Orange County is worried about climate change — so why is no one talking about it?

Published 11:13 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

By Katy Swiere

According to researchers at Yale, almost 3 out of 5 residents of Orange County, Texas believes that global temperatures are rising. Yet the action taken by our Representatives in the city government, the state government, and the House of Representatives, would seem to suggest otherwise.

The impact that extreme weather events such as Hurricane Harvey have had on our community has been undeniable. Since hurricanes form over warm waters, the increase in temperatures will lead to an uptick in the frequency and the intensity of storms like these. Additionally, coastal Texas communities like ours are at risk for up to 5 feet of sea level rise by 2050. It is hard to deny the rising global temperatures when we have already begun to see the effects first hand.

This isn’t a question of if you care about the planet. It’s about caring about the future your children will live in.

While there is still a gap between the almost 60% of Orange and the 97% of climate scientists who agree that the climate is warming, this statistic is likely startling to anyone familiar with the area, since talking about climate change is practically a taboo subject. This is understandable — with so many jobs dependent on fossil fuel industries like natural gas and oil refining, talking about the problems these industries cause can bring tensions and discomfort.

The Yale study estimates that 76% of Orange County never talks about climate change. And 0% of us see climate change in the media at least once a week.

Even though most of us believe the climate change is happening, it is very difficult to talk about it or do something about it. After all, what will happen to our economy if we try to address it?

This is a valid question, and one that, in my opinion, is too often ignored by radical environmentalists. So don’t get me wrong here — I am not proposing a downfall to the Southeast Texas economy.

The good news is economic strength and preparation for the future are not mutually exclusive.

There are many bipartisan, economically friendly proposals to counteract this increase in global temperatures and its consequences. One type of proposal that would likely be very appealing to Orange County is a Carbon Fee and Dividend, which has been proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby and the Climate Leadership Council, as well as endorsed by organizations like Exxon Mobil, General Motors, and the National Small Business Association.

This type of policy would make producing carbon-intensive energy be more expensive, thus sending a price signal to begin investing in cleaner technology like natural gas, solar, and wind. Importantly, this would be revenue-neutral, meaning it wouldn’t grow the government; instead, the revenue would go right back into the pockets of American households (similar to the Alaskan Permanent Fund).

I recently flew to Washington, D.C. to attend the international Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference and Lobby Day, and was honored to be able to talk with Texan members of the Senate and House of Representatives (including the office of Brian Babin, who represents Orange) about bipartisan, economically-friendly ways we can address the future — a one in which our children and grandchildren will live, and, hopefully, thrive. We need more people fighting for a policy that will reduce temperatures without destroying our local economy.

The climate change silence in Orange County isn’t because we don’t believe in it — it’s because we don’t know how to solve it. Joining organizations like Citizens’ Climate Lobby is one way we can begin to talk about solving this problem, without violating our political and economic beliefs — just ask the 38 Republican congressmembers who have already committed to joining a climate change solution caucus.

We need to start the conversation on solving climate change now, so that we can have a seat at the table. If we don’t talk about it, we can’t be guaranteed that policy makers will address our local concerns.

Will you join me?

Katy Swiere
Orange, Texas