"You can really pick any topic for this series but I thought I was very important focus on the issue of climate chance and the issue of home grown energy and what we can do here for Minnesota's economy with Minnesota leading the way.
"I truly believe in my heart that these ideas for solving climate change and for leading the way with the home grown energy will protect our environment ... create more jobs ... make us more free and secure ... and preserve our country's pre-eminent role as the world's leader in ideas and innovation.
"I'm here to talk about solutions and opportunities. Global warming is currently presenting us with a world of dangers and risks. But it also gives us a universe of opportunities.
"I'm an optimist. I believe in science.
"We're all here in a state that gave the world the Post-it Note and pacemaker. Our state has always been at the front of the line when it comes to science. And this University has helped put us there right up front.
"I believe that technology and innovation will be key to solving our climate and energy problems. And, in solving these problems, we have the opportunity to develop revolutionary new technologies - and create whole new industries.
"Here in the United States, we have the science. We have the universities. We have the technological know-how. And we have the financial capital. And in Minnesota, we have the fields to grow the fuel that will keep our nation moving. And we have the wind energy to propel our economy forward.
"So, I believe the challenge of global warming is matched by the potential for positive change.
"Someone who has done much to spread this message is former Vice President Al Gore.
"Two weeks ago, he testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on which I am fortunate to serve.
"It was a special occasion: We don't usually get a former Vice President - much less an Academy Award winner - testifying before that particular committee. More often, it's someone who's gotten an award from a worthy (but not so glamorous) organization like the American Society of Civil Engineers.
"There was also a difference between this hearing and those that Congress has had in the past on this topic. Before, they debated whether global warming even existed. Now we're talking about solutions. There was no better reminder of this change than the unsuccessful attempts of Senator Inhofe, the previous Committee chair, to hold up the hearing with Al Gore.
"There is no better reminder of this change for those that listened or watched the hearing than the memorable exchange between Senator Inhoff the previous committee chair and Barbara Boxer currently the chair. At one point, he was badgering so he couldn't really answer any questions and Boxer finally held up the gavel and she said "you no longer have this gavel" She Said "I do! And Elections have consequences!"
"Elections do have consequences. And we are going to act. And we must act now.
"There is now an irresistible scientific consensus that the earth is warming. Study after study demonstrates that global warming is real; that it is affecting us now.
"In early February, the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the "IPCC" - issued its latest report on the science of climate change. This report was produced by some 600 authors from 40 countries. Over 620 expert reviewers and a large number of government reviewers also participated.
"This is a very cautious group of scientists, with a very conservative process for meticulously reviewing the evidence and reaching their conclusions through consensus.
"And what did they conclude?
"Changes in climate are now affecting physical and biological systems on every continent."
"A second study by this group will be officially released later this week on the visible and predicted effects of global warming - including shifting rain patterns, droughts, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, damaged ecosystems and the spread of diseases.
"Early reports indicate that the study will find that coastlines around the world are already showing the impact of rising sea levels and that, by 2080, one hundred million people each year could be flooded by rising seas.
"So how did this come about?
"Certain types of gases - most notably, carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxide - accumulate in the atmosphere and then absorb, or "trap," the sun's heat as it bounces off the earth's surface.
"Carbon dioxide - the most infamous of the greenhouse gases - is produced in huge quantities by power plants, cars, manufacturing, and by residential and commercial building components.
"The problem is that carbon dioxide doesn't dissipate quickly. It stays in the atmosphere
for five decades or more - causing Earth's temperature to rise.
"This means that most of the carbon dioxide produced in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s is still in our atmosphere today. And it means that carbon dioxide produced today will still be in the atmosphere in 2050 and beyond.
"All that carbon dioxide has been trapping heat in the atmosphere. Over time, it makes global temperatures rise. In turn, sea levels rise - both because the water expands as the oceans warm and because melting glaciers and ice caps add more water.
"Global warming is on the rise, with enormous consequences for our world and our economy.
- "2006 was the hottest year ever in this country, capping a nine-year streak unprecedented in the historical record. We recently learned that this winter was the warmest on record worldwide. If you remember, December in Minnesota felt more like October.
- "Worldwide, glaciers are rapidly melting. (In fact, almost everything frozen on the earth is melting.) A few weeks ago, it was reported that glaciers in the European Alps will be all but gone by the year 2050. Experts believe that, within 25 years, there won't be a single glacier left in Glacier National Park. I'm looking over at my dad, a great explorer on his own. Maybe no Will Steiger but he knows what I'm talking about. Seeing the effects of warming
- "Globally, sea levels have risen 4 to 10 inches over the past century.
