Public Citizen in McAllen to stir environmental conversation

Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, recently launched a 23-city tour in Texas to spark a conversation about climate change.

The tour makes a stop at 6 tonight at the McAllen Public Library’s main branch. The organization will urge cities such as McAllen to consider renewable energy for their buildings, change city vehicles to electric and follow guidelines provided by the Paris Climate Accords.

Recent data released by the Yale Program on Climate Change showed that 70 percent of Americans in 2016 believe global warming is happening. That same study also showed that residents in Texas are split on how much to worry about it.

Through this tour, Public Citizen hopes to encourage more Texans to be concerned about the effects global warming may have on the state, according to Luis Castilla, who is spearheading the tour.

“There is money to be saved and advantages to be had,” Castilla said. “We don’t see this as a political issue. We see it as a practical issue. There is no reason why we can’t save money and help the environment at the same time.”

Castilla pointed to Hurricane Harvey, which dumped feet of rain last month on the Houston area and caused massive flooding, as an example of how climate change can be expensive to taxpayers. Someone is going to have to pay for the clean-up efforts.

“People are going to start to realize that prevention is cheaper than cleaning up after,” Castilla said. “Hopefully, the economy will push them to (make climate change a priority).”

Although it’s unlikely that Hurricane Harvey was caused by climate change, many scientists believe the rising water levels and warming ocean temperatures contribute to a storm’s intensity and potential impact on an area.

“We think that Harvey type of rainfalls will become noticeably more frequent as the century goes on,” Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at MIT, told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month.

The Heritage, a conservative think tank located in Washington, suggested that climate change had no bearing on any of the recent hurricanes and pointed out that before Harvey there had not been a major hurricane to slam into the United States in 12 years.

Local climate change denier, Dr. Lawrence Gelman, says organizations such as the Sierra Club promote climate change only to turn a profit. Gelman is a local anesthesiologist and former administrator at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.

The doctor has paid for ads in The Monitor calling man-made global warming a hoax and has even produced a documentary refuting climate change.

“These people are charlatans and con-artists,” Gelman said about organizations and politicians fighting global warming, referring to the science behind climate change as “garbage.”

Castilla, though, is steadfast in his belief in climate change and points out that industries such as the fossil fuel industry have spent millions to mislead the public.

“There are a lot of officials who receive money from the industry, and that makes it harder to make an objective decision,” he said.

Public Citizen wants to fight through the naysayers to find cost-effective solutions to combat climate change, Castilla said, adding that resources should be diverted from a potential border wall to figuring out how to store water for area crops. The Rio Grande Valley is prone to droughts.

“This tour is an effort to stir a conversation that hopefully lingers in peoples mind long after the disasters are gone,” Castilla said.

WHAT: Public Citizen Climate Change Tour

WHEN: 6 p.m., Tuesday

WHERE: McAllen Public Library, 4001 N. 23rd St., McAllen

COST: Free