Roger Berliner on Climate Change

berlinerMontgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, on the annual celebration of Earth Day, April 22, made the following statement as the Council prepared to vote on nine measures he sponsored to address the long-term protection of the environment and the use of clean energy:

The complete text of Councilmember Berliner’s statement:

“Colleagues, today our Council honors Earth Day in the best manner possible. We are not here to simply talk about or reaffirm our commitment to a greener planet in the abstract. Instead, we are here to make meaningful progress through our votes on these nine measures that are designed to help us reduce our consumption of energy and to use more clean, renewable energy.

“We may not be able to single handily solve the looming disaster that climate change represents, but that doesn’t mean our County should not do what it can. If we as a County do what we can, and if other metropolitan areas around the country do the same, then we may be able to bypass the dysfunction in our Congress that prevents our country from doing what it must. And in the process, we will create a better quality of life for our community and new economic opportunities for green businesses and innovation.

“If there were any doubt about the urgency to take strong action, a quick review of the latest report issued just weeks ago from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be convincing. As one writer reported, and I quote:

“A United Nations report raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level . . . warning of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood. The report from the U.N.’s intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters. And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said [the] chair of the IPCC.’

“Yet, as dire as this report may be, there is still hope. Hope because the cost of renewables, such as solar, have dropped significantly and will continue to drop, making it more and more competitive with coal fired generation, and coal fired generation typically represents half of the electricity a Pepco customer gets. And energy efficiency continues to be a very cost effective option, particularly when combined with low cost financing.

“We can do this. Our County must do this. Because as the Co-Chair of the U.N. report observed, ‘What we can not afford is to waste another decade.’

“Here is something else we can’t afford to do: Pit the environment against the economy. It is a false choice. Listen to what Paul Krugman wrote in a piece for the New York Times only days ago:

‘ . . . free-market advocates seem to experience a peculiar loss of faith whenever the subject of the environment comes up. They normally trumpet their belief that the magic of the market can surmount all obstacles—that the private sector’s flexibility and talent for innovation can easily cope with limiting factors like scarcity of land or minerals. But suggest the possibility of market-friendly environmental measures, like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, and they suddenly assert that the private sector would be unable to cope, that the costs would be immense.’

“Bottom line, we can have a strong economy and still take care of our planet. Point the private sector in the direction it needs to go, and through its ingenuity and entrepreneurialism, it will produce for us. It will produce good green jobs for our underemployed tradesmen, it will put people back to work retrofitting homes and commercial buildings, and it will employ more folks putting solar on roof tops.

“That’s what these nine measures before us today seek to do. Have government lead by example, have government make it easier for our residents to buy solar and charge electric vehicles, and let the private sector see where energy efficiency investments can be most profitably made in our commercial sector.

“These measures build on the work of this Council and Councils before us, including the good work of Councilmembers Leventhal and Floreen before I arrived. The residents of Montgomery County should feel good about their government’s commitment to the environment, a commitment reflected in the fact that every one of these measures had the support of a majority of the Council upon introduction.

“I also want to thank the Council President for working with me in ensuring that nine of the 11 measures passed out of Committee came before us today. The Council President has established a rule regarding items that have budget impacts, and I had extensive discussions with him and his Chief of Staff regarding these measures, and their de minimis budget impacts. So, thank you Mr. President.

“With that Mr. President, I think we are ready for the first item.”

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