Future generations will judge us positively or harshly depending on our actions to mitigate climate change, stated Congressman Delaney (D-MD6) at a climate action workshop attended by more than 160 people Tuesday night at the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown.
“We all know that there are many important issues to wrestle with for our citizens,” Delaney said, “but the risk of climate change is a generational challenge, and the signs are unassailable. No country is better prepared to handle climate change than America. If the US gets it right, we can easily be a global leader on this issue,” Delaney added.
In April, Delaney introduced a climate change legislation to tax greenhouse gas emissions. Revenue from this tax will be partly used to fund benefits for coal workers.
Rear Admiral Jonathan White, Director of the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, described the climate change as a national security threat. Particularly, climate disruption in the Arctic and the coastlines could engender profound geopolitical stability, he said. In the United States, many naval bases are situated along coastal regions like Annapolis. With scientific evidence pointing to rising sea levels, the naval taskforce is operating under principles of risk management.
“We need better predictions and more strategies, but to do nothing is a mistake,” said White.
William Baker, president of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, explained that uncontained climate change could undo decades of work in stewardship that has brought back underwater flora and keystone species like oysters to Maryland’s natural treasure.
Rising temperatures have pushed out dissolved oxygen and recreated the dead zones in the bay, said Baker, slowly squeezing out wildlife like rockfish while breeding blooms of harmful bacteria. Moreover, escalating instances of extreme weather has severe consequences for the environment and society.
“The increase in frequency and intensity of storms has resulted in more run-off and wetland inundation,” Baker noted, which could at its worst trigger pollutions similar in magnitude as that observed in Lake Eerie last year when Toledo residents were forbidden from drinking tap water.
Yet, there is still time to snatch back victory, added Baker, “like my father said, the bay won’t die, if we protect it. If we don’t, the Bay will die, and ultimately so will we.”
Mark Kresowik, Corporate Accountability Representative from the Sierra Club, echoed Baker’s call for individual action. According to Kresowik, in a Sierra Club convention, more than 70 percent of the participants believed that phasing out coal and transitioning to alternative energy are indispensable to solving the climate puzzle. A trailblazer in this respect, Montgomery County was one of the first municipalities in the nation to debate a carbon tax, as Maryland has benefitted from its own green gas initiative. In fact, explained Kresowik, the design for Obama’s Clean Power Plan largely derived from Maryland’s blueprint.
Sadly, Maryland is no longer a national leader in promoting renewable energy by State Clean Energy Scorecards, explained Karla Raettig, Executive Director of Maryland League of Conservation Voters. Goals set forth by the Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act will sunset in a year without support from the legislative and Governor Hogan, explained Raetiig.
Having worked in Tulane when Katrina swept across New Orleans, Raettig shared a personal narrative of the panic students experienced when an unanticipated evacuation order dawned.
As capricious natural disasters like Katrina rise in number, Delaney reiterated the importance of full cost accountability. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, reparation efforts costed the federal government more than 90 billion dollars and left thousands displaced. Perceiving the implicit cost of disasters is key to fully evaluating climate change, he said.
After all, no one gets to sit on the bench, said Michelle Vigen, senior energy planner in the Montgomery County Department of Environment, adding that “climate change is a community issue and a personal issue.”
Currently, Montgomery County has set goals to reduce carbon emission reduce by 80 percent by 2030. Many county government facilities operate on 100 percent clean energy, and in June, a Green Bank, the first of its kind in the nation, was established by the county to encourage private investment in clean energy.
Indeed, bridging relationships across communities, especially the private sector, is at the core of a solution, said David Herring of NOAA. The energy industry has generated tens of thousands of jobs as environmental research is better preparing communities for climate resilience. “Taking actions does not hurt the economy. In fact, the reverse is true,” said Herring.
About the Author: Sunny Lee is a press correspondent at MoCoStudent.org. MoCo Student is a countywide press network of MCPS students formed in 2012 information written by youths to the wider Montgomery County student body. Germantown Pulse has partnered with MoCoStudent.org to supplement our coverage.
Caption: Panel participants in Congressman John K. Delaney’s Climate Action Workshop included; Rear Admiral Jonathan White, Director U.S. Navy Climate Change Task Force, David Herring, Director of Communication and Education; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), William C. Baker, President; Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Mark Kresowik, Sierra Club, Karla Raettig, Executive Director; Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and Michelle Vigen, Montgomery County Department of the Environment.