by Mike Morris, Chairman, Storm Surge
Upon learning that former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson was appointed to U.S. Secretary of State, I asked myself, what would I tell him?
I would let him know that I am active in a nonprofit organization working to encourage my local community to prepare for the effects of climate change, sea level rise and climate enhanced storm activity. As such I am concerned about the direction of our Nation and how this will impact my at risk community.
I’d tell him that while climate change is a global issue; its consequences are being felt by real people, locally – in my backyard along the seacoast in New England. While we’ve all seen images of disasters on TV, it’s quite different when it’s people you know. These are real people, at ground level, living the video on the news. I’d remind Secretary Tillerson that we know climate change is happening because of human activity and energy choices. So this is a problem we can solve. It is vital that the U.S. and other Nations fulfill their obligations under the Paris Agreement. I’d suggest to the Secretary that we urgently limit, and humanely and economically phase out, fossil fuels to apply the brakes to our changing climate.
I’d convey to Secretary Tillerson that I’ve recently witnessed our warming world and rising ocean jeopardize my coastal community, its economy, and its public health.
- As a business owner, I’ve experienced the economic impact of numerous, and now common, multi-day power outages, that are the consequence of climate enhanced ice and wind storms in the Northeast.
- As a former fisherman, I’m now seeing southern fish species north of Cape Cod. I’m witnessing a warmer ocean stress a collapsing cod fishery, by displacing their spawning grounds from our coastal waters.
- As a surf forecaster I’ve seen, once rare, 20 ft+ near shore storm wave events become common, long duration events.
- As a homeowner, I’ve watched six of my neighbors homes fall into the sea, as those 20 ft waves battered our beach. Afterwards, I watched 39 additional homes be condemned. Now, I’m witness to escalating flood insurance rates, as they align with the risk dictated by a warming world.
- As a resident, I wonder, what will happen to our town when 40% of its tax base washes away, as NOAA’s Sea Level Rise projections suggest.
- As a former Biologist and Healthcare Planner, I’m also a survivor of Lyme disease. I’ve experienced firsthand the escalating spread of tick borne diseases such as Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, and Babesiosis, and now mosquito borne illnesses like Triple E and West Nile. I’d tell Secretary Tillerson that University Scientists have told me these are now common in my backyard, due to a warming climate.
I’d ask Secretary Tillerson if he understood that the changes set in motion and the devastating events we’re now experiencing were prescribed by the behavior of our grandparents and great grandparents, including corporations like Exxon – and that these changes can’t be called back. I’d let the Secretary know that I believe our grandparents, and hopefully our Corporate world, wasn’t ill willed and wouldn’t have wished the future we now have – that they just didn’t know any better. However, facts suggest Exxon/Mobill knew otherwise and chose short term profits over our future. Regardless, I’d remind Secretary Tillerson that today we know better! It’s within our grasp to secure our future by reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, and encouraging other nations to follow. Low hanging fruit include electricity generation and transportation, as they account for 60% of the carbon footprint.
I’d point out to Secretary Tillerson that scientifically, we are now in the 11th hour. Soon, we will move beyond a tipping point. When this happens it will be like paddling over the edge of a waterfall, and we won’t be able to turn back. I hope that Secretary Tillerson understands that my son, and his grand children, will inherit the tomorrow that we create today. I am hopeful that the Secretary will work to ensure that the provisions of the Paris agreement are fulfilled, and that the world will thereby avoid that dangerous tipping point.
Chairman, Storm Surge, Newburyport