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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

Tipping Point of Climate Change

Feb 3, 2016
Speeches

U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) spoke to his colleagues on the House floor about how scientists have discovered a number of “tipping points” where abrupt changes in climate could create a variety of national and global effects. He urged them to put political ideologies aside and recognize that acting on climate change is not just in our planet’s interest, but the interest of humanity. 

Below is a video and transcript of the speech.

Mr. Speaker,

2015 was a landmark year for global climate change.

And that’s not a good thing.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2015 was our planet’s hottest year on record.

Last year, the global-average land surface temperature was 1.33 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average.

And ten of the last twelve months tied or broke existing records for highest monthly global temperatures.

Despite the fact that climate science and research consistently displays the reality of climate change, my colleagues still debate its validity in this very chamber.

What is there to debate?

More than twelve thousand peer-reviewed scientific studies are in agreement: climate change is real and humans are significantly to blame.

For those of you keeping track at home, there are zero peer-reviewed scientific studies that state the opposite.

One of the primary concerns of these scientific studies is that climate change might trigger events that will dramatically alter the Earth as we know it.

Scientists have discovered a number of “tipping points” where abrupt changes in climate could create a variety of national and global effects.

It is hard to predict when these events would occur, but we know they require relatively little warning.

Reaching these critical points could lead to abrupt changes in the ocean, snow cover, permafrost and the Earth’s biosphere.

Alarmingly, many of these events are triggered by warming levels of less than two degrees.

We now know that in the latter part of this century, we will find the planet’s temperature pushing not 2 degrees, but 4, 5, even 6 degrees Celsius of warming.

While it may seem minor, each degree makes a significant difference.

A two degree shift in temperature could lead to an increased rise in sea level by 55 centimeters.

Levels have already risen by around 20 centimeters over the course of the 20th century.

Storm surges and high tides combined with sea level rise would further increase flooding along coastlines, impacting people and properties.

A three degree increase could impact water availability and accelerate drought and extreme heat waves.

Each of these conditions would negatively impact the production of majors crops- like wheat and rice- leading to global food security risks.

Anything above a four degree increase would cause even more drastic consequences, such as extreme ocean acidification, a decline in glaciers, and a nearly ice-free Arctic in the summer.

While the majority of the detected shifts are distant from major population centers, the implications will be felt over large distances, creating significant economic and humanitarian consequences.

As with any abrupt change in the Earth’s system, a cascade of other transformations will likely follow.

We could see a shift in ecosystems, the collapse of permafrost in the Arctic, and extensive species loss.

Each of these changes would trigger massive implications for natural systems and society as a whole.

So what does all of this mean? 

In short, it means that we must act now.

As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “If you want to debate the science of climate change, feel free to do so, but you’ll be pretty lonely.”

Today, America’s business leaders, the Pentagon, the majority of Americans, the scientific community, and nations around the world recognize that we cannot wait to act.

We saw evidence of this last year when more than 40,000 negotiators from 196 countries descended on the French capital for the Paris Climate Summit.

The Summit provided the world with an effective global framework for addressing climate change.

But our work is far from over.

It is time to recognize that the consequences of inaction are far too great.

There is good news.

If my colleagues are willing to put political ideologies aside and recognize that acting on climate change is not just in our planet’s interest, but the interest of humanity, we may still have a fighting chance.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Now is the time for Congress to change our thinking and address the reality of climate change.  

Thank you and I yield back.