Global Warming Mountaintop "Summit": Economic Impact on New England
(Washington, DC) - With concern over global warming reaching new peaks, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming ascended a White Mountain peak today to hold the first ever mountaintop “summit” on the issue. Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA) brought fellow committee members and heard from experts on global warming’s impacts on New England’s changing climate and the resulting economic impacts on tourism, jobs, and culture.
“As a fellow New Englander, I am acutely aware of the adverse impacts of global warming on our economy, our culture, and our environment,” said Chairman Markey. “People say up here ‘if you don’t like the weather, just wait a day.’ But when it comes to cutting the pollution that is severely affecting our New England climate, we can’t afford to wait any longer.”
The hearing was held on the summit of Cannon Mountain in the White Mountain range in Franconia, NH, at an elevation of 4,186 feet. From there local experts and business leaders used the unique setting to describe the myriad of impacts affecting New England seen in panorama from the peak, and the solutions available to deal with the problem of heat-trapping pollution changing the region and the world.
“It’s important for us to get out of Washington, where our government has been slow to appreciate the threat of global warming, and engage directly with businesses, government and concerned citizens at the local level,” continued Mr. Markey. “Here on the summit we have a spectacular view of a state that is concerned about its tourism industry, shorter ski seasons, changing foliage, and intense weather events which presage serious economic consequences if we don’t act.”
An October 2006 analysis by the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) found that average temperatures in the Northeast have been increasing at a rate of almost 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1970 and during winter months at a much faster rate of 1.3 degrees. Winter temperatures in the Northeast have increased by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The NECIA found the number of snow-covered days has already decreased in the Northeast while the wetness, or density of the snow, has simultaneously been increasing.
“If we don’t cut global warming pollution now, the White Mountains will become the ‘Once Upon A Time White Mountains’, because there may be no snow,” noted Chairman Markey.
The witnesses told the committee that in New Hampshire and New England, changes in New England’s climate have the potential to significantly affect many vital industries, outdoor recreation activities and wildlife in the region. Skiing, maple sugaring, hunting and fishing, and other outdoor recreational activities and related tourism are particularly susceptible to impacts associated with global warming. Tourism spending is a multibillion dollar industry in New Hampshire, and the ski industry alone produces 10 percent of New Hampshire’s jobs during the winter months.
But New Hampshire is also home to a growing movement from state and local officials to cut the pollution that causes global warming, and encouraging Washington to adopt a national plan.
In August 2006, Governor John Lynch endorsed the bipartisan 25 x 25 initiative, setting the goal of producing 25 percent of the energy consumed in the United States from clean, renewable sources by the year 2025. New Hampshire is also an inaugural member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a landmark bipartisan agreement between the governors of 10 Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to cap and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants 10 percent below current levels by 2019. Every New England state is participating in this pact.
At the local level, as of May 15th, 164 cities and towns had passed the New Hampshire Climate Change Resolution at their town meetings. The resolution calls on the President and Congress to take actions to address global warming, including establishing a national program to reduce heat-trapping emissions and creating a research initiative to develop renewable energy technologies. The resolution further encourages the citizens of New Hampshire to work to reduce their emissions.
Local businesses have also become involved. Betsy Blaisdell from Timberland, an internationally successful shoe and clothing company located in Stratham, NH, spoke at the hearing about her company’s robust climate initiatives, including increased energy efficiency, biodiesel and solar power use, and a goal to be “carbon-neutral” by 2010.
“New England is a region of hardworking, hardy people who value the distinctiveness of the region and the seasons that mark the time here in our nation’s first frontier,” continued Markey. “With global warming claiming more snow every year, and literally changing the palette of our forests, cutting global warming pollution is a matter of cultural and historical survival.”
The witnesses present to testify were:
Alice Chamberlin, Special Assistant for Energy, Environment and Transportation, Governor John Lynch;
Bill Koury, Former President, NH Wildlife Federation and avid New England sportsman.
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