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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

The Threat Climate Change Poses to Our Waterways

Jul 7, 2016

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) urged his colleagues on the House floor to act on climate change before our limited water resources run dry.

Below is a video and transcript of the speech.

Mr. Speaker, 
When it comes to climate change, the data is in and the science is clear.

Our world is shifting: Sea levels are rising. Glaciers are shrinking. Oceans are becoming more acidic. 

What’s more? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is 95 percent certain that humans are causing the current climate change trends. 

To sit here and deny the science simply because it inconveniencies us does nothing but cause greater harm for our planet and future generations. 

Each day that passes without action on climate change is another day we are wreaking havoc on our world. 

I think President Obama said it best when he stated: “If anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. 

You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.” 

It’s hard to believe that some of my colleagues are so determined to deny climate science, that they are willing to sacrifice the health and safety of Americans.

Nowhere is this sacrifice more evident than in our waterways. 

We use water for everything, from drinking and bathing to growing crops, shipping goods, generating electricity, and recreation. 

But climate change is creating profound changes to this precious commodity, threatening water availability, access, and quality. 

Many areas of the United States, especially in the West, currently face devastating water supply issues. 

The amount of water available in these areas is already limited and our demand will continue to rise as population grows. 

One of the greatest examples of this is the Colorado River system – a major source of water supply for the Southwest. 

In recent decades, water flow through this important river system have been lighter than expected given annual rain and snowfall rates.

Not surprisingly, studies show that rising temperatures and climate change are the cause of this decreased water flow. 

As greenhouse gas pollution continues to pile up, it traps more heat, continual raising global temperatures, and parches the Colorado River watershed. 

Researchers expect that for every degree of Celsius of global warming, the amount of water that gets evaporated and sucked up by plants from the Colorado River could increase by two or three percent. 

With 4.5 million acres of farmland irrigated using the Colorado River water, and with nearly 40 million residents depending on it, the incremental loses that are predicted will have a devastating impact. 

And as the West continues to experience less rain and an increase in the severity and length of droughts, greater impacts on drinking water supplies are projected.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the Western U.S. that is in danger. 

In my own region, the Great Lakes are under threat as they are warming at rates faster than the world’s oceans. 

It is expected that the Great Lakes region will grow warmer and probably drier during the twenty-first century, with temperatures in the region warming anywhere from five to twelve degrees Fahrenheit.

The impact climate change has on the five lakes will have serious implications for aquatic life, as well as high economic costs for our communities. 

Several different climate models for the Great Lakes region all predict that lake levels will decline over the next century.

Within another 30 years, Lake Superior may be mostly ice-free in a typical winter and is already experiencing increased water temperatures. 

Lake Erie water levels, already below average, could drop four to five feet by the end of this century, significantly altering shoreline habitat. 

We are at the tipping point, and instead of addressing the root of the issue, climate change, my colleagues continue to deny the science. 

Our waterways are national treasures. They serve as the backbone for our health, economy, ecosystems, and recreation. 

We cannot simply stand by while the course of the world is altered. 

The science is clear, the data is pointing us in one direction – now is the time to act on climate change. 

We were not given a planet with unlimited resources. It is our job to protect our waters and the people that rely on them.

And that begins with finding real solutions to our climate crisis. 

Thank you and I yield back.