On the Record: U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin calls on U.S. government to take action on climate change after deadly tornado outbreak

On The Record

"It's a matter of life and death."

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In the last week, many communities around the Midwest have been struck by deadly storms.

An Amazon warehouse collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois, after a tornado hit, killing six workers and seriously injuring another.

At least 88 people — including 74 in Kentucky — were killed by the tornado outbreak that also destroyed a nursing home in Arkansas and spread its deadly effects into Tennessee and Missouri.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said lawmakers must take bold action on climate change, saying when he was a kid, you expected severe storms in the summer, but never in December.

“This extreme weather isn’t just bad luck, and it’s not just a one-off occurrence. It’s a pattern that’s growing, and it has a lot to do with our climate change. We need to take this seriously. It’s a matter of life and death and our future”

U.S. Sen. DIck Durbin

President Joe Biden has vowed full federal support for those impacted by the deadly storms.

“But I want to emphasize what I told all the governors: The federal government will do everything — everything it can possibly do to help,” Biden said.

When asked if these specific storms had a connection to climate change, Biden said he was not sure.

“Well, all that I know is that the intensity of the weather across the board has some impact as a consequence of the warming of the planet and the climate change,” Biden said.

“The specific impact on these specific storms, I can’t say at this point.  I’m going to be asking the EPA and others to take a look at that.  But the fact is that we all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming — everything.  And, obviously, it has some impact here, but I can’t give you a — a quantitative read on that,” Biden continued.

Durbin sponsors the “America’s Clean Future Fund Act,” which includes provisions to address climate change in President Biden’s Build Back Better bill. The bill was introduced in the Senate back in March 2021.

The bill reads as follows:

This bill establishes requirements and incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assist industries, communities, and workers transition to a low-carbon economy, including by establishing (1) the Climate Change Finance Corporation (C2FC); (2) the America’s Clean Future Fund; and (3) a carbon fee on the use, sale, or transfer of certain fuels by covered entities.

The bill provides appropriations to the C2FC, an independent agency, which must finance clean energy and climate change resiliency activities in order to meet the goal of eliminating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The bill also provides appropriations for the America’s Clean Future Fund. Amounts in the fund may be used for the C2FC, stimulus payments (i.e., tax rebates) to individuals whose gross incomes do not exceed specified thresholds, decarbonization transition payments to the agricultural sector, and grants to help certain communities and workers transition to a low-carbon economy.

Revenues generated from the carbon fee must also be deposited into the America’s Clean Future Fund. Beginning in 2023, covered entities (e.g., entities that use, sell, or transfer fossil fuels) must pay a carbon fee of $25 per metric ton of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent. The fee increases by $10 each year, multiplied by the cost-of-living adjustment. The fees further increase if the entities miss cumulative greenhouse gas emission targets established by the bill. Refund payments may be provided for carbon capture, sequestration, and utilization.

Durbin joined WMBD’s Matt Sheehan for On the Record, which aired Friday morning 12/17/21. He said Biden’s Build Back Better bill appears to not be ready to pass by the New Year.

“This negotiation has gone on way too long,” Durbin said after calling on West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to come to the table. “I’m really disappointed that we haven’t come to a conclusion.”

The bill has a focus on the transition to clean energy, from wind turbines to solar panels and electric vehicles. It would also invest in countrywide projects, delivering investments to disadvantaged communities.

The failure to pass this by the New Year means the Child Tax Credit comes to an end after December.

If passed — the White House said parents won’t need to pay more than seven percent of their income on childcare. It also offers free, universal Pre-K for three and four-year-olds.

Hear more from Durbin in the video above, during Matt Sheehan’s On the Record segment, which aired at 5:40 a.m. Friday on WMBD This Morning.

Durbin also said canceling student loans seems “unlikely.” Hear more about what he’s suggesting here.

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