December 4, 2019

Time to Wake Up: 10,000 Papers

As-prepared for delivery.

Mdm./Mr. President, On the occasion of new atmospheric carbon dioxide records being broken in our atmosphere — the highest in the history of humankind — I rise today for the 260th time to call this chamber to wake up.

As we venture further into uncharted, dangerous climate change, the National Council for Science and the Environment issued this report, Climate Science Research in the United States and U.S. Territories.  This report surveys climate research papers from public universities across all 50 states, to highlight the breadth and depth of climate science coming out of our state universities, and showcase the climate science centers and institutes they host.

Some colleagues may pay no attention to the threat of climate change, but their home-state universities sure do: 10,000 peer-reviewed research papers published out of 80 universities from 2014 through 2018 — on average, 185 peer-reviewed articles published on climate change in each state. 

The report says, “in every state, public universities invest in scholarship and education to advance fields such as climate modeling, climate impacts, adaptation, and more.  Increasingly, climate science has been integrated into coursework on sustainability, energy, engineering, architecture, business, and even political science.”

One wonders, what is the hold the fossil fuel industry has over the Republican Party that causes colleagues to ignore their home state universities?   The report continues:

Climate scientists are studying a wide diversity of topics. They are measuring carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. They are studying carbon cycling and the impacts of a changing carbon cycle. They are studying the impacts of climate change on the nation’s food security, crop yields, heat-stress, health impacts, soil erosion; on water resources, including water quality, balance, river basins, drought, precipitation, mountain snowpack; on impacts to critical infrastructure, such as sea level rise on coasts and on subtropical islands to the impact of permafrost thaw on subarctic rivers. Finally, researchers are also studying the social science of climate change, including changing attitudes, polarization, opinions, beliefs, and their impacts on framing in the media and on decision-making.

Region by region, in every state, the report shows our state universities tracking climate change’s consequences in fine detail.

Quoting from the report:

In the Midwest: “Agriculture is a major focal area for climate-related research … [with] more occurrences of the word ‘agriculture’ in climate-related papers from the Midwest between 2014-2018 than in any other region.”

In the Southwest: “A key focus of scientific research in the Southwest region [is] on the impacts to people and ecosystems from heat, drought, wildfires, and flooding.”

In the Southeast: “The impacts of climate change in the Southeast are becoming most visible through the increase in flooding, temporal and geographic shifts that affect human health, and growing risks of wildfires.”

In the Southern Great Plains: “Scientists in the Southern Great Plains are studying climate impacts on food systems, sea level rise, as well as impacts to unique ecosystems in this region, such as the tall grass prairie in Oklahoma.”

Across these regions, red and purple state universities are churning out climate research.  In fact, conservative states’ universities are home to some of the most prolific climate science departments and institutes.

Texas A&M University, the alma mater of climate change-denying former Energy Secretary Rick Perry, produced 256 papers, covering topics like shifting summer monsoons in the Lone Star State, local surface temperature increases, atmospheric changes, and climate adaptation strategies.

North Carolina State University produced 223 climate papers examining climate change and atmospheric chemistry, surface ozone, regional water research and precipitation — and it’s home to the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, which helps coastal North Carolina grapple with rising sea levels, erosion, and flooding.

In Idaho, researchers from Boise State and the University of Idaho issued 164 climate papers covering threats like wildfires, bark beetles, shifting precipitation, rising temperatures, and disruption to ecosystems in national parks like Yellowstone.  Idaho also has two academic centers focused on climate change, the Hazard and Climate Resiliency Consortium and the Center for Resilient Communities; for the staff at these centers, it’s all climate, all the time. 

Let’s look at what’s happening in the home-state universities of Republican Senators on the EPW Committee.  Here’s what they’ll find in their backyards:

The University of Wyoming produced 124 climate change papers, on wildfires, endangered species, Yellowstone National Park, and other climate topics.  The university is home to both the state climatology office, and an atmospheric science department which does modeling and empirical climate research.  Its faculty are working on subjects like “the role of climate change and variability on vegetation and fire; using modern climate analogs to understand past environmental disturbances; developing web-based animated maps of climate; and development of 3D climate visualization tools to enhance learning approaches in the classroom.”  I wonder if the Wyoming delegation has visualized that.

The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University published 183 climate change papers on things like southern plains grassland, rising temperatures, soil respiration, and much more.  OU is home to the Oklahoma University Climate Science Center and the Department of the Interior’s South Central Climate Adaptation Science Center. The Dean of University of Oklahoma’s College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences has said, “On the increasing strength of Earth sciences we can now state that global warming is ‘unequivocal.’”  He has said:  “the fact that the planet’s warming, and the fact that CO2’s a greenhouse gas, and that fact that it’s increasing in the atmosphere, and that it increases in the atmosphere due to humans–about those things, there’s no debate.”  I’m not sure the Oklahoma delegation here has taken that in yet.

West Virginia and Marshall Universities have turned out dozens of climate change papers on precipitation, drought, tree growth, and much more.  The West Virginia Mountaineers have a Mountain Hydrology Laboratory, which reports on climate change’s “important implications for management of fresh water resources.”  These include that “the highlands region in the central Appalachian Mountains is expected to wet up,” as warmer air carrying more moisture leads to what they call “intensification of the water cycle,” what you and I would call worse flooding. The Laboratory warns that “the implications of this intensification are immense.” 

