Climate change real, cost of doing nothing 'enormous,' Foster warns
Gobal climate change is the "most serious long-term problem this country will face," but until legislators begin to believe and act, the only option available is to raise public awareness and urge public pressure, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster said Saturday.
Foster, joined by WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling; Doug Sisterson, a research meteorologist who works at Argonne National Laboratory; and Mary Gade, president of the Chicago-based Gade Environmental Group, gathered at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora to discuss the issue in front of an audience of more than 300 people.
"Our average global temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, and while that may not seem like much, the cost of these changes has already been enormous," said Foster, D-Naperville, who worked as a scientist before being elected to Congress. "The cost to act now is nothing compared to the millions of dollars we're going to have to spend in the future if we do nothing."
"Especially young voters need to understand how important this is as they are the ones who are most likely to be affected, given this is their future," he added.
Skilling, an Aurora native and 1970 graduate of West Aurora High School, said the issue is not a "hoax," as some believe.
"I'm outraged when I hear that, and if you look at the issue, you can see what's going on," Skilling said. "I've been studying weather for about a half a century, and I didn't come to these conclusions quickly. There are these huge domes of air above the arctic that are increasingly warmer, and the sea ice and the oceans are changing."
"And the tax effects of climate change are larger," he added. "We spent $200 billion in weather-related incidents in this country since 1980, and this year, we've had nine floods."
Gade said many feel global warming is something happening far away, but there is proof right here in Illinois.
"For the farmers, there are more wet springs followed by drought and insects," she said. "Fishermen in Lake Michigan aren't able to catch as many, as the fish have moved out farther to the cooler waters. There is flooding. To me, time is the issue because this is real, and it's happening now."
Sisterson attempted to localize the issue by explaining events that have happened at his own home.
"Back in 1986, my wife and I built a house in Homer Glen, and we wanted to landscape it with all native species," Sisterson said. "Because of the emerald ash borer, we've had to cut down five trees, and the increased blight since then has also affected our Austrian pine. There are other trees with fungus developing on their leaves. Clearly, the native species aren't surviving anymore."
Those in the audience at the two-hour event expressed similar concerns, particularly regarding the future and the fact that President-elect Donald Trump has said climate change is not real.
"I don't know that I've personally seen the effects of global warming yet, but I'm concerned for the future and my grandchildren," Naperville resident Merv Stover said. "I do have questions about what the Trump administration might do."
"To me, awareness is the best option at this point," added Carol Stover, Merv's wife. "We need all of it we can get."
Waubonsie high school senior Alex Schram, of Aurora, said he believes vehicle emission gases are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to climate change.
"There are changes to the atmosphere that are affecting our everyday life," he said. "I am somewhat worried about the future."