WEST CHICAGO – About 250 people packed a meeting room Jan. 23 at the DuPage Airport, just down the hall from the district office of U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, to call upon the congressman to take action against climate change.
Organized by the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, advocates for adressing climate change spoke for less than an hour, calling upon the public and elected representatives to step up.
J.C. Kibbey with the Union of Concerned Scientists said the science is clear that climate change is happening and that human activity through fossil fuels is the cause. Kibbey said the world needs to move to a clean energy economy as soon as possible.
“I hope Representative Roskam is listening here,” Kibbey said. “Because this does not need to be a partisan issue. There are 100,000 jobs in the clean energy sector.”
Roskam has consistently voted against attempts to limit carbon emissions, increase renewable energy or increase energy efficiency, despite the growing demand for action from scientific experts and his own constituents, organizers said in a statement.
Kibbey said 97 percent of scientists believe that climate change is real, and the only scientists who do not agree are being paid by the fossil fuel industry.
“Science cannot defend itself,” Kibbey said. “Being right is not enough. The only way we will have policy based on real facts and real science instead of corporate-funded propaganda is if we stand up and defend it.”
A spokesman sent an email statement from Roskam regarding the rally Jan. 23, stating that he “supports an all-of-the-above-approach when it comes to energy.”
“American ingenuity can make it possible to rid ourselves of our dependence on foreign oil and eliminate a major national security threat,” Roskam’s email stated. “New advancements in technology and research allow us to better provide for our energy and security needs, while safeguarding our natural resources for the future."
But Mary Shesgreen of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice countered that the goal is not to rely on fossil fuels at all – and change from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable fuel-based economy.
Shesgreen called for those who work in the fossil fuel industry to receive government support and training for new jobs.
“Our ecosystem cannot afford any new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Shesgreen said. “That means no new oil or gas pipelines, no new fracking wells, no new oil tankers, no new drilling.”
Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, said Roskam’s constituents are making themselves clear.
“They demand action to confront climate change and are ready and willing to hold elected officials accountable for failing to protect our planet,” Darin said.
Lombard resident Linda Sullivan, who attended the rally, said she was concerned that all the progress on clean energy and environmental issues would be reversed in a Trump administration.
“If they don’t go further than the Obama administration did, it’s kind of game-over for the planet,” Sullivan said. “Once the polar ice caps melt, there’s a tipping point ... where you can’t put it back.”
Sullivan said the majority of Roskam’s constituents will support him if he supports climate science initiatives and policies.
“This is a very conservative district,” Sullivan said. “But everybody needs clean air. Everybody needs clean water. Everybody needs a livable planet. And that’s the message we have – that he needs to do the right thing on the environment. And his constituents have his back.”