Time to Wake Up: We Did Start the Fire

Mr./Madam President, I rise today for my 253rd "Time to Wake Up" speech. If you felt like the heat this summer was particularly brutal, you were not imagining things. July was the hottest month ever recorded, according to NOAA. The Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization noted "July has rewritten climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at [the] local, national and global level." NOAA says 2019 is on track to tie for the second hottest year on record. Over… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Wyoming

Mr./Madam President, I have often spoken about how climate change is affecting Rhode Island: rising sea levels will remake our map; warming seas are shifting our traditional fisheries away from Rhode Island waters; a hotter climate creates public health risks for Rhode Islanders. The list goes on. In the Senate I've also tried to learn how climate change is affecting other states. Some states are coastal, some are upland. Some are urban, some are rural. Some are mountainous, some are flat. … Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Who Funds The Chamber?

Mr./Madam President, before I begin my 251st Time to Wake up remarks, I would like to thank two AAAS fellows who will be leaving my office. Dr. Kim Binsted came to us from the University of Hawaii, where was the principal investigator on the NASA-sponsored Hi-Seas project, studying conditions like those astronauts would encounter on Mars. Next month, she returns to Hawaii to continue her research. Dr. Ryan Edwards joined us after completing his PhD at Princeton University, where he studied c… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up 250: Looking Back – and Forward

Mr./Madam President, for the 250th week in a row of Senate session, I rise - yet again - to call this chamber to wake up to the threat of climate change. In April 2012, I delivered the first of these speeches; I began: "I know that many in Washington would prefer to ignore this issue, but nature keeps sending us messages - messages we ignore at our peril." It was a cry of frustration - frustration that the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision had killed bipartisan work on climate… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Banking on Climate Change

Mr./Madam President, for a long time people opposed to climate action said that tackling climate change would be too costly, would harm economic growth, would be bad for American businesses, and would kill jobs. These were phony arguments, peddled by fossil fuel interests. And they're flat wrong. Actually, the economic hazard is not action, but inaction. [Chart 1: Economic warning organizations] We've recently seen an explosion of warnings from economic regulators, central banks, insurers,… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: The Case for Carbon Pricing

You've just heard two colleagues make convincing and passionate arguments for putting a price on carbon, the central protection from climate crisis. A price on carbon like we propose would dramatically lower emissions, and put us on a net zero-by-2050 path - the path necessary to avoid the worst climate chaos. Because it's a price on pollution, we can dial it up or dial it down, as climate chaos worsens or abates. Because our proposal is border-adjustable, it would let American industry comp… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Something Fishy Going On

Mr. President, it is a great honor and pleasure to join the senior Senator from Connecticut on the floor today. We were both U.S. attorneys. We were attorneys general together. We now serve in the Senate together, and I consider him a friend outside of my day job as well. It is terrific to be here with him. It is also a happy coincidence that a Senator from another great fishing State, Louisiana, should be presiding while we speak about our fisheries. This is my 247th of these speeches. Rhode I… Continue Reading


Time To Wake Up: Never Again: Remembering the Cuyahoga River Fire

Mr. President, it is my great honor to join Senator Brown of Ohio here on this 50th anniversary. The image of a river aflame is engraved in our collective memory. For Ohioans, for Senator Brown, and for all others who care about our water and environment, the Cuyahoga River remains a rallying cry. Time magazine ran a piece in 1969 calling it this: "Chocolate brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gasses, it oozes rather than flows." No fish lived in it. It was too dangerous for drinking or swim… Continue Reading


Whitehouse Remarks at the National Press Club

It is good to see you all. Thank you for having me. Thank you to Tiffany and Tiernan, for your wonderful introductions. And thank you to the League of Conservation Voters and End Citizens United for being such amazing allies. And for the amazing work you do together. I emphasize "together" because our failure in Congress to address climate change is directly connected to the secret empire of dark money that Citizens United launched. Climate denial and dark money are two sides of the same coin… Continue Reading


Whitehouse Remarks in Judiciary on Combating Kleptocracy

First let me thank you, Chairman Graham, for holding this hearing. We have been working on this for a long time and I appreciate very much your patient and persistence and your attention to the rising threat that kleptocracy poses to our country. I also want to particularly thank Senator Grassley who has been my compadre on the TITLE Bill for a long time, back when he was chairman and now as Chairman of Finance he has another terrific position to push for clarity and transparency in this area. … Continue Reading


