Forum in South Deerfield examines ways to band together to fight climate change

  • Deerfield Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness speaks during the climate change forum held at Frontier Regional School on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Deerfield Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness speaks during the climate change forum held at Frontier Regional School on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, speak at the climate change forum at Frontier Regional School on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst Climate System Research Center Associate Director Michael Rawlins speaks to the crowd about climate warming trends in Franklin County during the climate change forum at Frontier Regional School on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Deerfield Conservation Commission Chair Tim Hilchey showcases his Tesla in an educational segment on electric vehicles during the climate change forum held at Frontier Regional School on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • Deerfield Conservation Commission Chair Tim Hilchey showcases his Tesla in an educational segment on electric vehicles during the climate change forum held at Frontier Regional School on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2022 12:10:35 PM
Modified: 4/3/2022 12:09:57 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD – Following the success of 2020’s climate change forum, the four towns of southern Franklin County banded together again Saturday to sponsor another, with the focus this time being on how individual homeowners can help make a difference as the area looks to increase its sustainability, environmental conservancy and climate resiliency by 2030.

“If we work together in a concerted effort, each of us can be a good steward,” said Deerfield Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness. “This is a yard-by-yard and household-by-household solution. We can do this.”

Attendees of the forum were invited to a introduction session featuring Shores Ness; Deerfield’s Municipal Vulnerability Program Coordinator Chris Curtis; University of Massachusetts Amherst Climate System Research Center Associate Director Michael Rawlins; state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton; and state Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland.

After the plenary session, workshops featuring state government officials, businesses and volunteers were held throughout the day based on topics like “Greening Your Community,” “Home Strategies for Reducing Carbon Footprints” and electric vehicle demonstrations. Frontier Community Access Television (FCAT) broadcasted the climate change forum and its workshops, and recordings will be posted in the coming days on FCAT’s YouTube page at www.youtube.com/c/FCATMedia.

Climate change reared its head in the form of relentless rainfall last July that flooded Routes 5 and 10 in Deerfield and washed out roads and farm crops across Franklin County. As these events become more common, Shores Ness and other speakers at the forum said remediation will be a team effort.

“How can we adapt and thrive when faced with the overwhelming effects of climate change?” Shores Ness asked. “We can plant native species, have rain gardens, pocket parks, open space. … We can conserve and manage our excess water together. We can have conversations on resilience together.”

Rawlins, who focuses his research on numerical models projecting climate change in the northeastern U.S., said that Franklin County’s average annual temperature has risen 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895, which is faster than the global temperature rise of approximately 1.8 degrees in the same time.

Higher average temperatures, Rawlins explained, correlate with more emergency room visits due to extreme heat in the summer and far more precipitation, of which the majority will be rain instead of snow. Rawlins added that Franklin County’s three wettest years on record — of which there is more than 100 years of data — have occurred since 2008.

“It’s very likely in this region we’re going to see more rain in the winter and less snow,” Rawlins said. “And that obviously has a big implication for recreation.”

Rawlins said the planet is currently on a track for a “higher-emission scenario,” which means these pessimistic projections are more likely to occur. To reach the “optimistic” lower-emission scenarios, Rawlins said countries will need to reach net-zero emissions by 2030 or 2050.

“There’s no evidence we’re getting our act together as a global community,” he said. “The lower-emission scenario (involves) very aggressive actions that are going to take a lot of work.”

Comerford and Blais followed Rawlins, explaining how the state is working toward net-zero emissions and the initiatives they are taking to represent Franklin County’s stake.

“We need to continue pushing on the decarbonization of our building sector,” Comerford said. “Transportation and buildings are two places that we have to look into in terms of achieving this net-zero goal.”

Blais said the state has an “antiquated” electrical grid that must be addressed to help the state and residents meet green energy goals.

“Today’s grid cannot support the green,” Blais said. “Our existing structure will not allow for the green energy revolution that is necessary for us to fight climate change.”

She said the age of the electrical grid “required you to pay astronomical interconnection fees” to make solar projects happen on houses, which “end up killing these projects.”

“The DPU (Department of Public Utilities) took initial steps on grid modernization in 2014,” Blais said, “but its grid modernization proceedings have been too slow and too friendly to utilities,” a statement that was met with applause from the crowd.

To close out, Blais emphasized that the Legislature needs to kick itself into gear to fight climate change before it’s too late.

“Obviously,” she said, “there is more that we can and should be doing every single day.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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