Could the average American household cut its energy use in half? This reduction might seem drastic, but it would put us on a par with Europe and Japan, and still leave us way above the world’s average.
This message was delivered to hundreds of people at a forum called “Climate Action in a Time of Crisis” Saturday in Northampton. Anxiety over the new President may have contributed to the overflow crowd at the massive First Churches sanctuary.
Solomon Goldstein-Rose, Amherst’s new 23-year-old state representative, was one of the speakers. With the federal government going backwards on climate change, “Massachusetts has to solve the problem on our own,” he said.
The only solution is to develop clean energy that is cheaper than fossil fuels, he said. That means the development of better storage capacity and batteries. Clean energy can be “safer, cheaper, cleaner and healthier,” he said.
Nat Fortune, a professor at Smith College, said, “Our children’s children’s survival is not assured.” A physicist, Fortune explained that even if we stop burning carbon now, the planet will continue warming for at least 100 years — and possibly 1,000 years.
Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has jumped to 400 parts per million. If it continues to 500, “Beacon Hill could become an island,” Fortune said. At 550, Arctic ice sheets would melt, creating an irreversible feedback loop that could endanger all human life.
Marty Nathan, a physician and activist, compared the threat to nuclear weapons. Lifestyle changes alone won’t address the problem, and she urged everyone to take to the streets to “break the stranglehold the fossil-fuel industry has on Congress” and start organizing for the elections of 2018.
“This is the fight of our lives, folks,” she said. Meanwhile, Massachusetts’ development of clean energy could become a model for the country and the world, she said.
State Sen. Stan Rosenberg of Amherst said the state is already first in the nation in solar energy. He predicted that the largest offshore wind farm could be in operation off the state’s coast in three to five years.
Rosenberg, who filed the first bills on the “greenhouse effect” 30 years ago, said that “everything else is moot unless we tame the carbon beast.” The status quo is a “path to failure,” and if we continue on the same path for the next 10 years, the warming will be irreversible, he said.
The forum got me thinking about what else we can do to cut our energy consumption. We own one car, a Prius that we drive only 8,000 miles a year, and I use a bicycle to get around town. We don’t use airplanes and get heat from a wood stove and passive solar. We buy local food, grow vegetables, and use LED lighting. Betsy’s been making and installing “winserts” to insulate our windows. Still, our carbon footprint is way above the world average.
Maybe the next thing to do is to lobby for a statewide carbon tax. I believe that it must not increase the total tax burden if it’s going to be acceptable to most voters. Despite all the warnings about our children’s children’s lives, maybe the only way to influence most people’s behaviors is through their pocketbooks.
New readers of this blog can click here for a quick summary of over 150 past posts, divided into categories such as frugality, simple living, gardening and living without. To read all the past posts on climate change, hover on “Index” above and click on “climate change.”