The University of Arkansas contributed 51 papers, and hosts the University of Arkansas Resiliency Center.  Arkansas researchers warn of the need to reduce greenhouse gases, particularly including carbon dioxide and methane, because these gases’ “absorption of solar radiation is responsible for the greenhouse effect.”  The University describes the greenhouse effect thus: “these gases are trapped and held in the Earth’s atmosphere, gradually increasing the temperature of the Earth’s surface and air in the lower atmosphere.”  A University of Arkansas scientist predicts “that the spread of plant species in nearly half the world’s land areas could be affected by global warming by the end of the century.”

Alaska gets its own chapter of the report.  In Alaska:  “Researchers at public institutions … are studying changes in the marine environment and the impacts to the valuable marine resources Alaskan communities depend on.”  There are papers on thawing permafrost, and its effects on water quality, infrastructure, and habitat for fish and wildlife.  There is research on what rapid ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and shifting fish stocks mean for coastal communities.  And there is research into challenges facing Alaska’s indigenous peoples fighting to protect their ancient way of life in a rapidly changing landscape.

Alaska is home to three climate institutes: the Alaska Climate Research Center, the Alaska Climate Adaptation/Resource Center, and the Ocean Acidification Research Center.

Alaskan researchers have written papers titled “Permafrost is warming at a global scale,” and “Climate Change and Future Wildfire in the Western United States.”  The researchers don’t mince words: “projections of warming suggest that considerable change will occur to key snow parameters, possibly contributing to extensive infrastructure damage from thawing permafrost, an increased frequency of rain?on?snow events and reduced soil recharge in the spring due to shallow end?of?winter snowpack.”  Not hard to understand.

In the Dakotas, North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota are studying the effects of climate change on the Great Plains, the Mississippi River, land use and adaptation, and public policy.  They’re also home to the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Center, the Global Institute of Food Security and International Agriculture, and the Center for Regional Climate Studies.  South Dakota State has issued dozens of studies on climate change, including what it will mean for the state’s groundwater supply, maize and wheat crops, and precipitation levels. 

The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State are studying what climate change will mean for sediment flows, droughts, watersheds, and water quality.  They’re looking at what climate change will mean for Mississippi’s vitally important rice crop—a crop that supports hundreds of rice farms in the state.  And they do good coastal climate work with the Sea Grant program. 

Auburn, the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, and the University of Alabama Huntsville produced 140 climate papers in the Council’s study.  Auburn has an International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, and University of Alabama does climate change research at its Earth System Science Center.

Iowa State, all by itself, is responsible for 117 papers on climate change: on agriculture—corn, grazing lands, yields; on weather—precipitation, droughts, temperature; even on beliefs and behavior related to climate change.

Last, but certainly not least among EPW Republican states, is Indiana, home to two world-class universities doing extremely impressive work on climate change.  Indiana University and Purdue combine for 289 papers.  They are also home to the Center for the Study of Global Change at IU and Purdue’s Climate Change Research Center.

It goes without saying that universities who study climate change, and who publish scientific papers on climate change, also teach climate change in their coursework. Maybe we should spend a week here in the Senate getting a refresher on the home-state science.  But we don’t.  We waste week after week here, as the danger looms, the warnings pile up, and the research keeps coming about climate change in our home states.  We will be the most clearly warned body in history of disaster ahead, yet — nothing.

The Council’s report on state university climate research has these web diagrams, which show how climate change research focuses more and more on climate effects as they begin to happen, rather than just predictions.  The diagrams show the areas our home-state universities are pinpointing with their research. 

Here’s the web for the Southwest.  The twelve public southwest universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah show real-time effects of climate change like drought and wildfire.  This points to direct links between tree mortality, drought, and climate.  We depend on the Southwest for more than half of our specialty crops—vegetables, fruits, and nuts.  Those are all things that don’t do well in drought.

Here’s one for the Southeast, highlighting the universities’ research on sea level rise, ocean acidification, adaptation, and management. 

Here’s a different web—not a web of science and inquiry.  No, this is the web of front groups and dark money organizations that the fossil fuel industry has used for decades to sow false doubt about all this science, and to deploy political muscle and propaganda to block action here in Congress.  This is the Web of Denial, and it is paid by the fossil fuel industry to stymie progress in Congress on climate change. 

Do I need to remind anyone that the fossil fuel industry has a conflict of interest? 

Is it not time that Senators paid attention to the trusted science actually happening in their own home state universities, not to this corrupt Web of Denial propped up by the fossil fuel industry? 

This Web of Denial has done nothing but lie. 

They are provably wrong.  Over and over.

And yet they still control the United States Senate.

Let me close with an anniversary we mark this week.  Ten years ago this Friday, a full-page advertisement ran in the New York Times – a full-page ad pointing out that the science of climate change was already, by then, to use the word in the advertisement, “irrefutable,” and that the consequences of climate change would be “catastrophic and irreversible.”  

The science, “irrefutable,” and the consequences, “catastrophic and irreversible.”

Who signed that advertisement?  Donald J. Trump—and his children, Donald Trump, Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump; they all signed it.

I say to my colleagues, the science is there for you to see.  For the truth of climate change; just turn to the researchers teaching your students in your state’s own universities.  They could tell you – just as Donald Trump and his family did ten years ago – that what we face is “irrefutable” and that its consequences will be “catastrophic and irreversible” — if we fail to act.