Congressman Gerry Connolly, representing the 11th District of Virginia, is urging more community action to solve climate change in the United States and around the world.
“The scientific evidence is overwhelming and it is not a matter of belief. I think these are incontrovertible facts and as a member of congress I am not interested in debating these facts. I am interested in doing something about it,” said Connolly before an Office of Sustainability workshop on Monday, April 6.
Rep. Connolly focuses on risks to the environment and economic benefits when discussing environmental policy issues. He is not interested in debating facts or discussing morality of environmental issues.
“If I so overwhelm [you] with a recitation of the linty of problems that are going to happen. You know you want to stay in bed take the sheets and pull them up. I don’t think that’s helpful,” Connolly said. “I don’t think that’s helpful to engage the public and I don’t think that’s any more helpful then those who simply posit it as a matter of belief.”
He believes discussing climate change as a moral debate makes some citizens feel hopelessness, despair, and resignation, while adding to opposition’s skepticism of global climate change. Connolly says it is important to help people visualize global warming and environmental disasters. For example, Connolly gives a rhetorical strategy for a recent opinion editorial piece written for the Washington Post opposing Virginia offshore drilling:
“Off shore oil drilling in Virginia–the reserves–are estimated to be roughly six days of national supply of oil and eighteen days of national consumptions of gas,” said Connolly. “Now, is it worth it, given those limited reserves, to risk an oil spill the size of the BP oil spill that occurred in the Gulf. Well, again, I believe you help people by visualizing. So, if we super impose the BP oil spill here, it would have gone from Dale City in Prince William County to New York City.”
According to Connolly, people have to ask yourself if the risk is worth taking. He does not believe Virginia offshore drilling is the right thing to do from an economic point of view. Connolly says Virginia gets no royalties and all of the money from the offshore drilling goes the Federal Government. Connolly also claimed that the Naval Port of Roanoke would have to consider moving its operations if the waterways were impeded, citing wind power as a better alternative for east coast energy harvesting.
The risks and rewards approach is the kind of discussion Connolly wants to have when discussing environmental policy. He prefers to focus on economics, risk-analysis, and alternative options. When it comes to policy, according to Connolly, economic discussions create climate friendly policy.
“Melding green with productivity gains, and efficiency gains, and savings is really how we’re going to motivate business, local governments and state governments around the United States and around the world to, in-fact, make the right decisions that lower and carbon emissions,” Connolly said.
Featured image by Claire Cecil