Tom Skilling, Bill Foster and others lament 'historic blunder' of U.S. withdrawal from climate accord
“This notion that climate change is a hoax is the only hoax around. Climate change is very real and ongoing,” WGN-TV Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling told an audience gathered on the third floor of the old Aurora Public Library building at 1 E. Benton St.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, hosted the forum “A Year of Climate Change” to draw attention that the U.S. needs to act now.
“We're not here to celebrate but to take note of the one-year anniversary of President Trump's historic blunder to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord,” Foster said.
Foster said in the past year, there have been "repeated attempts" to increase electric rates to subsidize the coal-mining industry.
“This is using our electric grid as the spoil system to reward his political backers,” he said.
Foster added that there have been other attempts to reverse the “progress made on lowering the greenhouse gas footprint” of the United States.
Saturday’s panel represented environmental proponents who say the evidence of global warming can be found in record-breaking temperatures, loss of sea ice and rising sea levels.Skilling said May 2018 finished as the warmest May on record in the U.S., surpassing the previous warmest May that occurred back during the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
“Fourteen states recorded their warmest May on record, and 29 states, according to the National Center for Environmental Information, produced temperatures above normal,” Skilling said. “The U.S. wasn't alone. Denmark recorded its sunniest and warmest May ever.”
Skilling showed high-speed video from cameras placed in the Antarctic regions of the planet by a team of photographers, saying "90 percent of our glaciers are in retreat. The Arctic regions are melting at an alarming rate with all kinds of implications not only weather patterns but sea levels.”
Another panelist said the U.S. has lost stature globally and the ability to take the lead to produce clean-energy technology and clean-energy jobs.
“We should all care about climate change — it's the most significant issue facing our planet,” said environmental consultant Mary Gade, a former presidential appointee who headed the regional office of the U.S. EPA for President George W. Bush.
Gade said she feels it's essential that the United States have a national policy.
“Since the president decided the United States would not live up to the obligations we made in the Paris climate accord in terms to our commitments to emissions reductions, nationally, cities and states have to step up to the plate to fill the gap,” Gade added, “but the most effective way to do it is through national legislation that is applied fairly and uniformly across the United States.”
Mavis Bates, chairperson of the Sierra Club’s Valley of the Fox Group and founder of the Aurora GreenFest, said Trump's denial of climate change shows his lack of leadership and understanding of science.
“We're all going to suffer from climate change if we don't start thinking how we can reverse some of these effects,” Bates said. “We, as states, should be formulating plans to live up to the Paris climate agreement.
“Almost every country on the planet signed on to the accord,” Bates added. “There is still hope we can rescue this, but in the meantime, we have lost momentum and political will to move forward.”
Foster, a former Fermilab high-energy physicist, said the evidence of climate change is real.
“The data and calculations indicate that climate change is real, and that mankind's activities are a large fraction of it,” Foster said. “When you look at all of that and the time scale on when it's going to start causing economic damage to this country, you can see that we need to start moving now — not as a nation, but a world.
“President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is just another step at the increasing isolation that is he pushing America to,” Foster added. “His America First is becoming more and more America Last and America Alone.”
According to Foster, although the actual withdrawal from the Paris climate accord will not begin until the day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the nation can begin to send a signal now by voting Republicans out of office.
“The reason our environment is so much at risk today is that there is one party that is in control of the House, Senate and White House, and they are voting in lockstep on a party-line basis on the Trump proposals that put our environment at risk,” Foster said.
Montgomery resident Julie Gilbert was one of the forum's attendees.
“We can see that the earth's climate is changing. President Trump needs to wake up and realize what's happening,” Gilbert said.