Editor’s note: These opinions are the authors’, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.
March 27, 2017
Dear Congressman Frelinghuysen,
We were heartened to hear you state, during your most recent telephone town hall, “I believe in climate change.”
On your previous telephone town hall, you stated, “I’m not a denier.”
While we certainly support your position, we also feel compelled to say that, given that we are in the midst of a climate crisis and that we are terrifyingly short on time to be able to address it effectively, simply not being “a denier” is just not sufficient. The bar is much, much higher to earn commendation.
It was clear from your statements in the most recent telephone town hall that your understanding and articulation of the climate crisis and its solutions is lacking. In response to your caller’s question about climate change, you stated, “Something has happened.”
Yes, something has happened, and, as an elected leader, we believe that you have a responsibility to speak much more specifically to the dangers that climate change presents in terms of the ways that it impacts public health, national security, and the global economy — issues of grave concern for you and for your constituents.
You spoke passionately on Monday night about your support for the National Institutes of Health. We strongly encourage you to speak to doctors and nurses about the many terrible public health threats that we face as a result of climate change.
Vector borne diseases like Zika are on the rise due to warmer temperatures; our area is experiencing increased rates of Lyme Disease; the prevalence and severity of asthma has increased around the world as a result of air pollution; and expected changes to the start, duration, and intensity of the pollen season in response to a warmer climate stand to wreak havoc on the lives of allergy sufferers.
The American Public Health Association has declared 2017 “The Year of Climate Change and Health” because they understand what is at stake.
You also stated last Monday that, as the Constitution makes clear, you believe that national security is government’s highest responsibility.
We encourage you to speak to the Pentagon about the threats we face to our coastal military installations as a result of rising sea levels and about the political destabilization that will wrack significant parts of the world as a result of the effects of climate change.
In fact, the Pentagon has even recommended that the White House designate a cabinet position focused on climate change because they understand its significance as a threat to national security.
As you could plainly hear from many callers on Monday night, your constituents are concerned about economic security.
The repair to infrastructure in the wake of severe weather events, which have considerably increased as a result of climate change and are expected to increase in both frequency and severity over time if we don’t address climate change, will surely become a terrible economic burden to our state.
And, of course, our safety is also at risk from severe storms and the subsequent flooding that can result — many people here in the 11th District had traumatic experiences during Superstorm Sandy, so we understand the risks that severe weather events present.
We also believe that you have a responsibility to be able to speak to the solutions that we currently have available to us to address climate change effectively. Your responses in this telephone town hall reflected little knowledge about recent developments in the energy sector and the stunning growth, capacity, and affordability of renewable energy.
We currently have the technological solutions to address climate change, and these solutions are not only affordable but they are more affordable than traditional fossil fuels.
The unsubsidized, levelized cost of renewable energy is lower than fossil fuels, and it is absolutely necessary that the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee understands and articulates this reality in order to demonstrate that he will be able to make wise budgeting decisions regarding our nation’s energy needs.
Seventeen of your Republican colleagues in the House have signed the Republican Climate Resolution, and thirteen of your Republican colleagues in the House have joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.
Since you have stated that you believe in climate change, we want to know why we don’t see you participating in these action steps to begin a serious discussion in Congress about how best to address climate change.
In your most recent telephone town hall, you stated, “I’m not an expert” in response to the caller’s question about climate change. No one is asking you to become an “expert” on climate change.
But it logically follows that if you believe in climate change, you are compelled to act to address it. We hope, for all of our sakes, that you believe in that logic and will govern your actions accordingly.
Shannon Falkner, Morristown
Meghan Marohn, Madison
Climate Reality Leaders, The Climate Reality Project
The authors will present on The Climate Crisis and Its Solutions at Morristown’s Episcopal Church of the Redeemer on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at 7 pm. The event is open to the public.