Toms River, New Jersey Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher has plans to help lead an expedition to the Arctic next year to have a first-hand, up close look at the early effects of climate change, according to the Asbury Park Press.
Kelaher was tapped because of the unprecedented impact super storm Sandy had on the coastal neighborhoods in his town. However, the 82-year-old mayor, who is a conservative Republican, remains skeptical that climate change is the result of modern human civilization, reports Newsday.
“It is obvious that there are changes, you can see the water rising… ice caps are melting,” Kelaher said. “But you can say there’s climate change without taking a position that it’s man-made, that it’s from (man-made carbon) emissions.”
Kelaher said global warming could also be a consequence of natural environmental changes, but he explained it’s important for climate change skeptics to keep an open mind.
“A senator from West Virginia may be totally convinced that emissions from coal-fired power plants are bad for you, but he’ll never say that because that is his state’s bread and butter,” Kelaher said. “The only way you can ever get anything done is through a ground swell from the public. Then it makes it easier for elected officials to jump on the bandwagon.”
Kelaher’s trip to the farthest area of northern Norway, planned for June 2016, is promising to show participants how the feeding habits of the local reindeer population have been impacted by frequent flooding, among other growing environmental issues in the area, which are all believed to be the result of global warming.
Kelaher plans to assemble a team from Toms River to take with him. The group will consist of 15 area residents and professionals, who will be selected based on their credentials and differing views on the issue reports the Asbury Park Press. The trip is expected to be paid for with grants and other privately-raised funds.
The acclaimed PBS series NOVA is expected to take a documentary crew to film the trip which will include other representatives from various geographic regions throughout the United States. According to Newsday, each of those regions faces a unique dilemma if the predictions about climate change are borne out.
Last September, the U.S. State Department paid for Kelaher to travel to Oslo, the Norwegian capital, to learn more about the issue. The mayor went as part of a delegation from the Institute on Science for Global Policy. The institute was created by scientist George H. Atkinson, who served as science and technology adviser to Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
Atkinson decided to meet with Kelaher after it was reported Toms River was “ground zero” of the October 29, 2012 superstorm disaster. He later convinced the mayor to join them on the trip to Norway.
[Image via Huffington Post]