Forces work­ing in Pa. for cli­mate change so­lu­tions

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - OPINION -

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.

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