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Corker travels to Greenland to study climate

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Getting an energy policy in place "that is right" regardless of the impact climate change has is a goal that Sen. Bob Corker expressed upon returning from a trip to Greenland this past weekend.

But while they viewed glaciers and ice sheets that make up 10 percent of the world's fresh water, nothing he saw surprised him, saying instead it was the scientists that were the most informative.

"I am at the same place [opinion] when returning from the trip than I was going on the trip," Corker said

Calling it a "very informative trip," Corker described the Greenland trip as follow up to a meeting he attended in May in Brussels, Belgium about emission trading to prepare for the Senate debate scheduled for September on the topic.

Corker was joined on the federally paid trip by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA); Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD); Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL); Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD); Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

A number of bills will be coming forth in the Senate related to carbon trading, Corker said Monday during a conference call conducted with members of the Tennessee press. A bill is expected from senators Warner and Lieberman in the next few days, Corker said.

The Senator also stated he is "leaning in the direction" of supporting carbon trading, which is an approach currently used in Europe to control carbon output by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants.

Under this type of plan, a limit or cap would be set on the amount of a pollutant that can be emitted. Those that discharge the pollutants are given credits or allowances. Companies that pollute beyond their allowances must buy credits from those who pollute less than their allowances or face heavy penalties.

"We have a unique opportunity to marry concerns ... like carbon dioxide emissions and energy security. By marrying these two together in a thoughtful manner and not a hysterical or reactionary manner, that's an appropriate way to go."

Europe has had "mixed reviews" with the carbon trade system, and Corker said our country can use that to learn from the experience. Corker related that while a large part of the scientific community believe that man is responsible for climate change, there are also a number of those who disagree.

"If they're right, then we develop a policy that is right ... but even if it proves wrong over time, we have the ability to put a policy in place that is right for our country. They're 90 percent sure (that man is the cause). That means they're 10 percent unsure."

Corker said he wants to be a constructive voice in the debate about energy security, which is where he believes the country's focus "needs to be." The policies must insure that future generations of Americans will have a better standard of living.

"I don't think there's any question that our climate is changing, but that's been going on for thousands of years," Corker explained. He also reminded reporters that the country was first called Greenland by Viking explorers who farmed there.

If the ice sheet in Greenland were to completely melt, it would raise sea levels by 20 feet, but Corker also added that that could happen over hundreds, even thousands of years. Melting and re-freezing have already occurred in the past.

"Even the most zealous scientists, even they aren't predicting that it would happen in a short amount of time," Corker said.

The island of Greenland is roughly the same area as Mexico. The ice sheet covers about 83 percent of the island, is up to two miles thick, and contains about 1/20th of the world's surface ice and 10 percent of the world's freshwater.

Corker also said he realized there are two sides to the debate -- from those who are exclusively focused on man-made warming to those who "are greatly concerned about our energy security."

Also accompanying the senators on the trip were Dr. Richard Alley, a professor at Pennsylvania State University and Dr. Minik Rosing, PhD., a Danish climate scientist. The senators also met with Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard and Greenland Minister of the Environment Arkalo Abelsen.

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