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My Turn: Voters must assess climate change choices

Last modified: 10/12/2014 12:59:19 AM
Concern about the effects of climate change is galvanizing the American public to take action.

I was proud to join nearly 400,000 citizens from all corners of the nation, including a large group of Granite Staters, who recently marched through the streets of New York City to demand that our political leaders respond to this global challenge. The largest demonstration of its kind ever held, the march provides a strong foundation for efforts to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the nation’s single most significant contributor to climate change.

Climate change is already taking its toll on New Hampshire. Rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, and the city of Portsmouth is already hard at work on developing adaptation strategies. Warming temperatures are causing negative effects on the health of our wildlife, from moose to fish to birds. Our maple sugaring and ski industries are projected to suffer in future years if no action is taken to reduce carbon emissions. The public health effects of carbon pollution are becoming more apparent with respiratory diseases and asthma attacks expected to increase as a result of dirty air and increased temperatures. The impact of these changes on New Hampshire’s economy are significant. While some argue that the economic cost of taking action is too much to bear in a fragile recovery, the cost of inaction is greater and will increase these threats.

Amid the dire and growing effects of climate change, the good news is that there are workable solutions that will both reduce the threat and benefit the economy.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan earlier this year, providing a flexible strategy for states to meet a national standard to reduce power plant carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Power plants account for 40 percent of carbon pollution in the United States, and while there are limits on how much mercury, arsenic and other pollutants can be dumped into the atmosphere, there are no national limits on carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan will help protect us from the health and economic impacts of climate change.

The Clean Power Plan will also promote economic growth, building upon proven strategies that are already helping to grow the economy and reduce carbon pollution at the same time. New Hampshire, along with its New England and northeast neighbors, is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has injected more than $1.6 billion into the regional economy, providing funds for energy conservation projects and the development of alternative sources of clean energy production.

RGGI has also saved consumers more than $1.1 billion in their electric bills in the first three years of the program’s operation. Commonsense solutions such as RGGI and the Clean Power Plan are strongly supported by voters and elected officials of all political stripes.

New Hampshire voters will go to the polls a few weeks from now, and on climate, environmental, and energy issues our choices are clear, particularly in the contest between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown.

Shaheen has, over a period of many years, consistently and clearly demonstrated her strong commitment to the environmental values that New Hampshire holds dear, from championing bipartisan energy efficiency legislation with Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, to her leadership with the Senate Climate Action Task Force, to her support for the EPA’s Clean Power plan.

In contrast, Brown is a captive of the special interests that have worked to undermine sensible approaches to address climate change, and he has shifted his positions on energy and climate issues depending on what state he seeks to represent. As a state senator from Massachusetts, Brown supported the Bay State joining RGGI, but now says he regrets that vote.

While Brown had a relatively strong record on environmental issues when serving in the state legislature, during his brief tenure as a U.S. senator he voted against eliminating billions of dollars in subsidies for oil companies and against increasing fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

During this year’s campaign, Brown has retreated from his previously held position that human activities have a hand in climate change.

Asked during a Republican candidates’ debate in August whether he “believed that the theory that man-made climate change has been scientifically proven,” he replied “no.”

New Hampshire voters are practical, demonstrating time and again that they are far more likely to support leaders that approach our challenges, whatever they may be, with clarity of thought and a sincere understanding of Granite State values.

On climate, energy, and environmental issues, Shaheen is that leader, having earned our support by not only her words but also by her actions.

(Rob Werner is the New Hampshire state director of the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund and a Concord city councilor.)


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