10th Congressional District candidates discuss climate change

Maria Yohn
York Dispatch

Democratic candidates running for Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District unanimously supported greater measures to combat climate change during a Night with the Candidates event.

10th Congressional district candidates, from left, Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, Eric Ding, Alan Howe and George Scott as Citizens' Climate Lobby hosts Meet the Candidates at Unitarian Universalist of York in York City, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The forum was organized by the York County chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby  and was held Wednesday, April 18, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, 925 S. George St.

Participants were Democratic candidates Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, Eric Ding, Alan Howe and George Scott, who are all vying for the seat currently occupied by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg.

Climate change solutions: The event was co-organized by CCL-York members Jon Clark and Alex Bishop, who began the event with two questions: “Do you accept the scientific consensus that climate change is real, that it’s caused by humans, and that it’s a major and growing threat?” and “How would you address it?”

Citizens' Climate Lobby hosts Meet the Candidates at Unitarian Universalist of York in York City, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Scott said he accepts the scientific consensus and supports a national carbon fee and dividend policy. The policy would levy a progressively rising tax on carbon-based fuels and return the revenue to the public as a dividend, thus placing the financial burden on the polluters, he said.

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He said there are dozens of solutions, but the country needs representatives who have the courage to make the necessary changes.

“The problem here is not that there is a lack of options and solutions, nor a lack of evidence.The problem is a lack of leadership,” he said.

Howe stated his concern that China is now taking the lead in renewable energy, leaving the U.S. in its wake.

“That’s a national security threat,” he said.

He described climate change as a global crisis and suggested that an immediate national deployment of renewable resources is necessary to combat it.

Ding said he supports the carbon tax and dividend and a cap and trade policy, which places a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions companies can produce. This cap is split into allowances which can be traded among the companies. 

Ding cited 10 states in the Northeast that have it, with Pennsylvania as the lone exception.

“Somehow, it just skips over Pennsylvania, and that’s embarrassing,” he said.

Corbin-Johnson said climate change is a threat to the economy and security of the country, as it’s led to massive droughts and stronger and more frequent hurricanes.

“We can reverse this if we act now,” she said.

“It’s not about what approach is better, it’s about how we utilize both approaches in tandem,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, talks about having a "meaningful Memorial Day" during the annual York County Memorial Day at Veterans Memorial Park, Sunday, May 29, 2017.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Perry’s statement: Perry was unable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict, Bishop said. However, he did respond via email to the two questions posed to the other candidates.

“I believe that the climate is changing and has continued to change over the course of human history,” Perry said in the email.

He also said that human activity has “obviously had an impact on our climate,” but he noted that reasonable people can differ on the level and type of impact.

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However, he said while he supported the goal of balancing energy needs and protecting the environment, he did not support higher taxes and “burdensome regulations” handed down by Washington, D.C. 

Perry said that he is an advocate of hydropower, describing it as the largest source of clean, renewable energy and a potential boon to the economy.

“Hydropower alone can’t solve the problem. However, I will continue to search for new alternatives,” he said.

The role of natural gas: The role of natural gas was the subject of the two questions anonymously submitted by those in attendance. One audience member asked if natural gas was a “good thing, a bridge fuel or a fuel that must be diminished and eliminated as soon as possible.”

Another audience member wanted to know how they would convince people that natural gas is not the solution to climate change. 

An audience looks on as Citizens' Climate Lobby hosts Meet the Candidates at Unitarian Universalist of York in York City, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Scott described natural gas as a bridge fuel that needs to be gradually eliminated, similar to the way heroin addicts take methadone to wean themselves off heroin.

It’s a cleaner fuel, he admitted, but it still contributes to climate change.

“It’s a bridge, but it’s a bridge we need to wean ourselves off of,” he said.

He also said that major players in the government and economy already understand that the future lies in renewable energy, citing Saudi Arabia, a nation almost completely dependent on fossil fuels that is now examining green energy initiatives.

Automobile manufacturers are also investing in renewable options, such as electric and driverless cars, he said.

Howe agreed, saying that if given the choice between the two options, well-regulated natural gas is preferable to coal.

However, Howe said that renewable energy, such as solar and wind, is a better solution.

“This is the way forward, not natural gas,” he said.

Ding said that natural gas is useful now as a bridge, but it’s still problematic as it also leads to climate change.

“It's still causing what we’re fundamentally against,” he said.

He also said it’s important for environmentally conscious people not to feel superior to workers in extractive industries. Ding compared current coal miners to the people who maintained horses and buggies in the past. They lost their livelihood when automobiles were invented, he said, but coal miners shouldn’t be left behind in the same manner.

Citizens' Climate Lobby Regional Coordinator Jon Clark, using a tape measure, points out the 60 inch mark when referencing Hurricane Harvey flooding in Houston, prompting conversation on climate control during the Meet the Candidates forum held at Unitarian Universalist of York in York City, Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“We should not repeat that and throw them under the bus,” he said.

Corbin-Johnson agreed that natural gas is a bridge that can't be sustained.

“Like many bridges in the 10th Congressional District, they are failing,” she said.

She said that the ratio of employment between green energy and natural gas jobs is two-to-one, and it’s vital to make sure natural gas workers gain the skills they need to transfer to green energy jobs.

“I believe green energy jobs will employ people for the long run instead of just the short run,” she said.

The primary will be held Tuesday, May 15.

CCL-York was started in 2011 and is part of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, a national, grass-roots advocacy organization that focuses on national policies to address climate change.