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Shaheen hears dire concerns about climate change

RYE -- U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen hosted a roundtable talk on climate change Thursday at Seacoast Science Center.

Shaheen invited business leaders, climate activists, conservancy groups, researchers and legislators to discuss the impact of climate change. Topics included initiatives to mitigate impact, observations from research, sustainability practices and climate preparedness actions.

“You’re on the front lines dealing with this issue,” Shaheen said. “The debate can rage on in some levels, but here on the ground, we need to decide what to do to protect our communities.”

“Our main concern here on the Seacoast is ocean warming,” said SSC President Jim Chase. “We’re seeing sea-level rise, we’re seeing drastic changes in species distribution. There’s a change in chemistry in the water that’s having a commercial impact on fishing and beyond. I’m concerned that our messaging will change over time. We will not be showing kids the wonder of the diversity and the cool systems in our ocean. We’ll be telling them how it once was.”

Dr. Jennifer Seavey, executive director of the Shoals Marine Laboratory, said drastic changes are occurring in the Gulf of Maine and long-term research is vital for data collection to inform policy.

“We can’t have standards that stay the same,” Seavey said. “We need to adjust as we get information. Long-term monitoring is the only way we know about impacts of legislation. It’s one of the first things that goes when funding is cut.”

Tim Roache, executive director of the Rockingham Planning Commission, spoke of challenges facing coastal municipalities in preparing for climate change. Roache said educating the public is integral, as well as providing better public transportation to reduce emissions. He also mentioned designing infrastructure and cities for storm surges.

“We’re going to be conducting a study that looks at impacts if parts of Route 1 and 1A are inaccessible due to tidal road flooding during certain times of day,” he said.

Jay Diener, chair of the Hampton Conservation Commission, spoke of creating a Flood Adaptation Team using a grant from the Conservation Institute with members from multiple committees who work to make informed plans of action. Hampton created the team due to eroding shorelines and storm surges around Hampton Beach.

“We have to start having conversations and hard discussions with homeowners,” Diener said. “Is it financially viable, is it safe, can we get emergency services out to you? Because once the costs of those services outweigh the benefits and outweigh the upkeep of the home, it’s time to start making hard choices.”

Company representatives spoke about sustainable business practices, including reducing transport costs and creating empirically driven public goals to hold themselves accountable. A group of New Hampshire businesses is supporting clean energy, declaring a commitment to conversion to clean energy. Businesses like the Portsmouth Brewery, Lonza, Velcro, Hannaford’s, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and many others are leading the charge.

Dan Weeks of ReVision Energy New Hampshire said the state is one of the lowest consumers of clean energy at 0.6%. Vermont and Massachusetts hover around 10%, he said. “Putting a carbon tax on fossil fuel use would help convert people to more clean energy use,” he said. “We are already paying the price to our health, the environment and fiscally.”

Shaheen said a carbon tax and promoting energy efficiency are the two best ways to help reduce fossil fuel use.

Shaheen introduced the International Climate Accountability Act to the Senate June 5. The bill, along with the House counterpart bill, Climate Action Now Act introduced by Congresswoman Kathy Castor, D-Fla., would prevent President Donald Trump from using federal funds to back out of the Paris Climate Agreement. That agreement was negotiated with President Barack Obama’s administration in 2015. The United States agreed to comply with international standards to halt effects of climate change, signing with around 200 nations. President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the agreement in June 2017.

Shaheen’s bill also would force the Trump administration to comply with the agreement’s standards to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Shaheen said she was hopeful she can garner Republican support for the bill.

“I do think it’s important to note that we’ve had Republicans who’ve taken positions on climate change,” she said, citing Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Alexander, she said, “introduced a package of legislation and went to the floor of the Senate and said ‘I believe in climate change, it’s real, and here’s what I’m doing.’ So, support is out there.”

Asked if she would try to persuade Trump to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, she said, “I think the president’s been very clear on how he feels about alliances, and about climate change and the climate accords. I think I’m going to focus my attention on working with people who would be more open to doing something.”