Whitehouse Remarks at 2019 Public Citizen Gala

Thank you, Lisa, for that kind introduction. It's an honor to be here today with Desmond Meade. What a remarkable story of perseverance and service to our democracy. His is the kind of strength we will need in the fights to come. I have been battling side-by-side with Public Citizen for a very long time now. We both recognize the threat to our democratic institutions from an excess of corporate power. We are both fighting for reforms to preserve access to the courts, empower voters in the … Continue Reading


Time To Wake Up: Exxon Knew

Mr. President, I am here today for my weekly "Time to Wake up" speech. We know a lot of things now. We know our atmosphere is filling with carbon dioxide to a point unprecedented in the history of the species on our planet; we know global temperatures are climbing and warping the weather across our country and around the world; we know our oceans are warming and acidifying in a way that the geologic record shows is a precursor to massive ocean die-offs; and we know the kind of action we must ta… Continue Reading


Whitehouse Remarks on the Gaspee Raid

Madam President, I come to the floor of the Senate today, as I do every year at this time, to remember what Rhode Island abolitionist Frances Whipple McDougall called ``the first blood [drawn] in the Revolution.'' This past Sunday marked the 247th anniversary of the Gaspee raid. This is an image of what happened to the Gaspee. We ought to remember. Most Americans do not know about the Gaspee Affair. They have learned about a far tamer incident in Boston Harbor a year later, when some tipsy Bost… Continue Reading


Time To Wake Up: Corporate America Engages

Madam President, one of the things I have noticed over the years that I have given these climate speeches is that corporate engagement on climate change has been one-sided, let's just say. It is clear who my adversaries have been--Big Oil, the coal lobby, the Koch brothers, and some very powerful corporate trade associations--the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the most powerful of all, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, so-called. In my view, it is more p… Continue Reading


Whitehouse Remarks on the Federalist Society and Leonard Leo

On Tuesday, the Washington Post published an important investigation. They looked into a very narrow, very wealthy group of special interests seeking to control our federal judiciary. It was a revealing story, one that matters a great deal to the Senate and the people we serve. I come to the floor today to discuss that tightening special-interest grip on our courts. The central operative is Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, the organization at the center of this effort. As I described… Continue Reading


Whitehouse Floor Remarks on the Retirement of Sister Jane Gerety

Mr./Madame President, I join Rhode Island's senior senator here on the floor today to honor the work of Salve Regina University's seventh president, Sister Jane Gerety. She will retire next month, capping a decade of service to the university and the Newport community. Sister Jane has accomplished remarkable things in her tenure. She established a new satellite campus in Warwick to help working Rhode Islanders take graduate and continuing education courses. She helped establish online study… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Bad Media (for) Climate

Mr./Madame President, I rise today for the 243rd time to call on this chamber to wake up to the reality of climate change. I thank Senator Cornyn for acknowledging that the days of ignoring this are over. Now it's time to do something, with keeping global warming below the 1.5 or 2 degrees Centigrade target. I speak regularly about the fossil fuel industry's relentless grip on Congress, and how that grip prevents action on climate. They are still at it. But that is not the only thing slowi… Continue Reading


The Supreme Corp.

Greek mythology tells of the Labors of Hercules, one of which was to clean the Augean Stables. These stables were so fouled with manure and waste that to clean them seemed impossible. Hercules accomplished this Labor by running a river through the stables. I am here to argue that it is time for a cleanup at the Supreme Court. Just as the Augean Stables were cleaned by a river, a river of transparency and accountability can help clean up the Court. Let's start by looking at the mess that needs… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Corporate Climate Rankings

Mr./Madame President, pick up the paper these days and it's hard to miss the headlines about corporate America getting serious about reducing carbon emissions. Companies are purchasing renewable power. They're moving into carbon-neutral office buildings. They're purchasing electric vehicles. They're developing new technologies and products for the transition to a low carbon economy. Many are forcing some degree of sustainability out their supply chains. All of this is important work, and the co… Continue Reading


Time to Wake Up: Louisiana Road Trip

Mr./Mdm. President, I am grateful to be joined on the floor today by the senior Senator from Louisiana. I had the pleasure of visiting his home state last month to see firsthand how a combination of decreased sedimentation, erosion, subsidence, habitat degradation, and rising seas are threatening Louisiana's coastline. I was also joined by Congressman Garret Graves, former Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman, during my time in Louisiana. I thank him for sharing his… Continue Reading

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