“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Four Term US Senator, New York.
Today, with search engines that allow us to find “proof” for whatever we believe, too many people seem to feel that they are entitled to their “own facts” when it comes to climate change. In the United States of America, I would hope that our Congressmen and Congresswomen, could, if they choose, have the authority and the ability to call on the best and the brightest when it comes to the most recent, peer reviewed, up to date scientific data on any subject for which they are required to vote, set policies and take decisions. With 97% agreement amongst climate scientists on the causes and state of our climate, the need to address climate change would certainly seem to be one area that is non-partisan and where we would all find agreement, the urgency and the ability to work together. Sadly I was proven “dead” wrong on this one.
Let me start from the beginning….
Congressman Garrett, representative of the 5th District of New Jersey, is my Congressman. He is often quoted as being one of the more then 100 Congressmen or women who disagree with the fact that climate change is real, that it’s caused largely by human activities, and that it poses significant risks for our health, our future and our now. While I need to fact check this point, I am pretty sure that very few if any of our Congressmen or women are climate scientists.
While I didn’t get to speak directly to my Congressman on climate change, his District Director, Mr. Pettet, did give me and a fellow constituent 40 minute of his time recently where he confirmed that he and the Congressman were of the same opinion when it came to climate change. I was told very clearly, that they both question whether human actions contributed to climate change and that they are not convinced that climate change actually posed a risk to humans.Through my work over the past 7 years on climate change, through reviewing and studying peer reviewed data, and through the opportunities I have had to meet, hear from, and speak to world renowned climate scientists, business, faith and community leaders, I am convinced that climate change is the greatest threat that we as a species have ever faced. As our ClimateMama community knows, my full time job is to educate and empower others to speak up on climate change and to work towards, in whatever way makes the most sense for each of us, creating a more just, sustainable and livable world.
In my view, our elected leaders who choose to disregard the scientific data on climate change and who put up roadblocks towards working on climate solutions, pose a serious and real threat to the health and welfare of my children and their future, and are therefore not effectively fulfilling their jobs as our representatives in Washington, in our statehouses or our town halls.Below, if you are interested, you will find the full statement that I delivered at the request of Organizing for Action outside of Congressman Garret’s Office on February 20th, 2014. The Congressman’s District Director did tell me that he would send me studies that the Congressman’s legislative staff in Washington have collected which raise doubt with the fact that 97% of climate scientists tell us climate change is real, man made and dangerous. I am waiting on this information. The District Director seemed to take strong issue with the 97% statistic; and this seemed to be a stumbling block for him, from the beginning to the end of our conversation.
As we spoke, in the back of my mind I kept thinking that I must be missing something. Did it really mattered if the percentage of climate scientists whose work showed that climate change was real, human caused and happening now was: 97%, 90%, 85% or “just” 50%. Was it worth it for me to restate the fact that every major national academy of science around the world, including ours in the USA, has confirmed that human caused climate change is real and poses an increasing threat to all of us. Did the Congressman and his staff assume that there was a conspiracy among scientists; that hardworking and committed researchers who dedicated their lives to the study of science had hatched some diabolical plot to convince us of something that wasn’t true? Had Mr. Pettet read the studies prepared for and on behalf of the US Department of Defense that state that climate change is a serious and significant threat to the security of the United States? Sadly to me, in this instance, it seemed that these facts wouldn’t matter.
I asked him if he had heard of the precautionary principle which states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action.
Below is my statement, read it when and if you have time. I don’t doubt that my Congressman is a caring individual, who by dedicating a good portion of his life to public service, has strong beliefs for which he stands by. But when I see how his beliefs are translated, through his voting record and policy decisions, my summation is that MY Congressman’s actions are harmful and detrimental to my children’s future, and that instead of moving us forward on solutions he is setting us back.My takeaway from my meeting was a renewed resolve that we must not have climate deniers in elected office. Neither our planet, our children nor our future has the luxury nor the time to waste on debating the facts. We need action, policies and a plan that purposely and deliberately leads us to a renewable and sustainable future. This is something I believe and something that I will fight for.
My children can now and in the future look me in the eye and I can look back without blinking, knowing that I did everything in my power to fight for a livable future for them. I am not convinced that someone who denies the reality of climate change, can do the same.
February 20th, 2014
Office of Representative Garrett, Glen Rock NJ
Statement by Harriet Shugarman
Executive Director, ClimateMama
Founding Mother, The Mothers Project of New Jersey
I am here today as a Bergen county resident, a taxpayer, and a voter and most important of all, as the mother of two children who I am raising in Bergen County. I am also here representing ClimateMama and The Mothers Project of New Jersey, whose combined NJ members number in the thousands.
