There is no question that climate change is real or that human activities are driving much of it. We are seeing the impacts in our home states. Scientists tell us that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. Rising temperatures and diminishing sea ice on Alaska’s shores are affecting our fisheries and forcing some remote communities to seek partial or total relocation. In summer 2016, West Virginia experienced unprecedented flooding that killed 23 residents and inflicted tremendous damage across the state.
Congress is in the middle of a debate about the appropriate way to tackle climate change. This is often portrayed as an issue with just two sides — those who support drastic, unattainable measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and those who want to do nothing. We believe the time for sensationalism is over. And we are seeking ideas that will bring people together, rather than drive them apart.
On the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we are working together to find pragmatic policies that can draw strong and enduring support. In our hearings this year, we have heard from a range of experts who are helping us to gather facts that shape these efforts.
Just this week, we held a hearing focused on climate change and the electricity sector. We heard that utilities are pursuing cleaner energy technologies and integrating them into their networks. These changes to the generation mix reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 28 percent between 2005 and 2017 and lowered costs to consumers.
Yet, our witnesses also agreed that to effectively mitigate the impacts of climate change, we must do more to pursue low- and zero-carbon technologies that will continue to lower emissions.
The United States leads the world in research and development. Our national labs and universities are working toward the next scientific breakthrough, and private investors are pursuing the next game-changing technology. The United States is at the forefront of clean-energy efforts, including energy storage, advanced nuclear energy, and carbon capture, utilization and sequestration. We are committed to adopting reasonable policies that maintain that edge, build on and accelerate current efforts, and ensure a robust innovation ecosystem.
The impact of developing these new technologies will be felt by Americans from all walks of life, including residents of rural communities and other areas served by older technologies. Transitioning these communities to more efficient forms of energy will provide them with cleaner energy that is also more stable and has lower costs, which will bring about additional benefits.
American ingenuity has solved many of the great challenges of our time and is key to addressing climate change. If the United States is going to lead by example, we must continue to lead the world in the development of new and improved technologies. On the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we agree it is time to act. And that is why we will work to find responsible solutions worthy of West Virginians, Alaskans and all Americans.