Boyle Addresses Climate Change at Lower Moreland Town Hall
LOWER MORELAND Calling climate change a frightening reality, U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-13, called on attendees of a Wednesday night town hall meeting in Huntington Valley to stay informed and stay involved to fight an environmental crisis that’s impacting lives both at home and abroad.
“Climate change is not a hoax. It is a reality,” Boyle said. “This is a problem that is happening right now.”
Representing the state’s 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, Boyle, a Democrat, took questions from residents specific to the debate over climate change at the Huntingdon Valley Library. The event also gave the congressman a chance to address how the federal government under the new Trump administration has responded to the issue.
Boyle, who was elected to Congress in 2014 and who sits on the U.S. House’s bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, said the first three months of Donald Trump’s presidency have not been easy when it comes to protecting the Obama administration’s strides to combat climate change.
“There have been more votes to repeal and reverse environmental regulations than in any of realm of policy [in the new administration],” Boyle said.
He pointed to looming cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget and threats to separate from the multi-nation climate accord known as the Paris Agreement as darkening clouds ahead.
Boyle was direct in his criticism of the Republican leadership in Washington, D.C., whom he described as “staunchly denialistic” when it comes to climate change and recognizing the severity of the problem.
Adam Garber, deputy director for PennEnvironment, a state environmental advocacy group that helped coordinate Wednesday’s town hall, said any additional efforts by the federal government to roll back environmental initiatives could have far-reaching negative impacts.
“The seas will rise, the air quality is going to get worse and the planet will warm unless we take action,” Garber warned. “In Pennsylvania, we are suffering the consequences of climate change. One in four days it is unhealthy to breathe the air in Greater Philadelphia.
“But the good news is, we can do something about it,” he said, adding regular town hall meetings provide an opportunity to educate residents and encourage them to pressure their legislators to tackle the issue of climate change.
Boyle said there is a “well-funded effort” by various political groups and their media supporters to confuse people on the issue of climate change and deny the science behind the problem. It is for this reason that the work of educating people needs to be done at the local level, with informed residents talking to other residents, he said.
“Studies have shown that people listen to people they can trust. Those conversations are far more persuasive,” Boyle said.
“You are the influencers,” he told the crowd. “You have a great ability to influence other people — more than you realize.”
During the forum, some members of the audience expressed frustration at the federal government and its inability to acknowledge climate change and resist the influence and financial lobby of industries like coal, which have the most to lose from stronger clean initiatives.
“I feel so damned powerless against this whole corrupt system of government,” Bustleton resident Chuck McKibbon said. “How can I fight someone receiving millions of dollars to support coal and all these other dirty industries?”
The congressman responded that it’s important for impassioned citizens not to become so frustrated that they give up the fight. While he acknowledged that the two-party system of government can present a roadblock to common-sense environmental initiatives, he said there are more peripheral accomplishments that can be made toward that goal while still working within the system. One of those accomplishments, he said, would be campaign finance reform.
In January, Boyle introduced a bipartisan bill that would prevent lawmakers from seeking campaign contributions, thus ending the influence of money in politics and accountability to those who help fund their campaigns.
Boyle said, given the political climate in Washington right now, he doesn’t see propositions like carbon fee and dividend legislation, which is supported by advocacy groups like the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, or a carbon tax as realistic accomplishments in the near term. A carbon fee and dividend system, for example, would impose a fee on carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. The money collected from the fee would be returned to households as a regular monthly dividend. According to the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, the fee system would reduce carbon emissions in 20 years to 50 percent of 1990 levels.
Boyle said his more immediate goals are to protect the environmental gains made under the Obama administration, ensure continued participation in the Paris Agreement and work with Congress on initiatives that present the best chances of compromise, which include transportation and infrastructure improvements such as those to roads, bridges, mass transit and the country’s water system.
“I want to make progress on things that are achievable,” the congressman said.
Boyle said climate change is not an inherent “left-or-right” issue. He said there are conservative parties in other parts of the world — including dictatorial governments like China — that recognize the necessity to curb pollution and control climate damage. He said climate denial appears to be unique to the United States.
“The rest of the world doesn’t see it as a hoax as we do,” the congressman said. “Increasingly, we will join the rest of the world in seeing it for what it is. Just not yet.”