- "The frequency of extremely heavy rainfalls has increased throughout much of the United States.
- "The impact is especially dire in Greenland and the Arctic region. The temperature changes there have been the greatest, resulting in widespread melting of glaciers, thinning of the polar ice cap and rising permafrost temperatures. 20% of the polar ice cap have melted since 1979. That's a figure that came from NASA.
"Other changes - like the recent increase in the severity of hurricanes and other extreme or destructive weather events - are consistent with the kinds of changes scientist expect to occur on a warming planet. They are early indicators of even more dramatic climate shifts - and economic damage - that await us if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions and attack the problem of global warming.
"And that prospect of what the future could hold is what brings us here today.
"In Minnesota, we love the outdoors and we take pride in the richness and beauty of our natural resources. We protect our forests and our prairies ... our lakes and rivers ... our diverse wildlife and abundant farmland.
"In Minnesota, stewardship for the environment is a part of our heritage. It is also an important part of our economy. So global warming is an issue that strikes us close to home.
"And people in our state are growing ever more concerned. Minnesotans love being out in nature. This past winter I heard from ice fishermen, snowmobilers and cross-cross skiers who told me they personally observed the signs of global warming and climate change. Do these two look happy about global warming? Professor Jacobs, Is this the first time the Grumpy Old Men slide has been used at the Humphrey Institute?
"I've told these people in Washington that there are hunters in Hibbing who care about this issue, because they have seen the changes to our wetlands.
"There's a couple out on Leech Lake who care about this issue because they have seen how it takes longer for the lake ice to freeze so they take their ice fishing house out.
"And there's a city council in Lanesboro that has decided to switch to low-energy light bulbs because they can see the effects of global warming.
"This is an issue that has finally moved out of the science labs and seminar rooms of the university. It has entered into the everyday conversations of people from all walks of life.
"It's real people in the real world talking about real changes that have them worried about what is happening to our planet - and what the consequences will be for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren, all the way down the line.
"The tide is turning, though.
"After years of inaction in Washington, I truly believe Congress is finally being spurred to take action.
"First, there is the outpouring of public support for change.
"Two weeks ago, there was a very important rally on Capitol Hill as a demonstration of public concern and demand for serious action to address climate change. Coming up on April 14 is the Global Warming Day of Action, with events across the country - including on the State Capitol Mall in St. Paul.
"This isn't just about eight-year-old kids crying over penguins anymore.
"Second, business leaders are stepping forward and demanding action.
"Two weeks ago, a group of the world's leading investors, asset managers and companies issued a "Climate Policy Call to Action" - seeking tangible action by Congress to tackle global warming and climate change.
"These were some of the world's largest institutional investors - managing over four trillion dollars in assets. They want strong legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"And if you want to see something unprecedented: Earlier this month, the leaders of General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Chrysler - along with the head of the United Auto Workers - made a rare joint appearance at a Congressional hearing. All pledged to support mandatory caps on carbon emissions as long they covered all sectors of the economy.
"An in January, my Committee heard from the chief executives of ten major corporations - including General Electric ... DuPont ... and Duke Energy.
"They have formed the "United States Climate Action Partnership." They seek a mandatory "market-driven approach" to reducing greenhouse gas emissions - an approach they believe will drive development of new, greener technology and become an engine for new economic growth and job creation.
"And third, new leadership in the fight against global warming has been coming from state and local governments across the country.
"And Minnesota is a leader in this effort--with February's passage of a new law that is considered the nation's most aggressive standard for promoting renewable energy in electricity production.
"It's a "25-by-25" standard. By the year 2025, the state's energy companies are required to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, water, solar and biomass. The standard is even higher for the state's largest utility, Xcel Energy, which must reach 30 percent by 2020.
"Almost as important as the renewable energy standard itself is the bipartisan political energy that produced this new law.
"I was proud to tell the committee, including Senator Inhoff that in Minnesota it was adopted with overwhelming bipartisan support. The vote was 123 to 10 in the State House, and 61 to 4 in the State Senate. It was quickly signed into law by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.
"We're seeing other efforts all around the country.
"Governors from five Western states (including California and Arizona) have announced that they will work together to reduce greenhouse gases by setting regional targets for lower emissions and establishing a regional "cap-and-trade" system for buying and selling greenhouse gas credits.
"This new regional project builds on the landmark legislation that California's Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed into law last year.
"And it builds on other regional initiatives - especially the landmark Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with seven northeastern and mid-Atlantic states that have also agreed to a regional "cap-and-trade" system aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
"There is also the "U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement." More than 400 mayors (representing over 59 million Americans) have pledged to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas reduction goals in their own communities. Among the signatories to this agreement are the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Duluth.
