(This testimony was given by Barbara Litt at the Climate Change town hall meeting in Pittsburgh on 8/17/2017 and is reprinted here with permission from Barbara.)

I am here just as a citizen to tell you how global climate change (or to put it more precisely, global climate disruption) impacts me personally.

I worry a lot about climate change. I feel like I’m straddling an abyss of despair, though I have so far managed to keep from falling in. I am the mother of two young adult children. One spends much emotional energy avoiding thinking about climate change. He says he feels powerless to change it so he might as well avoid thinking about it. The other is depressed and angry at my and my parents’ generations for greedily plundering the Earth, leaving climate disruption to future generations. But the future is here, now. On this evening’s All Things Considered, I learned that Greenland is burning! Climate scientists hadn’t expected that to happen until 2050.  The planet has a high fever, and it’s not going to get better unless we take away the extra heat sources (the greenhouse gases we are emitting like crazy), and ASAP.

I have worried about climate change since the late 1980s, when I began to study climate change countermeasures for the New Jersey DEP. Why do I worry about climate change so much? I do have plenty of other things to worry about (including public education, as Rep. Gainey mentioned). Of all the issues, I believe that if we don’t act decisively and deeply on climate change, all the others won’t matter.  

I am encouraged by the Paris agreement, and by Pittsburgh’s intention to meet it, even without federal leadership. But, in PA, we are surrounded by burgeoning fossil fuel production and related infrastructure projects.  (I refer to fracking, pipelines, and the soon-to-be petrochemical hub anchored by the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant.)  I feel like the health of most Pennsylvanians (and all who breathe the air in the Pittsburgh region) is being sold out. The cracker plant is estimated to produce as much CO2 as half a large coal-fired power plant (or as Grant Ervin explained, as much as about half the City of Pittsburgh). The methane emitted from leaky pipelines, wells, and plants is likely to be much more than the small amount used in calculations that tout fracked gas as a solution to climate change. As Neil Donahue told us, carbon is forever. But in the short term, methane is a more potent greenhouse gas (84 x more potent than CO2 in the short term, according to EDF) If you understand the science, you really can’t be pro-fossil fuel development and pro-Paris agreement.

If we must have fossil fuel development, we must also fully fund the DEP, hire many more environmental regulators (of which I’d like to be one!) and make sure the methane leaks are sealed, continually. NO! to the current budget bill that passed the State Senate, in which the industry gets to write its own permits, while the DEP remains gutted. And NO! to the currently proposed severance tax! It’s terrible to balance the budget by depending on fossil fuel extraction….But if we must, we’d better internalize all the costs and have a whopping severance tax that actually does something! And if we do end up with a gross receipts tax on energy, let’s combine it with a dividend or rebate to give back to those who need it most.

Thank you for listening.

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