Climate Change: Working Towards Hope
with Dr. Sharon Collinge, Dr. Lisa Dilling, and Dr. Jana Milford
Several FUMC Green Team members met for a picnic and climate change discussion on August 24th. It was perfect timing, as many of had been reading in the news about the most recent UN report on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which basically said that we must act now or we will be in deep trouble!
Our FUMC environmental science experts Dr. Sharon Collinge, Dr. Lisa Dilling, and Dr. Jana Milford led us in a discussion that was informative and hopeful. I thought it was so good that I wanted to share some of the pearls these enthusiastic scientists shared with us:
There is lots to be hopeful for!
Individual actions matter!
Be easy on each other.
Colorado is a leader in climate change and carbon reduction.
Young people are helping to drive change.
In more detail, Sharon Collinge noted that the U.S. Congress was not taking climate change seriously enough until in early 2019, they seemed to accept that climate change is really happening and started talking more about what we can DO about climate change. Sharon also thinks that Greta Thunberg really did help to make a difference and bring the situation into the world’s eye.
The Covid pandemic unfortunately distracted the world from climate change, but hopefully we can get Covid under control soon and put more money and energy into controlling climate change and reducing our carbon footprint.
Sharon said there is lots to be hopeful about, and our individual actions do matter. In the US, transportation is responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, mostly due to passenger car travel. Driving less, carpooling, and riding bikes all reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give us all a way to make a difference every day.
Regarding food systems and food waste, which also have a huge carbon footprint, she suggested we buy and eat thoughtfully. For example, only buy what you can consume. Someone asked about meat consumption, and she suggested eating less meat and buying grass-finished beef when you can (the cows do not go to feed lots and consume grain), which produces less pollution.
Lisa Dilling talked to us about systemic and structural changes needed to make a difference. She said it is important not to judge others’ choices, as we all live within systems we do not always control. For example, some people need to drive because of long distances between where they live and work, and cannot ride a bicycle to work, or take public transportation if it is not available.
Lisa talked about what makes her hopeful. She said that in Colorado the amount of electricity produced by renewable energy has more than tripled since 2010, and now 30% of our electricity is produced by renewables. Because of mandates put into law by Coloradans in 2004, Excel Energy (and now other CO utilities) must meet required standards for using renewables to generate electricity. Coal is an outdated energy source that is bad for air quality, climate, and public health. Natural gas is also a fossil fuel and thus not sustainable either, but it only has half the carbon emissions of coal and is being relied upon more now, even as we look beyond fossil fuel to a future of 100% renewable energy sources. Lisa also noted that Colorado has been a leader in passing strict laws aimed at reducing emissions from oil and gas operations.
Lisa said she believes we need to make it easier for people to reduce their energy consumption or use renewables! Systemic changes are hard, and cultural changes are really hard! But young people are demanding, and helping to drive, these changes. People are starting to want electric cars and seeing the importance of making the change. In Colorado this past year we passed many new laws that will lower carbon output. Again — our state is a leader!
Another change that brings hope is the fact that renewables have become affordable, and technology is improving every year. Wind is now cost-competitive, and large-scale energy storage is on the near horizon.
What can we do personally? We can better insulate our houses, put solar panels on our homes and other buildings, or buy our energy from wind farms or solar farms. We can reduce our driving, ride our bikes or a bus, and carpool. We can be thoughtful about the food we buy and eat. We can reduce, reuse, and recycle with the emphasis on the first two R’s. We can write our political representatives and let them know we consider climate change a top priority. As consumers we have lots of power. If we want our children to have good air quality for example, we need to demand it!
Jana’s expertise is in air quality, and we’ve had a discouraging summer, but she reminded us that most of our air quality problems this summer have been from fires in other areas. Lowering the carbon footprint from transportation is the frontier for Colorado. By 2023, 6% of new vehicles sold need to be plug-in hybrid or electric. Jana suggests making personal goals to reduce our driving. She has hope from technology but sees the need for societal change. She encourages us to talk to family and friends about climate change, and share the actions we’re taking to address it. Challenges include equity issues; we must recognize that people with lower economic status are the first to be hurt by increased standards and climate change.
~ Brenda Mehos, Chair of MOJO (Mission Outreach Justice Opportunities)