations have boomed, killing literally millions of trees in the Rocky Mountains. Formerly green mountainsides are dotted, or even dominated, by the silver skeletons of pines. It is one of the most conspicuous changes to visitors of the park.

“The little pika is another of many species whose way of life is disappearing as global warming drives temperatures higher and higher. As summer temperatures spike, many of these creatures are dying out.

“Humans are not immune to these impacts either.

“Warming winters cause more and more of the mountain’s precipitation to fall as rain instead of snow – allowing it to run off or soak into the soil. The snowpack, which for generations has fed the Colorado River, is diminishing, and with it, a reliable, and already taxed, water source for 7 western states.

“It was uncanny, Mr. Speaker, to be standing at the headwaters of the Colorado- a mere creek in the Rockies, learning about the ways man-made warming is changing the world around us at the same time the President was withdrawing the United States from the historic Paris Agreement.

“It was tragic to be in that environment to hear this devastating announcement. It was truly inexplicable to be surrounded by one of many natural treasures, as our federal government announced their decision to abandon them when they are needed most.

“An unprecedented show of global will to tackle a truly global problem, isn’t an end-all-be-all as some less enlightened critics have said. It is a framework, a roadmap to get to pollution reductions started to ensure a safe, sustainable, and economically prosperous future. It supports an economic model built for the long-haul, one that protects lives and livelihoods while wasting less and producing more.

“These are irrefutable costs to leaving the Paris Agreement. By removing us from that Agreement, the President isn’t ‘cancelling’ it; he is simply ensuring that we are the ones who will be left behind as the world moves forward without us.

“We will be left with the cost of polluted air, preventable and expensive illness, and shrinking, uncompetitive fossil fuel industries that imperil their workers and drag our economy down. It will cost us or standing as a world leader in innovation as other countries step forward to fill the void we have created And realize the benefits of clean energy jobs, reliable public transit and stable supply chains for businesses.

“They understand that climate change affects us all, no matter our income or whether we’re in middle of a major city or the top of the great Rocky Mountains.

“The 194 nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will continue to act- not because the U.S once told them to do so- but because it is the right thing to do and is in their best interests for economic gain and public health to national security and stewardship.

“I encourage everyone to go visit the mountains. Go spend a week with the incredible men and women of the National Park Service who have dedicated their lives to understanding and protecting America’s precious natural places. Then come back here and I guarantee you’ll understand why we need to act. Thank you and I yield back.”

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