ENVIRONMENT

Pallone promises to hit the ground running with climate change hearings next session

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

A battle is brewing over environmental policy. In the face of multiple scientific studies concluding climate change is a growing threat, the Trump administration is expanding the use of fossil fuels while the state works to cap them. Next month, a New Jersey congressmember will assume the power seat over environmental policy in Washington. Correspondent Leah Mishkin reports on the Peril and Promise: The Challenge of Climate Change.

New Jersey environmental leaders sat down with Rep. Frank Pallone to highlight the need to address climate change.

“If we can show what’s happening, then maybe we can reverse it,” Pallone said.

Last month, the fourth National Climate Assessment was released. One of the co-authors, Tony MacDonald, says the science seems to be clear that there are significant issues that could impact our area. According to the assessment, about half of the commercial fish species will be highly vulnerable by 2050.

“If the oceans get warmer, and there seems to be clear indications that that is going to happen, you might have fish migrating further north, so the areas where they live. That will impact our fisherman, so we really think that there do seem to be definite signs that the impacts of climate change — particularly in the warming of the seas, warming of the air and the overall temperature,” said MacDonald, who is also director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University.

And that may have an impact on the state’s tourism industry.

“As well as the impacts on coastal storms that are going to be predicted to come more frequently and more intensely with more rain,” MacDonald said.

Stockton University Coastal Research Center’s Kim McKenna says her organization works with communities that are seeing impacts of sea level rise.

“This is real information and this is what’s happening. Let’s get together and plan together what we can do,” McKenna said.

Pallone hopes one of the first orders of business in Congress will be a federal infrastructure bill. He says that can be the bipartisan vehicle for addressing a lot of the issues that may arise due to climate change.

“For example, energy efficiency, upgrading the electricity grid, trying to encourage and incentivize electric vehicles — things that could be done under the infrastructure umbrella that would help reduce greenhouse gases,” he said.

Pallone is on track to become chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the new Congress, and he says they’re going to have hearings right from the start.

“One of the things we want to do is to find out to what extent and how the Trump administration has been tearing down a lot of the initiatives that would help us with reducing greenhouse gases,” Pallone said.

He pointed to the recent Paris Climate deal reached in Poland last weekend as a sign of hope. Close to 200 countries, including the United States, agreed to keep the same standards on how to measure emissions until more talks in 2020.

Lead funding for Peril and Promise is provided by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana T. Vagelos. Major support is provided by Marc Haas Foundation and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim, III.