EDITORIAL: Rep. Scott Perry must step up on climate change

York Dispatch
  • York has the double whammy of ozone pollution and ragweed pollen, which increase as temps rise
  • Rep. Scott Perry must acknowledge the fact of climate change, despite support from special interests

In the past week, York has seen multiple severe thunderstorms, flash floods and a heat advisory.

While scientists say no single event can be directly linked to climate change, increasingly warmer temperatures mean these events are more likely — and will likely continue to grow more severe.

That's why the Department of Defense is studying the 20-year impacts of climate change on the military.

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

After all, many bases are in areas that are already being affected.

The Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Virginia, where the sea level has risen 14.5 inches in the past century, floods whenever there's a full moon, according to National Geographic.

The Union of Concerned Scientists studied 18 bases along the East Coast and concluded that most of them will see days of flooding increase tenfold by 2050, and four of them, Naval Air Station Key West in Florida, Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Dam Neck Annex in Virginia, and Parris Island, South Carolina, will lose 75 percent to 95 percent of their land to rising seas by the end of this century.

The military is very careful in its language. So far it isn't studying climate change but rising sea levels.

“We don’t talk about climate change,” Capt. Dean VanderLey at Norfolk told National Geographic and other media in a tour of the base before the election. “We talk about sea-level rise. You can measure it.” 

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That's why we're so puzzled at Rep. Scott Perry's proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this month that would have blocked a DOD study on the effects of climate change on national security.

The Dillsburg Republican told The Hill that his amendment was not meant to debate the existence of climate change, but rather, “my point is that this should not be the priority" for the military.

“Literally, litanies of other federal agencies deal with environmental issues including climate change,” Perry said. “The federal mandate (in the bill) detracts from the central mission of securing our nation against enemies.”

Police block Industrial Highway in Springettsbury Township where several feet of water flooded the roadway, Monday July 17, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

The amendment failed 185-234 because even Perry's fellow Republicans have the sense to know that climate change is a threat to our national security and the military needs to know what is coming in order to prepare.

After all, climate change is a lot about rising sea levels, but there are other effects as well. In Alaska, the eroding shoreline and melting permafrost have damaged Air Force early warning and radar stations, and at one base half of a runway has eroded to the point that large planes can no longer use it. Wildfires have threatened bases in California, and torrential rains caused $64 million in damage to a base in the Mojave Desert.

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Closer to home, temperatures in Pennsylvania have risen 2 degrees on average in the past century and are projected to rise to 11 degrees above the historic average by 2100, according to the National Resources Defense Council. 

York is one of the 28 counties in the state that has the double whammy of ozone pollution and ragweed pollen, both of which increase as the temperatures rise. And those conditions make life more difficult for the 1 million people in the state, including 301,000 children, who have asthma.

Those numbers should matter to Perry. Unfortunately, they don't seem to matter as much as the financial support he receives from energy PACs: $4,000 already for the 2018 election, more than $50,000 for the 2016 election, according to his filings with the Federal Election Committee. And that doesn't include funds received from trucking organizations, airplane manufacturers or individuals with ties to those industries.

Are we wrong, Mr. Perry? Do those funds from Exxon, Exelon, Dominion, NiSource and others to Patriots for Perry mean nothing as you help craft bills that would take away funding from studies of climate change?

Show us. Use your office to help control climate change and to make its effects as painless as possible for all people. Stop trying to push the heating of the globe to the back burner.