Pa. 'Climate Reality Leader' dissects climate change in local region

A Pennsylvania climate leader sits down with Action News to discuss how the environment, weather, and wildlife in our region might be affected by climate change.

Video Transcript

RICHARD WHITEFORD: I have always been fascinated with nature and wildlife. I've just decided that I needed to devote my life to trying to save what's left on this planet. In the Philadelphia area, the climate's going to impact us two major ways. It's extreme heat, and the other is extreme rainfall.

A lot of people confuse climate with weather and vice versa. Weather is what happens today. Climate is sort of like a big umbrella that over arches the weather on the ground. And it influences it with all that heat and moisture that I told you about earlier.

You know, we get a big snowstorm, all the climate deniers say, hey, where's climate change now? Well, there it is, because all that moisture is up there. And if the weather's cold, it comes e And it contributes to the size of the snow storm. That's how climate impacts weather.

The challenge is to stop putting CO2 in the atmosphere. We've got to do it really fast. The more CO2 we put in the atmosphere, the hotter the atmosphere gets. And when it heats up, it absorbs water from the planet, brings that water back down into much larger storms. You're going to have warmer water and dirtier water.

And the other thing is it will affect the food chain. And it really is doing that now. Invasive species are taking over. And creatures that relied on certain things for all their existence, they can't exist anymore because their food chain has been demolished.

Even something as small as a bog turtle. Every species that we blink out-- here, there, or wherever-- is like snipping a section out of the whole balance of the planet. I'm a writer. I've been writing for years. I've written probably 300 or 400 articles.

And so Voyager Publishing Company called me up and asked me if I'd write this book. I said, oh yeah, for sure. Really good information in these things.

We still have a lot of wildlife. It's just that their quality of life has been greatly diminished by our encroachment on their habitat. There's a lot of organizations like the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund and those organizations that are really doing a lot to preserve habitat areas for species that are endangered.

Butterflies, bees are a big problem right now. People are using so much insecticide that they're killing off bees, who pollinate the crops that we need for food. Well, the bald eagle, for a while, nobody knew why they were so unsuccessful with new hatchlings until somebody discovered DDT, which was insecticide in the blood stream of eagles. And so as soon as they cut the DDT out, the eagles came right back.

And they actually have been delisted. They were endangered, now they're just a species of concern at this point in time. I think that the modern conveniences for humans encroach on nature in awful ways. And I think that people have to sort of rethink where we fit.

That's one of the beauties of the Climate Reality Project. As we speak, I'm working with Al Gore again. I've been working with him for 14 years. This week and next week we're training 4,700 people in 160 different countries to be able to speak the truth about climate change based on the actual science.

What the science is telling us is that if we don't get to zero carbon emissions by 2050, we are headed for a planet in which we won't be able to survive. What causes climate change is burning fossil fuels. We have to convert electrical energy supply away from coal power fire plants to windmills and solar and so forth.

And there's a lot of pushback from the fossil industry. They say it will never provide enough electricity, but it absolutely will. There are other countries around the planet that are doing it. And so we can do it too.

I think the most hopeful thing for me that just happened recently is really big corporations came out and made this declaration that we want you to double down and double the amount of carbon you get out of the atmosphere before 2050. There's still hope. We are not doomed yet. But the thing we want to do is de-doom it as much as we can before it gets here.

If you're convinced that there is an apocalypse coming, you're going to say, then what's the use? You cannot give up. We belong here. We evolved here. Instead of trashing it, we ought to become way more conscious about what we're doing to the planet.

What goes around comes around. Somehow we have to get people to pay attention to that.