"I admire these states and communities for their initiative. And what they're doing should be an inspiration for national action.
"There is a famous phrase: The "laboratories of democracy." That's how Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described the special role of states in our federal system.
"In this model, states are where new ideas can emerge ... where policymakers can experiment ... where innovative proposals can be tested.
"It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system," Brandeis wrote over 70 years ago, "that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."
"But he did not mean for this to serve as an excuse for inaction by the national government. Good ideas and successful innovations are supposed to emerge from the laboratory and serve as a model for national policy and action. That is now our responsibility in Congress.
"The courage we're seeing in the states as they deal with global warming should be matched by courage in Washington. We should be prepared to act on a national level - especially when the states and local communities are showing us the way.
"With the public, the business community and state and local governments all leading the way, things have to change in Washington. And after years of Congressional inaction, neglect and even defiance on this issue, I believe we are finally going to see change - and fast.
"Every day, Congress makes decisions that have a great impact on the American people and people throughout the world. But our decisions on global warming may well be the ones that have the most profound impact on our future generations and on the very fate of the earth.
"The science is clear about what we need to do to address the problem. We need to immediately and significantly reduce emissions of green houses gases. It is not too late "to act, but we need to stabilize and reduce greenhouse emissions within the next decade and reduce them significantly by mid-century.
"Achieving these reductions won't be easy. But it can be done.
"First, we need to establish economy-wide limits on greenhouse gas emissions, with a "cap-and-trade" system that allows companies to adapt to these limits in the most efficient, least costly way.
"Second, to enable this cap-and-trade system to actually work, we need to establish a national reporting system to identify and measure all the sources of greenhouse gas emissions. I like to think of it as a "carbon counter"
"Third, we need to embrace energy-efficiency and conservation efforts across the board.
"Fourth, we need to promote greater fuel efficiency and use of renewable fuels with our vehicles.
"Fifth, we need to adopt renewable energy standards so we can accelerate the transition away from carbon-polluting energy sources.
"Sixth, we need to harness the enormous potential of our agriculture sector to develop renewable energy.
"And finally, we need to stand up and be a responsible international leader again.
"Let me briefly go through each one of these. Many of these proposals are going to be familiar. But some of them probably won't be. And several of them are going to be a particular focus of my efforts in the Senate to get climate change legislation passed.
"First, if the root of the problem is greenhouse gas emissions - principally carbon dioxide - then we have to stop putting so much of it into the atmosphere.
"The United States should establish mandatory, science-based limits on carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants so we can significantly reduce emissions from today's levels within 10 years.
"To make this work most effectively without totally and immediately disrupting our economy, we should establish a market-driven "cap-and-trade" system that provides economic incentives for reducing emissions.
"Under this system, the government sets a cap that limits emissions from a designated group of polluters, such as power plants. The emissions allowed under this cap are then divided up into individual permits with the right to emit that amount of pollutants. Companies whose emissions exceed their allotment must buy - or trade - credits from other companies in order to cover their pollution. Companies that are able to reduce emissions at a low cost can sell their extra permits to companies facing high costs.
"A cap-and-trade system draws on the power of the marketplace to reduce emissions in a cost-effective and flexible manner. It creates a financial incentive for emission reductions by assigning an actual cost to polluting. It's an approach that was successfully used to combat acid rain - faster and cheaper than even the experts predicted.
"There are several cap-and-trade proposals currently in the Congress. Much of the political wrangling in the coming months will focus on the details of how strong or weak the cap should be, and how stringent or lenient the pollution allotments should be in a trading system.
"Second, to make a cap-and-trade system work, there needs to be full and accurate information about the sources and amounts of greenhouse gas pollution. Believe or not, we just don't have that information right now.
"I've been involved in public policy long enough to know that you can't change or fix something unless you can accurately measure and monitor it. Right now, we don't have a system in place to fully identify and measure the sources of greenhouse gases.
"The Environmental Protection Agency collects a lot of data on energy production and consumption. However, the quantity and quality of the data varies greatly across different fuels and sectors. For example, data on crude oil and petroleum product stocks is collected weekly from selected oil companies, while data on energy use in the industrial sector is collected only once every three years through surveys. In some cases, the EPA collects the data themselves, while in other cases the data is collected through state or other federal agencies.
"We need to have consistent, high-quality data across all sectors - what I call a "carbon counter" system - if we are going to have an effective market for trading greenhouse gas credits.
"Third, we need to have stronger energy-efficiency and conservation efforts across the board.
