Forces working in Pa. for climate change solutions
Rain, rain go away: We’re not suggesting a drought, but after a week of more drenching downpours, a balanced weather pattern would be nice.
Which brings us back to our discussion of climate change. And before you stop reading, take a moment to learn about a positive movement underway in our region and in Pennsylvania.
On a recent humid Wednesday evening with a heavy rain interruption, more than 90 people packed a clean energy forum at West Chester University. The event was sponsored by PennEnvironment and WCU and featured area legislative leaders to promote clean energy solutions and support legislation that would transition Pennsylvania to 100 percent renewable energy.
The state currently ranks 18 out of all fifty states for solar electricity generation, 19th for wind electricity generation, 11th for efficiency, 15th for number of electric vehicles sold, and 8th for increase in battery storage, according to a report released by PennEnvironment on July 25, the day of the forum.
But of total energy consumption, only 2.7 percent comes from wind and solar generation, ranking Pennsylvania 34th in the country.
Progress is being made, but there’s a long way to go.
The recent forum featured presentations by state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 Dist.; state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D156th Dist.; West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin, and West Chester University Director of Sustainability Bradley Flamm. Dinniman and Comitta told the standing-room-only crowd about legislation on which they are co-sponsors that would require Pennsylvania to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
“As Pennsylvanians, we have a constitutionally-protected right to ‘clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.’ We must continue to assert ourselves in defending and supporting those rights,” said Dinniman.
A coalition of nearly 150 groups is urging the House and Senate to consider the legislation, HB2132 and SB1140.
The support cuts a broad swath of organizations beyond the obvious environmental activists. The Pennsylvania Council of Churches, business groups, educators, and a bipartisan coalition of legislators came out last April when the bills were introduced, according to a report in PennLive.
“We don’t just have a climate problem. We have a looming crisis of economic strain and weather conditions that are not life-sustaining,” Herrin said at the local forum. “I believe strongly in the power of community to lead the charge to a clean energy economy that will produce good jobs while protecting our health and our children’s future.”
West Chester is among the municipalities that have committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy.
According to PennEnvironment, Hawaii became the first state in the country in 2015 to set a 100 percent renewable energy requirement. Sixty-one American cities, including West Chester and Downingtown, and universities including WCU, have joined the pledge.
Speakers at the forum also noted the economic benefit to clean energy in Pennsylvania, despite its long standing history in fossil fuel extraction. The clean energy sector — solar, geothermal and wind power generation — now provides 85,000 jobs, more than all fossil fuel sectors combined.
In Harrisburg, however, there is opposition from the natural gas industry as well as the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
Both groups claim renewable energy sources will not be able to fully meet Pennsylvanians’ energy needs barring some significant technological breakthrough, according to PennLive.
The West Chester forum was one of many events PennEnvironment is holding this summer to raise awareness of the need to transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
The education and legislative push by these organizations and lawmakers like Dinniman and Comitta are two parts of the three-pronged effort to address climate change.
Also at work is an increasing push to change consumer habits, reducing use of plastics, buying locally grown food, recycling, composting and converting heating and cooling systems to solar and geothermal.
Why not consider an electric car for your next vehicle?
The reality of climate change is inescapable, but solutions are not out of reach.
Educating, changing habits and legislating are forces at work: Join them.