Climate change must not be allowed to continue to be the political hot potato and divisive issue that it has become. Rather, this immense challenge that we face must become THE unifying OPPORTUNITY that we all take on, together. We need the political will to put in place strong policies to ensure a sustainable future and now for our children and us. How our elected officials vote on issues that create the building blocks for a sustainable future, are critical. This, therefore is one of the main reasons that I see, that we need to put a spotlight on Congressman Garrett voting record and raise questions and demand answers.
Today, I want to draw attention to Congressman Garrett’s voting record, which is part of a voting pattern that is certainly consistent, over many years. I strongly believe that, as shown by Congressman Garrett’s voting history, he is continually and with prejudice, putting the health and welfare of my children and all of the children of our state, at risk. These days in particular, it seems to me that too many people choose to vote along party lines when electing their representatives, and they then neglect to follow up and look at what their elected officials are then doing “on their behalf” once they are elected. I think that if people took a close look at what Congressman Garret is doing, and at his voting record in particular, they would be very surprised.
The League of Conservation voters has been my guide in this regard. Their just released 2013 Voting scorecard, which is based on factual information that presents the voting records of our nationally elected representatives on bills and laws that have an environmental component. This is where I have taken the information that follows.
As an overall average, Congressman Garrett’s historical record scores an unimpressive 11% and for his 2013 voting record, an equally unimpressive 10%. In contrast, the lifetime average score for our current NJ Republican Congressmen, (not including Rep. Garret in this average) is 43% which is same as the 2013 average score for all of our House of Representative members. For Democratic Congressmen in our state, the average score is 92.1% Given our time constraints, today I would like to share just a small sampling of bills from 2013 and how Congressman Garrett voted on them. I strongly believe that, for my children’s health and their future, we need to have a Congressman representing our district that scores better then 11%.1. Limiting Sandy Response Efforts. Congressman Garret was 1 of 4 NJ Congressmen to vote to LIMIT Sandy Response Efforts. As background:
This would prohibit federal agencies from acquiring open spaces and natural features that could act as a buffer zone to lessen flooding, reduce wind intensity, and protect communities from future storms. It would also prevent the government from taking certain actions to restore damaged national parks, such as acquiring adjacent lands to create a new trailhead or parking lot if the previous access point was destroyed.
2. Repairing the McKinney national wildlife refuge in CT. Congressman Garret was the ONLY NJ Congressmen to vote against repairing the McKinney national wildlife refuge in CT. As background:
The McKinney refuge, which is comprised of nearly a dozen islands and onshore sites stretched across 70 miles of Connecticut’s coast- line, provides important resting, feeding, and nesting habitat for numerous species of migratory birds. During Hurricane Sandy, the McKinney refuge sustained severe damage, including coastal erosion, and the refuge’s Outer Island research station suffered a damaged dock, seawall, and education building.
3. Supporting Offshore Drilling. Congressman Garrett was the ONLY NJ Congressman to vote in favor of offshore Drilling. As background:
The Off- shore Energy and Jobs Act, which would expand offshore drilling off the coasts of South Carolina, Virginia, California, and in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. This legislation would put many coastal communities at risk of an oil spill at a time when total U.S. oil production from both onshore and offshore drilling has reached its highest level in 20 years, and the oil industry already holds drilling rights to more than 30 mil- lion acres offshore on which it is not producing oil. The bill also increases the risks from offshore drilling by further weakening an environmental review process that the National Oil Spill Commission found was already grossly inadequate.
4. Limiting Water Pollution. Congressman Garret was one of ONLY TWO NJ Congressmen to vote against this move to limit water Pollution from Mountaintop Removal. As background:
The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014, would remove a dirty water policy rider from the bill that undermines the Clean Water Act by preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from updating the definition of “fill material.” By freezing in place an outdated definition of fill material, the rider would allow mining companies to continue polluting mountain streams with toxic waste from mountaintop removal activities
5. Congressman Garret voted along party lines on the Energy and Water Development act, which is seen by many as an assault on clean energy & clean water As background.
Our own NJ Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) is a sponsor of this bill, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014. The bill would continue to subsidize fossil fuels while cutting funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency and would threaten America’s streams and wetlands by undermining the Clean Water Act. The bill would cut funding for renewable energy projects and research at the Department of Energy by 50 percent, including a $220 million cut to the Office of Science.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, and the extreme weather we are experiences across our country, including the incredible above average snow fall amounts we have been experiencing since the beginning of January here in North Jersey, we have no room in Congress for representatives that deny or question the scientific reality of human caused climate change. I strongly believe that all our elected officials, regardless of political party, need to be working together on ensuring that we in NJ and across our country are creating opportunities and easing the way to build resiliency and protection for all of us. Our elected officials need to be voting to put in place policies that prevent and mitigate the causes of climate change, and help build up our communities in the face of what is to come.
In the light of our rapidly changing climate and the current and future impacts of climate change facing us, I feel strongly that Congressman Garrett’s policies and beliefs on climate change stand as roadblocks to a sustainable future for our children, our state, our economy and our country.