"We can achieve significant reductions in global warming pollution by improving the energy efficiency of our economy. Virtually every aspect of American life has the potential to be more energy efficient - often in ways that not only reduce greenhouse gases, but save money as well.
"Energy consumption in government buildings, private businesses and homes accounts for almost two-thirds of carbon dioxide emissions in America. An aggressive energy efficiency program could prevent a substantial amount of greenhouse gases going into the air.
"Last week, my Committee had a hearing to discuss pending legislation that would create strong requirements for energy efficiency in government buildings
"We heard testimony from officials who worked at the Binghamton Federal Building in New York State, which is the first federal facility in the nation powered by 100 percent renewable energy. The power flows from a new wind turbine installed in the town of Fenner, New York.
"And it is happening here too.
"In St. Paul, the Public Housing Agency (which has a four-story office building) was built to use 50 percent less energy than required by code. The building's electric bill was cut in half by thanks to simple measures, like orienting the building along an east/west axis--which reduces heating and cooling demands--and using dimmable controls on light fixtures.
"And the best part is that it cost just two percent more than conventional construction - a cost that was paid for after less than two years thanks to reduced energy consumption.
"These projects not only demonstrate a commitment to energy independence and environmental stewardship but also help spur economic growth of a new industry in a small community economy.
"Energy conservation also means individual action. Just look at Time magazine's cover story this week - titled "The Global Warming Survival Guide: 51 Things We Can Do."
"And consider this: If every American home replaced just one traditional light bulb with an energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb, the energy savings would be enough to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year - and it would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to nearly 800,000 cars.
"Fourth, we also need to promote efficiency standards in our transportation sector.
"The creation of federal fuel economy standards for cars during the 1970s succeeded in reducing gasoline consumption and oil imports, as well as global warming pollution. But the fuel economy of new vehicles is now lower than it was during most of the Reagan administration.
"Several recent studies show that we could increase the fuel economy of new vehicles to 40 miles per gallon within the next decade using technologies that already exist or will be available soon.
"All types of vehicles can be designed to be far more energy efficient. And most of the improvements in fuel economy can actually save money for consumers over the long term - especially with gas prices again approaching nearly three dollars a gallon.
"Hybrid cars are becoming both more popular and more efficient. The old version required you to plug in the car or carry around the extra batteries. It's getting better and better and for the first time we have a waiting list for hybrid vehicles. We also need to replace the fuel we use now and trend toward bio fuels. I'm proud to be talking about celulosic ethanol.
"Fifth, I believe we should have a national renewable energy portfolio standard that sets tangible, measurable goals and targets for using renewable energy in the production of electricity and fuel.
"As I mentioned, Minnesota is already taking the leading with our new renewable electricity standard of "25 by 25."
"I believe that Minnesota's example can help show us the way to a national renewable portfolio standard for electricity production. America has virtually limitless potential for the generation of power from natural forces. By ramping up our use of wind power, solar power, geothermal and biomass energy and other renewable forms of energy, the United States could dramatically reduce global warming emissions from electric power production.
"My daughter did a project on this for this last year for her class and did a big map of the state of Minnesota. She interviewed a farmer, Tom Peterson, from Pine City, and on this map she made a big dot that said Pine City, home of Tom Peterson, with small dots for Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It brought home to me how much this can help out economy and jobs and driving the economy of our state with the bio fuel industry.
"This brings us to another area that holds great potential. Our agriculture sector is already at the forefront of developing new clean, renewable energy resources - and there are many more exciting developments yet to come.
"I want agriculture's role in fighting climate change be a major new focus of the new farm bill which Congress is writing this year. With forward-looking farming practices, America's heartland holds great promise for homegrown solutions to global warming.
"I serve on Agriculture Committee, chaired by our good neighbor to the south, Senator Harkin of Iowa. And I am taking the lead to introduce legislation that would offer incentives to farmers to produce a new generation of energy crops suitable for cellulosic ethanol production.
"In Minnesota, we have been pioneers in turning corn into ethanol for gasoline. During the past 25 years, ethanol has proven to be one of the great success stories in the Minnesota economy - especially our rural economy.
"Corn and soybeans are the backbone of the biofuels revolution in this country. In 2006, corn-based ethanol offset the need for 170 million barrels of imported oil, keeping eleven billion dollars in rural America.
"This renewable energy revolution is advancing rapidly, and the University of Minnesota is at the forefront.
"There is now exciting research coming out of the University, led by Regents Professor David Tillman, and Dr. Jason Hill, that highlights the energy potential of native grasses (like switchgrass). Their research shows that perennial grasses grown on marginal farmland can produce as much new (or net) energy per acre as corn and soybeans.
