Merriott column: Addressing climate change one local community at a time
Seems like yesterday when I read the articles in Time magazine about global warming: Special Report Global Warming — Be Worried, Be VERY Worried.
Turns out Exxon knew about global warming, now known as climate change, 40 years ago and allegedly spent millions to promote misinformation — damage we are still trying to undo to this day.
I remember when the Big Tobacco executives were sworn in and testified to Congress that nicotine was not addictive in 1994. Big Tobacco and Big Oil allegedly used the same consultants for their misinformation campaign. The big difference here of course is Big Tobacco only threatens human health (to the tune of 480,000 premature deaths each year), while Big Oil now threatens the whole planet’s health.
In July of 1977, Exxon’s senior scientist, James Black, delivered a message to Exxon’s management committee, saying, “In the first place there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide releases from the burning of fossil fuels.”
Given to oversimplification and to Mr. Spock’s logic, I reasoned that 6.6 billion people passing gas could change the world’s climate much less if they were extracting, processing and consuming 85 million barrels of oil a day. To this day I default to this line of reasoning, except there are now 7.7 billion of us consuming 100 million barrels of oil a day.
Let this sink in. In 13 years, the world has gained 1 billion people and fossil fuel energy demand is up nearly 20%. This has all been made more relevant recently by the global climate action strikes spearheaded by teenager Greta Thunberg.
The one at Sopris Park in Carbondale this past Friday attracted hundreds of people, most of them students, so there is hope. After all, it is their world. We are leaving such a mess for them to somehow fix in the next 8-10 years before it’s too late.
On a positive note, in Carbondale, thanks to forward-thinking individuals at CLEER and CORE and in town government we were one of the first communities to develop our own Climate Action Plan. The subtitle of this unprecedented action was/is to “Work today towards a carbon-neutral future and a thriving clean energy economy.”
Since 2006, Carbondale has installed 1.2 megawatts of solar power generation around town, including 1 MW on public buildings and facilities. Carbondale was the first community on the Western Slope to adopt a Residential Green Building Code and a Commercial Green Building Code. We have installed electric vehicle charging stations at five public locations. We consider our plan a “living document” and revisited it with our 2017 Carbondale Climate and Energy Action Plan, with the goals of continuing to improve our carbon footprint.
We are striving to becoming a net zero community no later than 2050 and a net zero community on new construction by 2030. Carbondale is also the second government entity in the Roaring Fork Valley to adopt an EBOR (Environmental Bill of Rights).
Also a positive note is the town’s partnership with Garfield Clean Energy since 2008. Partners are Garfield County, Parachute, Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, RFTA and Colorado Mountain College.
Garfield Clean Energy helps residents, businesses and governments become more energy efficient, tapping clean energy and creating a stronger, more resilient economy.
Garfield County was recognized by Colorado last year for its innovative use of energy efficiency, renewable energy and alternative transportation fuels to drive economic development. With Excel and Holy Cross scheduled to be mostly carbon free by 2030, it is time for Garfield County to up its goals of 35 to 50 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030 and to take that next step and hedge its bet on Climate Change.
Time for some “moonshot thinking.” Lets invest some of those oil and gas monies into something really big while there is that opportunity.
If it were me I would be exploring a partnership with the state of Colorado, NREL and Tesla to design shoebox-sized electric storage batteries and manufacture them in Garfield County, creating great paying jobs.
GarCo could then set a goal to get to net zero on all new construction by 2030 and be a net-zero county by 2050, just like little ol’ Carbondale.
The gorilla in the room remains, though. Is it too late and will it be enough?
Frosty Merriott is a CPA in Carbondale and former Carbondale Town Council member. He is a registered independent and considers himself a fiscal conservative but an original tree hugger from Louisiana. His column appears monthly in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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