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Happy to Be Here: A Political Will for Action


A group of local residents has joined a national campaign to bring attention to climate change. Three of the residents, Tom Wells of Washington Crossing, and Robin and Mike Hoy of Newtown, visited the Herald to talk about their observations.

All three are involved in some way with agriculture. Wells, a retired builder, through his wife, Susan Snipes-Wells, who co-owns and manages the Snipes Farm and Education Center in Morrisville, Robin Hoy who is related to Brian Smith of Solebury Orchards, and Robin and Mike Hoy who work as volunteers at the Wrightstown Farmers Market.

Here are some trends they have noticed in Bucks:

- A growing threat of Lyme disease as winter temperatures rise and the ticks that carry the illness do not die off in cold weather and survive through four seasons. Bucks County, Robin said, is an epicenter of Lyme disease in the country. Lyme disease has been called the canary for climate change, a warning sign.

- Mosquitos are staying in the area two or three weeks longer than normal. Mosquitos carrying the Zika virus are migrating up the eastern seaboard.

- Failed crops because of high precipitation. Precipitation in 2018 was 50 percent higher than average. Farmers called it the worst year in memory for local crops. Wells said, farmers couldn’t get into the fields to plant seeds; this rainy spring was the same. And a heavy hailstorm caused considerable damage.

- Early warming and then frost this year damaged the fruit and berry crops. Unpredictable, unseasonable weather has farmers struggling to protect crops. The long spells of extremely hot temperatures thwart summer production.

- Higher ozone levels are increasing smog, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

- Violations of the Clean Air Act are causing higher that normal air pollution. Pennsylvania has the third worst air quality in the U.S., and Bucks County has more violations of some air quality standards than any county in PA.

Wells and the Hoys are members of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), which has 340 members in its Bucks-Montgomery county chapter. Founded in 2007, the organization proposes a carbon fee and dividend for United States citizens. Money collected in carbon fees at the mine or wellhead would be distributed equally in America in the form of a monthly payment to every household.

The national organization has worked with Congress to introduce the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019. CCL is working towards its introduction in the Senate, and its passage through Congress. CCL is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.

The group has helped establish Climate Solutions Caucuses in the House and Senate, bipartisan groups to explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of a changing climate.

“Our consistently respectful, nonpartisan approach to climate education is designed to create a broad, sustainable foundation for climate action across all geographic regions and political inclinations,” the Climate Change Lobby website says. “By building upon shared values rather than partisan divides, and empowering our supporters to work in keeping with the concerns of their local communities, we work towards the adoption of fair, effective, and sustainable climate change solutions.”

People who hear about the proposed legislation are impressed by its simplicity, the Hoys said. Charging incrementally increasing fees on carbon emissions at their source –the U.S. has 2,200 sources – would send about $85 billion the first year to American families to offset the increased costs of carbon based products. A family of four would receive about $3,500 in the 10th year.

Americans are concerned and already finding solutions like battery technology, wind power and more efficient electric appliances. All of that makes sense, considering that 70 percent of Americans recognize that climate change is occurring and that we must take action to mitigate it.

The Hoys and Wells have been trained as volunteers to help generate the will for passage of the carbon fee and dividend proposal. The goal is to build momentum through relationships with elected officials, the media and the local community. They have spoken at churches and service clubs and to local governments about supporting climate action. Newtown Borough has passed a resolution of support and Lower Makefield Township is working with the group.

Local contingents will be in the crowds at the rallies in Doylestown, Philadelphia and at the United Nations in New York this week as the UN Conference on Climate Change opens. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who sailed to America under wind power, will speak at the Student Climate Strike on Sept. 20 in NYC.

Here in Bucks County, the rally organized by students at Central Bucks West High School will take place in Doylestown on Sunday, Sept. 22. More than 800 rallies will take place across the U.S. from Sept. 20-27, and citizens around the world will rally in support of climate action.

Marshall Saunders of Coronado, Calif., a former real estate broker, founded the Citizens Climate Lobby. “I realized that anything my listeners intended to do as individuals was totally swamped by public policy, by what the government did or didn’t do.”

He said, that Congress was doing things backwards because it’s dominated by special interests, in this case, the fossil fuel industry. He also knew that “ordinary people were not asking their members of Congress for anything regarding climate change, not in an organized and effective way.”

Citizens’ Climate Lobby empowers individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power,” he says.

For the Hoys, Wells and many others, action is imperative. “We have to become more resilient,” Wells said. “We’re all going to adapt.”