Tackle Climate Change, Gov. Wolf It's the Biggest Problem We Face and States Are Taking It on, Writes Pottstown Author Thomas Hylton

By Hylton, Thomas | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), November 9, 2014 | Go to article overview

Tackle Climate Change, Gov. Wolf It's the Biggest Problem We Face and States Are Taking It on, Writes Pottstown Author Thomas Hylton


Hylton, Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


Gov.-elect Tom Wolf ran a campaign focused on education funding, a severance tax on natural gas and revising personal income tax rates. But the really big issue - global warming - was seldom mentioned on the campaign trail. It may not have voter appeal, but climate change should be a top priority.

Climate scientists worldwide warn that the Earth is warming with disastrous, almost inconceivable changes to come. Coastal cities underwater. Frequent, violent storms. Climate refugees in the tens of millions. Crop failures. Species extinction.

Only a massive exchange of nuclear weapons has a similar potential to send us all back to the Stone Age. But atomic warfare would require a series of profound miscalculations. Climate change requires only that we keep doing what we've been doing for decades.

Of course, global warming is best addressed at a national and international level. But right now the political world is in denial, and Congress is paralyzed by posturing and partisanship. The states must take the lead, and many, like California and Washington, are doing so with policies such as phasing out the use of coal-fired power plants and promoting electric cars.

Fortunately, unlike our incumbent governor, Tom Wolf recognizes that climate change requires vigorous action. He has already pledged that Pennsylvania will join New York, Maryland, Delaware and New England states in a regional cap-and-trade consortium for the largest greenhouse gas-emitting industries. That's a big step forward.

Mr. Wolf's position papers are brimming with other fine ideas, such as promoting clean energy sources, retrofitting buildings for maximum energy efficiency and requiring state-owned or leased buildings to meet green-building standards. He promises to generate a Climate Change Action Plan, already required by law for the year 2015, with meaningful emission-reduction targets and policies to meet them.

But the real challenge is changing the culture. Climate scientists tell us Americans will need to reduce their carbon footprint by about 85 percent over the next generation if the worst effects of global warming are to be avoided. That's a stupendous change, but it doesn't have to mean misery and deprivation.

Indeed, carbon-free lifestyles can make us all healthier and better off. But we'll need a major adjustment in our thinking and our lifestyles: less driving and more walking, smaller living and working spaces, and the zealous pursuit of conservation and renewable resources.

Unlike his political rivals, Tom Wolf doesn't have a long history of slogging through the political trenches. …

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