Asbury Park Press
By Russ Zimmer
December 7, 2016

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, saying she was worried for her grandchildren’s future, urged President-elect Donald Trump to turn to one of his closest advisers, daughter Ivanka Trump, to shape his climate policies.

“Listen to your daughter,” Whitman said to a packed room at Monmouth University on Wednesday morning. “Ivanka believes in climate change, and I’d like him to be open to it. … I want us to take this issue seriously.”

Hours later, it was announced the president-elect went in a different direction, tapping Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, a frequent legal target of his office.

Pruitt has “led litigation against (President Barack) Obama’s landmark climate rule for power plants, as well as water regulations and standards for ground-level ozone pollution, haze, methane and more,” according to The Hill, which covers Washington politics.

“Trump’s nominee to lead EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a climate denier who’s worked closely with the fossil fuel industry,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the former Democratic presidential candidate. “That’s sad and dangerous.”

Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” pledged to return jobs to coal country and to withdraw from the most significant international climate accord, the Paris Agreement.

But since the election he has backed off from some of his harshest takes on climate change. Both father and daughter Trump met with climate advocate and former Vice President Al Gore earlier this week.

There is consensus among the scientific community that climate change represents a threat to our way of life, especially in coastal areas. The National Climate Assessment shows that sea levels will most likely rise by between 1 and 4 feet by 2100.

Whitman served as governor from 1994 to 2001, when she left to become head of the EPA under President George W. Bush. A Republican, Whitman did not support Trump’s candidacy, going as far as to lay out the case for a Hillary Clinton presidency.

She was speaking Wednesday at the Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute’s 12th Annual Future of the Ocean Symposium.

Both Whitman and the other panelist, Donald Boesch, who is an oceanographer and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, praised Trump as “a dealmaker” who could perhaps bring climate skeptics to agree to a compromise.

To do that, Boesch noted, Trump would have to walk back much of his campaign plans.

“If, however, the president-elect fulfills his campaign statements and withdraws from the Paris agreement and kills green power, we are not only screwed here in America, but the world is screwed — to be blunt,” Boesch said.

By resisting the scientific argument, America is only falling farther behind in preparing for the inevitable, they said. And this isn’t just about the big-picture, societal problems that rising sea levels and warming oceans will create, but more immediate economic consequences for thousands of American families.

For example, certain fish species are moving north as ocean currents change and adults reproduce in different areas. This will at some point impact commercial fishermen, if it hasn’t already, Boesch said.

“Some things that we used to catch here, you can’t catch anymore,” he said. “You can’t catch lobsters in the Long Island Sound anymore.”

There are parallels between what adjustments fishermen have to make and coal miners, whose industry is losing market share as private investment switches to cleaner-burning natural gas.

“What do you do for people who live in West Virginia and Kentucky whose entirely family livelihoods have been built around coal?” Whitman said. “What are the investments that government can make in these communities to help these people survive? The same is true for the fishermen. They’re not going to be catching the same kinds of fish, (the fish) are not coming back. What species are coming this way? … How can we help these people maintain their lives even as their livelihoods are going to have to change?”