Two stops in North Carolina were scheduled for Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s climate change road trip of the East Coast, one in Beaufort and one in Wrightsville Beach.
On Monday, April 21, Whitehouse stopped by the newly renovated North Carolina Coastal Federation’s Southeast Office and Education Center after spending the day with coastal federation executive director Todd Miller in Beaufort.
In Beaufort, Whitehouse met with scientists from universities across North Carolina and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In Wrightsville Beach, he met with coastal scientists from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
“I am trying to find out about the coastline to make the case in Washington for how climate change along the coast is really undeniable,” Whitehouse said. “This is not complicated, it is already underway and the principles that drive it are obvious.”
In his home state, Whitehouse said the signs of climate change were beginning to affect those who were previously skeptical, like members of the local fishing community.
“If I talked with our fishermen in Rhode Island five years ago about global climate change they would have thrown me out of the boat, but now they are coming to me and saying it is getting weird out there,” he said. “Never once did they catch a grouper or tarpon but now they are pulling them up.”
Whitehouse said he was on an East Coast fact-finding mission to determine how to work with the United States Congressmen and women that doubt the effects of global climate change.
“I want to figure out why the party of Teddy Roosevelt and of John Chaffee feels that this is suddenly something that is unacceptable to have a rational conversation about,” he said. “I want to go through some of the states where these folks are and try to crack the code to undo that.”
The front and side porches of the Coastal Federation’s new Wrightsville Beach office were filled with scientists from UNCW, UNCW Center for Marine Science students, and federation staff and board members.
During an informal Q-and-A session, Whitehouse said he believes a carbon emissions fee is a valid solution to curbing pollution levels. Reducing those levels and inspiring a sense of urgency for more environmental protections will be key in saving natural resources and the United States itself, he said.
“It is preposterous that with all the information we know, with all the science we have, that a small group of polluting industries can stop the greatest democracy in history and make it ridiculous in the face of the world,” Whitehouse said. “If we blow this one … people are going to remember that it was our carbon, it was our job, we knew what was happening and the system failed to stop it from happening.”