It’s pretty hot, which reminds me that the climate is changing

Like most people, climate change is something I prefer not to dwell on. But with multiple days in a row near or above 90 degrees, I’m compelled to remember that the climate is getting warmer, and the number of days above 90 degrees is expected to increase dramatically over the next several decades. According to one estimate, there may be 90 days over 90 degrees in Boston by 2070.

90 degree days

Climate change, and the fear of it, was what inspired me to go into public service to begin with. I still believe it to be the most intractable existential threat to civilization we face today, and perhaps have ever faced before (though the nuclear arms race would be a close second). I decided to focus my career on transportation in particular because it is the largest contributor to climate change of any sector.

transportation ghg
Source: PVPC Climate Action and Clean Energy Plan

We here in the Pioneer Valley are mostly shielded from the rising seas that threaten to eventually flood much of Boston and New York. However, we are susceptible to extreme weather events like flooding from the remnants of Tropical Storm Irene or the tornado that tore through Springfield. And more than that, it is totally possible that increasing numbers of climate refugees, possibly even from inside our country (drought-stricken southwest, flooded Florida, disappearing Louisiana) could relocate to our relatively water-rich, inland oasis.

ma heatin up
The climate in 2070 could be the same as S. Carolina’s climate today – really hot. Source: PVPC Climate Action and Clean Energy Plan 

Of course, the thing that really motivated me to dedicate my career to arresting climate change was this fact: as the winters get warmer, sugar maples aren’t going to be producing maple syrup anymore. The idea of New England without wintertime sugaring is a horrible, wretched thought – and enough to scare anyone to action.

Lighting a Single Candle

Rather than wring my hands harder and harder as I stare into the abyss of a Mad Max-esque future, I thought I would go through a list of three pretty easy things I can try to do to reduce climate change over the next two weeks:

  1. Get a Mass Save home energy audit: Mass Save is a free state program which provides home energy audits and educates home owners about available incentives and credits to make your home more energy efficient. Special bonus – lower utility bills!
  2. Eat less meat: Meat is really resource intensive, mostly from raising all that corn and feeding it to the cows. Plus, it’s not very good for you.
  3. Drive less: OK, I don’t really drive all that much right now, but there’s always room for improvement. Especially now that I have an e-bike, I really don’t have much of an excuse to drive less than three miles.

Some Closing Thoughts

It’s worth pointing out that Massachusetts is a leader in combating climate change, from the Global Warming Solutions Act  to the state’s GreenDOT sustainability initiative. Furthermore, Holyoke is a leader in the state for renewable energy use; only a little over 5% of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels. A lot of it is thanks to our hydro-power.

holyoke energy
Source: Holyoke Gas and Electric

And nationally there is a growing recognition that climate change is a real problem and one that needs to be addressed. So I have hope that enough people will take a look outside, wince at the oppressive heat, and accept that even more progress needs to happen. If we don’t, we have to ask ourselves seriously – will our children thank us for the decisions we make today? In a New England without maple syrup, my guess is that the answer will be no.

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