Delegation Saw Warming Effects Firsthand (Rep. John Larson)

Yesterday was World Environment Day and when it was created over three decades ago it was envisioned to be a day of environmental awareness and action. This year more than ever, the day’s message comes with a greater sense of urgency and purpose. Global warming is not a partisan issue, it is a public issue and a global issue. Plainly, it is about the future of our planet.

As we return to our work in the House this week and the G-8 Summit begins in Germany, it is timely to discuss the recent bipartisan congressional delegation that visited Greenland, Germany, England, and Belgium to bring attention to global warming and climate change. Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) our trip to Greenland underscored the urgency of the issues of climate change and global warming.

The trip was insightful in who we met and what we saw. The purpose of our visit was to see firsthand the adverse environmental and economic impacts of global warming and to meet with foreign leaders who are taking action to address one of the greatest challenges of our time. For Speaker Pelosi, tomorrow is today and action is eminent.

In Greenland, we learned from the local Inuit people that only a few years ago, they were able to travel by dogsled across solid ice, but now must travel over the same area by boat as it has melted to water. Scientists we met in Greenland said the ice breaking off the Greenland ice cap in 2 days is enough fresh water for New York City for one full year. Continued melting of the ice sheet in Greenland would result in a rise of sea level by 23 feet.

In addition, we met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also head of the G-8, Prime Minister of Belgium Guy Verhofstadt, and European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal. In Great Britain, we met with Prince Charles’ corporate leaders working group called Corporate Leaders for Climate Change and discussed their successful model for market-based solutions and public-private partnerships.

This past Monday, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held its first field hearing atop Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire. We discussed the impacts associated with global warming which impact New England and impact our daily lives and activities, like skiing, snowboarding and tourism.

In the House we will soon begin work on an energy package that will reduce energy dependence, and global warming emissions. We will show that we are serious about changing the course of a deteriorating planet. The time to act is now.

From our Congressional Delegation to Europe and the various hearings we have held in the Select Committee on Energy Independence, one thing is clear -- we must change the course of our environment and the time to act is now. In the words of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., we are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity.

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