Floridians head to Capitol Hill to lobby for Climate legislation
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10/21/09 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

A group of Floridians concerned about climate change is in Washington, DC lobbying members of Congress to enact strong environmental legislation.

In a conference call with reporters today, Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said they will try to convince Florida’s U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and George LeMieux to support the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009.

Smith: "Human induced global warming is one of the most serious and urgent challenges of our time, negatively impacting our health, the economy, national security, and the environment. With more that 825 miles of coastline in jeopardy in Florida and over 1.9 trillion dollars in property investment, Florida is particularly vulnerable to coastal impact from global warming, such as sea level rise, stronger storms, and other issues. We have a moral imperative to take action immediately, and happily the solutions are already at hand, through our abundant availability of renewable energy, and energy efficiency technologies."

Rev. Warren Clark, associate director of Faiths United for Sustainable Energy, said that during their meeting Wednesday morning with Bradenton-area Representative Vern Buchanan, they tried to decide what the best first step is in controlling climate change.

Clark: "We were able to talk with him about the importance of doing energy efficiency particularly large scale, as is, included in, to some degree, within this legislation here. That is energy that is not used is the cleanest energy of all, and that is a low cost way at beginning to get at reducing our carbon emissions as quickly as possible and at the same time producing lots of jobs and perhaps involving a work force that could be pathways out of poverty."

The Vice Mayor of Sarasota and City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner says that about thirty leaders in his region voted unanimously to oppose ending the moratorium on drilling of oil and other climate changing fossil fuels off the Gulf coast of Florida. A report by Penn State University, Kirschner says, offered startling conclusions about how sea level rise from climate change will affect the state’s coast.

Kirschner: "The impacts of which, with a foot,to two feet,to three feet of rise, perhaps two feet which is generally accepted within the next three decades according to many folks in the scientific community. It basically takes a Category 1 hurricane that hits our area and turns that into a Cat 3 or Cat 4 storm. The magnitude and difference of which takes something that would be minor damage to complete areas of our communities throughout Sarasota county that become virtual tear downs by virtue of the fact that you have standing water for over 24 hours sitting in homes."

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Smith responded to critics of climate legislation who say the costs are too high. He contends that the price of inaction is even greater. The costs of reducing emissions “are minimal,” he said.

Smith: "The reason for this is that many of the technologies that would be used like energy efficiency actually reduce pollution but ultimately in the long run save consumers money and that cost savings ends up off setting some of the cost associated with increased cost on fossil fuels. The Congressional Budget Office and the EPA, two very reputable analytics that have been done by those institutions, have basically demonstrated that these costs will be minimal."

The activists were also joined by a bioenergy producer from Tampa who takes animal and plant waste and converts it to fuel, and by a Clearwater Rabbi who used the biblical story of the rainbow to insist that humans have a responsibility to take care of the natural world.

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