My Turn: Healthy planet, healthy economy

For the Monitor
Published: 6/10/2017 12:09:55 AM

Climate change is something we’re all in together. It doesn’t matter whether we live in the United States, China, India or some other polluting industrialized nation, we’re all creating greenhouse gas emissions, and these emissions are affecting every country on the planet.

The Paris agreement may not be perfect – have you ever seen anything that is? – but it’s a first step, and a big one. One hundred and seventy five countries signed on.

It used to be that people who opposed the idea of an accord on climate change disputed the science of global warming. They cited statistics that charted various warming and cooling trends throughout the history of recorded meteorology. Why do we need to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius? That seems a pretty small increase. Haven’t natural climate cycles fluctuated by 2 degrees in the past? But as we saw more and more horrifying pictures of glaciers plunging into the ocean and enormous tornados tearing up our heartland, many of us ceased to doubt the scientific evidence.

But resistance to the Paris agreement has persisted both from President Donald Trump and the Congress, and from some state houses.

It was seen that there needed to be new arguments to oppose it, and so there was a shift from denying climate change to a push back at what the accord would do to our country. The thinking has become: The United States is already a leader in carbon reduction and the accord would put us at a severe economic disadvantage in relation to other countries through “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

What this seems to mean in actuality is a return to fossil fuels: coal from Appalachia, tar sands oil via the XL Pipeline, fracked natural gas from the Southwest to the Northeast. All this despite new sustainable energy technologies that are increasingly affordable. Those who believe in the probability of irreparable climate change are working hard to make fossil fuels obsolete.

We in New Hampshire have had experience with energy companies and the potential damage they can cause. The southern tier of the state was threatened by Kinder Morgan’s pipeline project from the Marcellus fracking fields in Pennsylvania to an export depot in Dracut, Mass. We have been granted a reprieve by the drop in demand and price of oil and natural gas, but with the president’s green light we need to be vigilant once again. And Northern Pass remains an ongoing fight for a huge north-south swath of the state.

The governors of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont have joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, whose aim is to reduce emissions by 26 percent of the 2005 levels and meet the targets set by the Clean Power Plan. New Hampshire’s governor has refused to join the alliance.

Gov. Chris Sununu believes it’s not his job to look closely at the Paris accord and its economic impacts. It would seem he prefers to allow others to make his decisions. He claims that New Hampshire has a “long and proud tradition of responsible environmental stewardship,” yet he has also voiced support in the past for withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He can’t have it both ways.

Thinking as Gov. Sununu does puts us all at risk. There are technologies in existence and more being developed that will allow clean and renewable energy to increase production, create new factories and new jobs, and maintain good wages. Clinging to fossil fuels is an economically shortsighted policy. It is a catastrophic environmental policy.

The governor is favoring a small core of old-fashioned business leaders while ignoring the much larger constituency of Granite Staters and all Americans. He must understand that only a healthy planet can ultimately ensure a strong and healthy economy. He needs to understand the risk he’s taking. He needs to understand that we’re all in this together.

(Katharine Gregg lives in Mason.)

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