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Adaptation: The Missing Piece in Climate Change Solutions

Oct 22, 2015

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) urged his colleagues on the House floor that changing our actions to reduce climate change is only one piece of the solution, we also need to adapt.

Below is a video and transcript of the speech.

Mr. Speaker,

This morning, the National Oceananic and Atmospheric Administration announced last month was the warmest September in recorded history. Our reality can no longer be ignored.

Climate change is here and communities across the country and the world are feeling its effects.

Just take the events we have seen unfold in 2015 as an example…

In April, drought-stricken California witnessed a snowpack with virtually no snow.

On the other side of the country, Boston recorded its snowiest year with 110 inches between July 2014 and June 2015.

Boston had so much snow that it didn’t melt until mid July!

2015 also brought us the wettest months ever recorded in the U.S. within the 121 years of NOAA record-keeping.  

And this year, Tropical Storm Ana became the second-earliest tropical storm in history to make landfall in the U.S. in early May.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that we are no longer at a place where talking about climate change is enough.

We need to act and we need to act now.

I am proud that we have a President who is taking actions like reducing dangerous greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.

Altering our current policies and enacting new ones will help reduce the impacts of climate change in the future.

But mitigation is only one piece of the solution.

We also need to adapt our policies to handle the effects of our already changing climate in the present.

Climate change is already happening, and adaptation to climate change is the only way we can help protect people, infrastructure, businesses, and ecosystems that are already threatened.

We know that societies have adjusted to and coped with changes in climate with different degrees of success.

But our modern life is tailored to the stable climate we have become accustomed to.

And as the President recently pointed out, our climate is changing faster than we are adapting to it.

While climate change is a global issue, it is felt on a hyper local scale, so our cities have to be at the frontline of adaptation. 

We need communities that have better flood defenses, plans for higher temperatures and heat waves, as well as better management of our water storage and use.

Some cities are already taking steps to create these adaptation plans.

Roughly 20 percent of cities around the globe have developed adaptation strategies.

My city, Chicago, is included on that list. 

The most obvious change that Chicago is dealing with is hotter summers and more intense heat waves.

Increased temperatures are leading to countless unforeseen consequences such as heat-related illness and deterioration in air quality.

Higher temperatures are also boosting demand for electricity, placing stress on our power plants.

Heavy rains and snow are becoming more frequent in winter and spring,

Increasing downpours make travel more dangerous, pollute our drinking water, damage crops, and disrupt infrastructure and transportation across a city.

But adaptation means more than protecting our cities – we must also protect our national defense, many of our most critical military installations that are already at risk.

A 2011 National Research Council report found that 128 U.S. military sites could be impacted by a sea level rise of just three feet.

Of those 128 sites, 56 are Navy facilities valued at 100 billion dollars.

Recent hurricanes have pushed water levels to dangerous heights in Norfolk, Virginia threatening the largest Naval Base in the world.

As sea levels rise and storms intensify, climate change threatens to require the relocation of that naval base.

This proves that local and state efforts are simply not enough.

We need Congressional action to produce lasting solutions that address the root causes of climate change and prepare us for a very different future.  

In closing, I defer to Charles Darwin, who said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

I urge my colleagues to heed this warning and adapt to the reality in front of us.

Thank you, and I yield back.