My Turn: Embracing the climate and biodiversity crises

  • Simon Stiell, U.N. climate chief, speaks during a closing plenary session at the COP27 U.N. Climate Summit, Sunday, Nov. 20, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. AP

Published: 12/1/2022 9:51:10 AM
Modified: 12/1/2022 9:48:46 AM

Kudos to the Recorder for their Climate Change @ Home series, in print, and podcasts. I have met many researchers, farmers, students, and individuals who are focusing on the climate and biodiversity crises — it is inspiring!

Last week the United Nations COP27 in Egypt closed with a breakthrough agreement that the global north, as the creators of the climate crisis, must help the global south deal with their reality. What the UN was unable to agree upon, is that we have to ‘decarbonize’ and phase out using fossil fuels — the cause of the crisis!

Nevertheless, the message is clear — We need to stop using fossil fuels! And that means each of us, as well as industry and our military.

In Massachusetts 85% of the fossil fuels are used to heat and cool our buildings, and enable us to get around.

The Take Action section of Greening Greenfield’s website invites people to join our Climate Action campaign, which aims to help everyone find resources to address not only the climate crisis, but also the biodiversity crisis, personally and at the ballot box.

1. Decarbonize everything … Make a 5-10 year plan to stop using fossil fuels. Electrify everything.

a. Our Homes: We need to change our heating systems. It will take effort, but there is help. The Mass Save program is now focused on helping us all “electrify” where we live. If you are income eligible, they will take your home closer to that goal. If not, explore their up to $10,000 rebate for electric heating systems, and their offer of paying 70% of your insulation to help you move toward the goal. After working with Mass Save you likely will not be ready to throw away your fossil fuel or wood heating systems for back-up. However, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) may get us there. If you own a home contact Mass Save at MassSave.com for a free audit, and learn what you need to do to start the transition. Renters, please encourage your landlord to call.

b. Our Cars: Electrifying your car is simpler than electrifying your home. When you are ready to buy a new car, look at the options and choose a new or used electric vehicle if you can find one, or buy a hybrid. In 2035, the only new cars on the market will be electric — and there are government subsidies.

c. Electricity: But what about the electricity? Is that being made without fossil fuels? If you live in Greenfield, and get your electricity through Greenfield Light & Power (your Eversource bill), the answer is YES. You have been using 100% zero-carbon electricity for the last 7 years!

For others, the answer is NO unless you have solar panels on your home, or bought into a solar program. However, the percentage of zero-carbon electricity from Eversource or National Grid is increasing. Today, It is 20%. It grows by 3% each year because of state requirements. But increasing the percentage of renewable energy is not easy for the utility companies. They not only need to generate electricity differently, they also need to upgrade their wires so that they can collect energy from many places, instead of a few power plants. And of course, we will pay for those upgrades. If you own your home and it is well-positioned for solar, you can help by installing a solar system, and generating the electricity that your home and car use.

2. Support Nature

Supporting nature is the second action on Greening Greenfield’s website. While governments acknowledge that eliminating the use of fossil fuels is necessary, simply stopping fossil fuels use will not be adequate to solve our climate crisis. Plants, that use sunlight to take carbon out of the atmosphere in order to grow, are a necessary part of the solution. It is estimated that in the Northeast, our forests sequester 14% of our carbon emissions now. The New England Forestry Foundation (NEFF) projects that if well managed, forests can increase their carbon uptake to 30% in 30 years.

Plants are not only necessary to address the climate crisis, but also the biodiversity crisis. Doug Tallamy, creator of the Homegrown National Park campaign, says that the most important thing we can do is plant trees, shrubs and flowers in our communities to feed pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and moths that enable over 80% of our plants to reproduce. Additionally, the butterflies and moths move food created by plants up into the food chain

3. Speak Up – Be Active

The final action on Greening Greenfield’s website is to vote for people who understand our climate and biodiversity crises and are working to solve it. They will work to keep fossil fuels in the ground, slow development, and help us all make the transition to a new way of living on our planet. Please join us. Our lives depend on it!

Nancy Hazard is the former director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) and is an active member of Greening Greenfield, www.GreeningGreenfiedMA.org. She can be reached at NancyHazard30@gmail.com.


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