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  • How to Affect Climate Policy in 2017: A Guide from Senator Casey & Experts climate-action-senator-bob-casey Full view

    How to Affect Climate Policy in 2017: A Guide from Senator Casey & Experts

    PennEnvironment hosted a forum The Future of Climate Action in 2017: a discussion with Senator Bob Casey last evening, along with Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McConnell, Dr. Jerry Fagliano of the Dornslife School of Public Health, Drexel University and Adam Garber, Deputy director of PennEnvironment.

    “A lot that we talk about with climate makes economical sense. They save people money in their homes, save businesses money and create good jobs.” – Patrick McConnell

    Secretary McConnell talked about the importance of PA reducing methane and advancing renewable energy. But one of the things that they’ll have to do moving forward? “We need to do a better job engaging the public on these issues (to drive down emissions as a whole).”

    We are impacting the atmosphere in a way that is unprecedented in our experience.” – Jerry Fagliano

    Fagliano gave a lesson on climate change causes. We’re in a trend that carbon dioxides levels have exceeded levels way beyond average tracking from 800,000 years ago (measured by ice). We are now seeing concentrates of over 400 parts per million, over the 280 parts per million limit that scientists recommended. By 2100, scientists predict we’ll double to 800 parts per million.

    climate change emissions

    The effects of climate change aren’t simply sea levels rising – it has human health and additional risks. For example, increasing CO2 and rising temperatures can increase pollen, which can increase asthma and respiratory illness. Heat waves kill, like in 2003 when 65,000 people died in Western Europe or in 2010 when there were 55,000 deaths in Russia. Those more vulnerable to climate change include the elderly and infants, those with disabilities or illness, outside workers and urban populations, where temperatures tend to track hotter.

    “Too many problems we have in our society are based on old ways of thinking” – Adam Garber, PennEnvironment

    Adam Garber focused on many climate change problems, like how fracking industry lobbyists mislead the public about basic climate science. 1 in 10 women have enough mercury in their system to affect future children. Trump is threatening for the US to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Plus, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS) Act requires Congress to approve new health or safety (i.e. climate) regulation within 70 days or kill the bill.

    But there’s room to be optimistic. For one, clean energy is getting less expensive. The cost of solar panels has fallen 60% in over the past 6 years! PA has three potential solutions. Two include renewable energy: increasing offshore wind turbines in Erie, PA; and solar on every home, business and school. One example is PACE financing programs, which helps businesses by including solar on property tax assessment (over time) rather than an upfront cost. And last, increasing energy efficiency, like one PA initiative that saved customers $3 for every $1 spent.

    “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” – Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution

    Bob Casey (delayed due to Amtrak travel from DC, even admitting he changed into a suit on the train), focused on the current political climate in Washington, Trump’s cabinet picks and a strategy for the (non-majority) Senate Dems to monitor political action.

    Casey will vote no on Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, who “should never be in charge, forget the EPA, he should never be in charge of any environmental organization of any kind.” Pruitt sides with the fossil fuel industry, even taking a letter drafted by Oklahoma gas and oil company lawyers and replicated it as Oklahoma’s state view. Although most of the Trump’s cabinet appointees will be confirmed based on the numbers, legislators like Casey can hold them accountable by “focusing on the truth” and spending the full 30 hours during confirmation hearings to ask questions.

    Casey made the direct correlation of how climate change affects our nation. “We can’t have a growing economy in America if our coastal areas are flooded.” Beyond the US, Casey mentioned how climate change will impact child mortality in developing countries and safety internationally.

    So what do we do now as constituents? Regardless of criticisms, those protests don’t seem to be for nothing. Activism is showing that there’s a new cross-pollination of people showing up for other issues. Also, the panelists urged supporting and paying for your news, especially as climate change language is being removed from government websites. As Casey said, “Never has it been more important to be engaged and pick up the torch in this fight.”

    You can watch the complete recast on PennEnvironment’s Facebook page.

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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