As President Obama announced a national plan to tackle dangerous looming climate change, two Sunbury residents were sitting in wood-paneled offices on Capitol Hill, lobbying legislators for a different, free-market, pro-business solution to both the climate crisis and the current health problems associated with fossil fuels.
I teach writing at Susquehanna University, while my partner and fellow lobbyist, Peterson Toscano, is a Bible scholar. However, neither of us wore our professional hats at the Citizens Climate Lobby international conference, in Washington, D.C.
Rather, we were there as concerned Valley residents and property owners.
Human-caused climate change is real. What we've seen so far -- earlier Valley springs, more frequent floods, hurricanes like Sandy devastating our neighbors -- are only the tiniest beginnings. The enormous size of the Earth's oceans and ice caps provide climate inertia, which can easily fool us. But for an indication of where we're headed, CO2 concentrations recently passed the 400 parts per million mark, a level not seen for millions of years.
The government's Global Change Research Program and the Environmental Protection Agency provide detailed information on regional impacts, and our local Susquehanna Valley picture deeply troubles both of us.
Floods like the 2011 one that devastated Bloomsburg, Danville, and Shamokin Dam stand to become both far more frequent and much more intense. The Sunbury flood wall will be tested. Without emissions reductions, by 2040 or so our local climate is projected to resemble that of the southern Virginia/North Carolina region today, which will affect local farmers. Our state's ski industry is projected soon be a thing of the past.
But future catastrophes aren't the only serious problems associated with fossil fuels. Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to study the hidden costs of oil and coal pollution. In October 2009, the Academy estimated these costs at $120 billion dollars a year, chiefly from damage to people's lungs, from tiny soot particles.