Extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, mass die-off of coral reefs and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people are just some of the consequences of the atmospheric warm-up that will hit us all by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate. This was made clear in a comprehensive report issued this month by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Our planet’s temperature continues to rise due to the burning of coal, oil and fracked gas, causing damage to our environment, our health and costing a predicted $54 trillion in damages.
The scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, recommended that governments take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” The report said that in order to prevent a devastating 2.7 degree fahrenheit rise in temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. We need to get to zero fossil fuels, zero emissions and soon.
Wellesley has one goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: to get 25 percent below 2007 levels by 2025. From all the evidence, it is clear that Wellesley needs a much more ambitious goal. At minimum, we need a goal to achieve 100 percent renewable energy — including all electricity purchased by the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant.
Massachusetts’ goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions were established by the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008: 25 percent reduction below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The state is not on target to meet these goals which is why 2017 Wellesley High School graduates Olivia Geiger and Shamus Miller joined the Conservation Law Foundation in successfully suing the Baker Administration. Geiger and Miller won their case but are still waiting for the Commonwealth to take action.
On the local, state and national level we are going to have to make dramatic changes to make sure the planet remains habitable for human life, even in the near term.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Vote. Please keep climate change in mind when you make your ballot choices on Nov. 6. Consider the gubernatorial candidates’ positions on natural gas pipelines, carbon tax, clean energy, net metering, caps on solar energy and public transportation. Which candidate has the most ambitious plan to address climate change?
2. Share your concerns with Wellesley’s elected officials. You may attend any regular meeting of key town boards and ask to speak during the “Citizen Speak” period, which should be scheduled at the beginning of every meeting. Ask for ambitious local action on renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
School Building Committee — Let them know you support their forward thinking as they consider zero net energy design for the proposed Hunnewell School. Zero net energy buildings are super energy efficient while generating required energy through on-site renewables. Long-term cost savings, as well as their zero emissions are why Worcester, Amherst, Brookline, Belmont and Cambridge are building such schools. Attend a meeting; or write to Board Chair Sharon Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Municipal Light Plant Board Meeting — Thank the MLP board for commissioning the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Study and ask them how quickly Wellesley will move to obtaining 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources. Attend meeting at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at 4 Municipal Way or write to Board Chair Jack Stewart at email@example.com.
Board of Selectmen — Express your appreciation for the past efforts of the selectmen to consider the local environment and sustainability issues that affect Wellesley residents. Ask the board what our town is doing to reach our town-wide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. Are we on track to meet this goal? Do the selectmen have a plan to set a more ambitious goal? Attend meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at Town Hall, 525 Washington St. or write to Board Chair Jack Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Design Review Board — Share your support for the DRB’s work on a new design guideline handbook and encourage them to go beyond respecting Wellesley’s existing village and architectural character by identifying design decisions that make Wellesley more resilient and allow the town to meet and exceed its carbon reduction goals. Write to Michael Zehner at email@example.com.
3. Make lifestyle changes.
Yes, this still matters. Are you able to walk or carpool sometimes instead of drive? Eat less red meat? Tighten up the energy efficiency in your home through the Mass. Save program? How about trying for Net Zero Energy? All of these ideas will improve the climate, your pocketbook and your health. The climate crisis was caused by millions of small individual actions, with accumulated consequences. It can be mitigated with the same — and with help from our elected officials.