"And when you compare the energy balance - the amount of energy in the fuel, compared to the amount of energy that was used to convert the crop into the fuel - prairie grasses have a much higher energy balance than traditional biofuels derived from corn or soybeans.
"You might call them "prairie fuels" or "energy crops." They contain from five to eight times the energy that's used to make them.
"These energy crops also hold great promise for farmers because they can be grown on marginal land that can't produce a high yield of corn or soybeans, and they restore the land while they're growing. Their deep root systems sequester carbon and put organic material back in the soil.
"Native grasses can also save farmers money on fuel and other inputs because they don't require lots of passes with farm equipment or heavy fertilizer applications. The grasses also provide habitat for ground-nesting birds and other wildlife.
"Nearly three decades ago, Congress made an investment in ethanol and biodiesel that has really paid off. Now it's time for Congress to build on this success and invest in the next generation of homegrown energy cellulosic biofuels.
"The incentives would go to farmers through the Conservation Security Program, which would be expanded to allow for greater enrollments.
"We are proposing a number of projects across the country - called "crop-sheds" (like watersheds) - where farmers would grow dedicated energy crops in concentrated areas centered on cellulosic biofuel plants. (These crops need to be produced in concentrated pockets because it's not energy efficient to haul large amounts of biomass for long distances.)
"Farmers need incentives for the first few years because it takes about three years for crops like switchgrass to reach their first mature harvest.
"In addition, this legislation will provide for these "crop-shed" projects to cooperate with researchers from land grant universities. So professors like David Tillman, and Dr. Jason Hill can continue their valuable research and we can grow our knowledge about what farm practices work best, what crops work best, and what energy conversion processes work best.
"The horizons are expanding.
"We can begin to see how corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel fuel are just the first steps in our renewable energy revolution. The science and technology that's driving this revolution is changing and advancing very rapidly.
"Think about the start of the information age revolution: The first computers were the size of large rooms and could accomplish only elementary calculations. But we had to start there to get to where we are now - with powerful computer devices that now fit in the palm of a hand and the enormous computing power that's found everywhere in our daily lives.
"I think our homegrown renewable energy revolution is on the same trajectory. There is a vast potential for new technologies... new jobs...and new economic development, especially in rural communities. And, at the same time, the potential is vast for reducing our production of greenhouse gases.
"Finally, we need to be an international leader again. The United States can, and must lead. But we cannot solve the problem by ourselves. All countries must participate in a global solution to a global problem. China, India, Brazil and other developing economies must be weaned away from fossil fuels.
"But what is their incentive to do this when the United States won't?
"Last week, I co-sponsored a resolution that calls for the United States to return to a leadership role in international climate change negotiations. The resolution recognizes that there are real economic benefits both from reducing the waste and inefficiencies inherent in greenhouse gas emissions and from developing new climate-friendly technologies.
"As other nations address climate change, they also reap the economic benefits from new technological innovation. Does the United States want to be a leader in creating the new green technologies and the new green industries of the future? Or are we going to sit back and watch the opportunity pass by?
"I want us to be a leader.
"In conclusion, just as there is no single industry or source that is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, there is no single policy or technology that will solve global warming. That is why we need a comprehensive approach with many solutions.
"Instead of a "silver bullet," we need "silver buckshot."
"As I mentioned at the beginning, my Senate seat used to belong to Hubert Humphrey. He was, of course, a man of many words. But there is one quote of his that I hold especially dear. It is inscribed on his own gravestone at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
"It says: "I have loved my country in a way that some people consider sentimental and out of style. I still do. And I remain an optimist with joy, without apology, about this country and about the American experiment in democracy."
"Like Hubert - and like most Americans - I'm an optimist, too.
"I believe in the power and promise of science, technology and innovation when we need to solve a problem.
"I believe in the capacity of our democratic system of government to make the right decisions for the good of our country.
"And I believe in the intelligence and ingenuity of the American people when we are confronted with a challenge.
"We have plenty of that intelligence and ingenuity right here in Minnesota.
"That's why I am establishing a new awards program to recognize efforts by local governments, businesses and students in Minnesota to reduce global warming.
"I call them the "Carbon Buster" Awards. See its not just a touchy feely subject anymore. We have a one-page handout here that tells more about it. Please tell others about it.
"We each have a role, and there is plenty for all of us to do. And if we work together, we can turn the corner on the devastating effects of global warming - and we can take giant strides toward a new future that is fueled by renewable energy.
"We know it can be done. Because it's already starting - right here in Minnesota, and right here on this campus.
"With forward-looking leadership from Washington, we can move ahead to build this new future even more quickly and with even greater determination. And I think we can all look forward to that.