December 17, 2012

Local health-care provider focusing on climate change


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Tim Palmer has played a visible role in the North Country’s health-care community for decades.

As a nurse for the Clinton County Public Health Department, Palmer has spent the last 27 years dedicated to improving the community’s overall health.

That specific focus will come to an end in January when Palmer retires. But he will continue to work toward a healthier world for all as he battles another nemesis: climate change.

“I see it as a critical issue,” Palmer said. “It’s a train wreck that is going to happen. The question is, ‘How bad is that wreck going to be?’”

The impact that climate change has already had on the Earth has guaranteed trouble, he added. Even if humanity applies the brakes to destructive behaviors, the train will not stop in time to prevent changes to the world as we now know it.


The fact that climate change is a real phenomenon is no longer debatable, Palmer argued, as he noted a growing list of specific examples.

“If you were born since June of 1984, you have never lived a month that his not been above the global average,” he said of published statistics that confirm the planet is warmer now than it has been since the first humans walked its surface.

“The evidence, the predictions on the disaster we face should shock us into action,” Palmer said of the opportunity to prevent major catastrophe. “We still don’t know what kind of (train) wreck it will be, whether we’re simply derailed or we slam full throttle (into an approaching train).”

Palmer has already taken a proactive approach in how he will personally attack climate change: he has begun studies at Vermont Law School, where he hopes to build a resume that will allow him to approach climate change from a legal perspective.

“We’re perched at a critical threshold. We have to deal with a lot of confusion” on the accuracy of climate-change statistics, which have been intentionally created by special-interest groups, such as large oil companies, he said.

Evidence of climate change does not have to come from the scientific community, he added as he noted the changes in plant and animal species this are occurring in northeastern New York.


Palmer’s support for his community began early in his career, when he worked as a nurse for Planned Parenthood and was directly responsible for establishing the AIDS Council for Northeastern New York in the mid-1980s.

He sees several parallels in the initial response to the HIV outbreak in the ‘80s to how people are now facing the pending global crisis connected to climate change.

As an activist, Palmer has identified a potential step toward reducing the impact of climate change through a fossil-fuel initiative that would provide citizens with a financial incentive to reduce the amount of fossil fuels they use on a regular basis.

“We need to make gas more expensive for everyone. But instead of having fees returned to the government, those fees are returned to the citizens. People will be using less gas, but they will see a financial gain.”

He describes the concept in a detailed essay written for his studies, in which he argues that a fee-and-dividend program would require uniform assessment of fees on all carbon fuels and equal distribution of proceeds to every adult resident of the country.

“The fee is applied to all oil, natural gas and coal as it enters the economy, whether at the time of production at the wellhead or mine or when delivered via pipeline or port,” he writes.

“The intent of this levy is to initiate a meaningful increase in the cost of using these fuels.”

With a master’s degree in environmental law and policy, Palmer hopes to strengthen his ability to enhance the public’s understanding of climate change and the potential disaster that he feels is getting closer every day.

It’s a battle he started long ago, epitomized by the several dozen volumes of “Storms of My Grandchildren,” by James Hansen, that he has purchased and handed out to friends and acquaintances so they can recognize the dangers.

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Information on global climate change and its potential impact on the global environment can be found in "Storms of My Grandchildren," by James Hansen, published by Bloomsbury USA.