On April 10, former Governor of New Jersey Christine Todd Whitman, currently the Chairwoman of American Security Project and the President of the Whitman Strategy Group (WSG), spoke at the World Affairs Council of Hilton Head Island about climate change and clean energy. Governor Whitman also served as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency between 2001 and 2003.
Governor Whitman noted that the past decade was the warmest on record and that our climate is getting even warmer, 2014 being the warmest year to date. She noted that carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 40% since the Industrial Revolution. Her remarks point to the fact that humans have contributed significantly towards climate change.
According to military leaders, climate change has become a serious threat to our national security as a “threat multiplier.” Governor Whitman noted that the phenomenon could destabilize nations and heighten tension among others.
Governor Whitman then said that America needs a national energy policy that addresses these serious problems, particularly as global energy demand rises. She argued that we must establish a goal to achieve a low-carbon economy based on market principles and focus more on renewables, natural gas, and nuclear energy. Non-hydro renewable energy consists of a mere 6% of our energy consumption. Fossil fuel is still our main source of energy. Luckily, the use of coal is dropping thanks to the use of cheap natural gas.
To move towards greater use of cleaner energy, Governor Whitman argued that we need to overcome not scientific, but political obstacles, most of them existing in Congress. The government needs to actively support clean energy industries, particularly the nuclear sector, for them to be able to compete against other global companies that are ahead.
Governor Whitman noted that this is a realistic goal, but one that requires strong political leadership. She ended her remarks by noting that “we don’t inherit the environment and the Earth from our ancestors…we borrow it from our children.”