John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Earth Day

Posted on April 22, 2016
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The nation’s first environmentalist President was Teddy Roosevelt.

In case you don’t remember, he was a Republican.

The legislation that created the Environmental Protection Agency was signed into law by Richard Nixon.

We don’t like to claim him, but he too was a Republican.

The Clean Air Act was first signed into law by Nixon and George H.W. Bush signed an updated version in 1990.

He was also a Republican.

The first six letters of conservative is conserv.  You put an e at the end of those letters and you kind of get the whole point of Earth Day, which is to conserve the planet we all live on.

Conserve means to protect from harm or destruction.

Conservatives like to think that they are trying to preserve our nation’s values, and I think on many things, they are fighting the good fight.

But over the last 30 years or so, they have fallen down on the job for protecting the environment.

There are two economic models that have destroyed the environment over the last 150 years.  The first was unbridled capitalism that occurred during the Industrial Revolution and in the years following.

The second was Communism that suffused the Soviet Union and China.

We are a cleaner country than we once were.  We have made tremendous strides on things like clean water and clean air.

We did that by providing a better balance between economic growth and government regulation.

Some would argue that the EPA has gone too far in regulating the business community, especially when it comes to emissions.  Others would argue that the EPA hasn’t gone far enough.

The long-hand of the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t stretch beyond America’s borders and in the next fifty years, the biggest challenge to environmental protection will come in regulating emissions in emerging economies, especially China and India.

We should be clear that managing those emissions is an important national priority.  And we should also make it clear that we are going to start better managing ours.

The climate is changing.  Now some Americans might believe that such a change is good for them.  In fact, the Washington Post did a survey and they found that the vast majority of voters actually are fine with the milder winters that are associated with global warming.  Here’s how they explained it:
Global warming has mostly made the weather more pleasant for Americans over the last 40 years, which may explain why much of the public doesn’t rank climate change as big a threat as do scientists and the rest of the world, a new study suggests.

But that perceived benefit of global warming — mostly milder winters — will soon be outweighed by more oppressive summer heat, according to a study in the journal Nature that’s dividing the scientific community. “Americans are getting the wrong signal from year-round weather about whether they should be concerned about climate change,” said study lead author Patrick Egan, a public policy professor at New York University. “They’re getting the good parts and haven’t had to pay the price of the bad part.

But there are plenty of signs that the changing climate is leaving a lasting mark.  Look at the flooding that hit Houston over the last couple of days, and you get to see the dark side of global warming.  Go to Miami, where consistent flooding is wreaking havoc throughout the city.  I wouldn’t get too comfortable living in places like New Orleans or Charleston, South Carolina either.

Beyond our borders, there are other troubling signs. Once again, the Post reports:
The conclusions are in from a series of scientific surveys of the Great Barrier Reef bleaching event — an environmental assault on the largest coral ecosystem on Earth — and scientists aren’t holding back about how devastating they find them.

Australia’s National Coral Bleaching Task Force has surveyed 911 coral reefs by air, and found at least some bleaching on 93 percent of them. The amount of damage varies from severe to light, but the bleaching was the worst in the reef’s remote northern sector — where virtually no reefs escaped it.“Between 60 and 100 percent of corals are severely bleached on 316 reefs, nearly all in the northern half of the Reef,” Prof. Terry Hughes, head of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said in a statement to the news media. He led the research. Severe bleaching means that corals could die, depending on how long they are subject to these conditions. The scientists also reported that based on diving surveys of the northern reef, they already are seeing nearly 50 percent coral death.

What are the ramifications of having so much coral die so far away from our shores?  I am no scientist, but I venture to guess it will have profoundly bad ramifications for the entire planet.

In another story, CNN reported that Greenland is on track to become green again.  That might sound fun for those who are looking for new vacations destinations, but for those who live in coastal areas, it’s really bad news:
Greenland's massive ice sheet has started its annual summer melt earlier than ever before, according to stunned scientists who said they had to recheck their calculations before releasing the results.

Nearly 12% of Greenland's nearly 656,000 square miles of ice saw some melting this week, the earliest date on record for the start of the summer melt season, according to scientists with the Danish Meteorological Institute.  The previous earliest dates were all weeks later, in May, according to Denmark's polar research site, Polar Portal.  "We had to check that our models were still working properly," DMI climate scientist Peter Langen said.

When those ice sheets fall into the Atlantic, they raise sea levels for everybody else.  And it also destabilized the environment, leading to more tornadoes and more floods.

Now, I know that it is fashionable among the conservative intelligentsia to deny that climate change is occurring or that we can do anything about it, but the fact is that assertion is flat out wrong.

Climate change is happening and we can do something about it.  In fact, we have the technological edge to take the global lead in cutting our emissions and help to save the planet (and oh, by the way, help our economy at the same time).

Conservatives like to denigrate Earth Day, but we should stop mocking it and start doing something to protect the planet.  That’s what conserve means in the first place.