By Peter Barnes
Last week, I watched as President Obama laid out his plan to stem therapid effects of climate change.
While I listened to the President, I couldn't help but to be reminded of Keep America Beautiful's "Crying Indian" advertisement in the 1970's. As Iron Eyes Cody shed a tear after seeing all the damage caused by litterbugs, the narrator said, "People start pollution. People can stop it." It was true then and it certainly is true now.
Scientists began to recognize the dangers of burning fossil fuels over 60 years ago, yet our elected officials still question these findings or obfuscate the actual subject. The fact that during 12 of the last 15 years, Earth has had record high temperatures does not mean anything to climate change deniers.
As we can see right here in New Jersey, the New York Harbor is a foot higher than it was when our grandparents and great-grandparents came through Ellis Island. Even more concerning is that last month, parts of Alaska had 90 degree temperatures, which is obviously contributing to the melting of polar ice caps. However, the most troubling of all is that Rolling Stone magazine is predicting that Miami will be the"American Atlantis" within the next 85 years. Despite all of this, we still have people that believe global warming is a figment of "tree-huggers" imaginations.
The sad part is that we caused all of this to happen by ignoring warning signs. If we continue this trend the Earth will continue warming and at some point it will be too late to adequately reverse the effects. Climate change has real world consequences, whether lack of clean water, higher food prices, wild fires, massive floods, super storms or simply clean air to breathe.
Politicians such as Gov. Christie and all too many members of the Republican Party like to either make up their own facts or ignore recognized experts. Gov. Christie pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a 10-state program to reduce greenhouse emissions. His reason was that the expense associated with the program will hurt business.
The Governor and most of the Republicans in the Legislature think that promoting clean energy hurts jobs. This simply is not true; it will create new "green" jobs. These same tactics have been used every time government attempts to regulate the business community. Businesses did not flee the United States when child labor laws were passed in the early 20th century, or when national minimum wage laws were introduced in the 1930's.
And not surprisingly businesses were not destroyed when the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were adopted. There is absolutely no reason to believe efforts to reduce our carbon footprint will result in massive job loss, in fact, it should create job growth by developing new technologies. We are a nation that does not shrug a challenge or responsibilities. Not allowing massive polluters to destroy the only planet we have is both a challenge and our responsibility.
Assemblyman Barnes is a Democrat who represents the 18th Legislative District in Middlesex County. He is chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
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