Friday, November 21, 2008
“Responding to Climate Change”
“Climate change is truly becoming the foremost issue, second only to the economy. None of us can be complacent,” observed State Senator Pamela Resor at a Panel on Climate Change held in Concord on November 12. Sponsored by the Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters, the event featured four panelists: Resor, who co-chaired the Committee on Global Warming/Climate Change and is on the Joint Committee on Environment; Peter Del Tredici, who works at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Arnold Arboretum; Brian Crounse, who is chair of the Concord Comprehensive Sustainable Energy Committee and Andy Proulx, who started AGP Energy Solutions and Energy Savvy Inc. Each person brought a unique insight to the panel.
State legislation goes “green”
Resor described several pieces of state legislation. Soon after becoming governor, Deval Patrick added Massachusetts to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which is a pact between New England Governors to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In July, Patrick signed into law the Green Communities Act. This act launches the state into a new era of clean energy development, focusing on energy efficiency technology and renewable energy development.
In March, the Massachusetts Senate passed the Global Warming Solutions Act that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 in the state.
In August, the Green Jobs Act was passed. The bill provides grant money for companies and universities that encourage the training of workers for environmentally friendly jobs and that focus on green development. It is directly aimed at creating jobs in the alternate energy sector, particularly through start-ups, and is designed to attract venture capital money, create thousands of jobs and ultimately bring revenue for the state.
Botanist measures effects of climate change
Peter Del Tredici has worked at the Arnold Arboretum since 1978. In teaching students, Del Tredici has concrete examples of climate change. At the arboretum, there are 100-year-old specimens and data showing an eight-day shift in seasonal growth over the last 100 years. “There will be winners and losers.” Plants that can adapt to change readily will live. “Specialist plants will have problems making the adjustment.”
Del Tredici gave advice to gardeners, “Spare no effort in improving your soil, especially through compost. Healthy soil is a great buffer against all kinds of environmental change.” He recommended choosing adaptable, non-invasive plants that are disease-resistant and require minimal applications of pesticides and fertilizers. He said people and communities need to budget for upkeep of plants.
Another statistic noted was that this area is seeing a four-degree average increase in the minimum winter temperature since 1963. Again, with data at his fingertips, Del Tredici presented temperature trends from the Arnold Arboretum. The average minimum temperature between 1963 and 1984 was -4.5°F. The average minimum temperature between 1985 and 2007 was -0.5°F. “Winter temperatures keep pathogens in check.” The impact of pathogens goes up if the temperature doesn’t get low enough to kill them off. He said the wooly adelgid insect that attacks hemlocks is a manifestation of climate change.
“These changes destabilize ecosystems which create opportunities for invasive organisms…Invasives are not the cause. They are symptomatic…We are watching evolution in action,” said Del Tredici. He said the environment will not go back to normal even if we could eliminate all the invasive species.
Energy, food and sustainable living
Andy Proulx is a professional engineer certified in green building practices, who spends his time making buildings more energy efficient. Proulx said that we should consider environmental, economic and social implications when we talk about sustainability. “When we look at the use of fossil fuels and uranium, lots of us don’t see the damage it does to the environment. We don’t see the real impact of it. It is a very important point.” Proulx is an advocate of using renewable resources for energy, such as wood pellet stoves.
Proulx also talked about food quality and the nutrition of food. He said there has been a dramatic drop in the nutrition of our food since 1940. “This will be the next big thing.” It is connected to the health of soil.
Brian Crounse spoke about both the global and local initiatives needed to address reducing energy consumption. He had just returned from Germany and apologized for his large carbon footprint due to flying. In Germany, he said, you do not see icicles on roofs because they are so well insulated. He added, “They may be new here, but there are wood pellet stoves all over Austria.”
At the local level, he encouraged people to look for ways to reduce energy consumption in town buildings. The town of Concord received a gift from the Alfred Sawyer Trust to help Concord address this goal. Crounse praised area officials such as Concord-Carlisle Regional School District Superintendent Diana Rigby and Regional School Committee member Jerry Wedge for participating in the “LoCarb” Diet, referring to movement to lower households’ carbon footprints. (See Mosquito article “Living the low-carbon diet” from October 24, 2008, page 16.)
Suggestions from the 100 attendees included: outlawing leaf blowers as they are considered harmful for the soil; reducing the consumption of meat, particularly beef; stopping government subsidies for the oil and gas industries; and creating tax breaks for energy-saving investments in homes and businesses. Others advocated shopping and eating more locally, in order to keep money in the local economy and to allow shoppers to better know those who produce their food. Water pollution from pesticides can be reduced by buying organically grown food.
In closing, it was suggested that people adopt personal changes to reduce climate change, and send letters to legislators to keep the recent climate change initiatives going in the right direction. Encouraging everyone to lower energy consumption, Crounse left the crowd with this thought: “If we are geese, it is time to fly and keep flapping.” ∆
© 2008 The