On February 27, I attended an interesting discussion memorably entitled “What a Winter! Forum on Climate Change Policy to Protect and Preserve PA” at West Chester University, sponsored by the West Chester University Sustainability Advisory Council, Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reductions (BLUER), and Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection (4CP). With an audience of about 100, speakers were:
Ashlie Delshad, Assistant Professor of Political Science, West Chester University, Energy and Environmental Policy Expert, Sustainability Advisory Council and Climate Action Plan Committee Member
John Hanger, former secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection. Served on the Public Utilities Commission and was instrumental in securing electricity provider choice as we know it today in PA
David Mazzocco, Chair, Borough Leaders United for Emissions Reductions (BLUER), West Chester Borough
Paul Morgan, Professor of Secondary and Professional Education, West Chester University, Sustainability Coordinator, Climate Action Plan Committee Chair
John Quigley, former Secretary of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (2009-11), and since then consultant to nongovernmental organizations, state governments, and foundations on conservation and sustainability
Moderator: Mark W. Davis, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration, West Chester University, Environmental Policy Expert, Sustainability Advisory Council
The discussion oscillated between examples of good works and gloom at the continuing piling-on of CO2 and methane into our one and only atmosphere.
Among other tidbits, I learned or was reminded that:
Less than half (44%) of Americans believe that human activity contributes to human activity (Delshad).
Scientists need to talk like the public if they are to educate the rest of us (Delshad).
Big houses, big cars and big money (i.e., overconsumption) are our problem (Morgan).
West Chester’s 11% drop in global warming gases, however laudable, is a one-time drop due to conversion to natural gas (Mazzocco).
“Global climate disruption” is an effective term that incorporates more than just the warming side of what is happening to our climate (Quigley).
The Obama administration has done more for climate and energy than all earlier administrations (Quigley).
Our own state, all by itself, releases 1% of the planet’s global warming gases and unfortunately the climate change policy developed under the Rendell administration was shelved the day the current governor took office (Quigley).
90% of US energy comes from coal, gas, oil, and nuclear; 10% from renewables; and efficiency is always to the good (Hanger).
On the positive side, in 2011 PA emissions were the lowest in 35 years, due to decreasing reliance on coal (Hanger).
The current paralysis brought on by Republican leaders’ adamant opposition to action can be broken in two ways: a huge electoral change similar to the 1932 wipe-out of all but 16 Republican senators, or by a disaster on the order of the flooding of Miami (Hanger).
The audience was asked to submit written questions. Mine didn’t get answered, and really, I can see why it wasn’t chosen: “Why are Americans so averse to paying attention to science?” Here are a few more points in answer to others’ questions:
We can get to totally renewable energy only by massive change, which only the government can drive (Quigley).
Change will have to occur when supply and demand are disrupted (Dershad).
Natural gas is 50% more efficient but the current high releases of methane in production and transmission remain to be regulated (Quigley).
It takes money to save money (Morgan).
West Chester is to use 100% renewable energy for Borough government consumption (Mazzocco).
We have the technology to reduce methane leaks from gas wells and transmission; we just have to use it. Meanwhile, global coal use is increasing by 2% a year, which won’t be cut till China and India use more renewables (Quigley, Hanger).
“Single issue bias” causes us to relax too soon, after accomplishing one step (Morgan).
Western governments need to help developing countries to “leap frog” from no electricity to clean energy (Dershad).
The globe can’t get to 80% renewables till 2050; when there are 2 billion people without electricity today, progress will be slow (Quigley).
The US used to be built on innovation…. (Mazzocco)
PA can cut carbon output double efficiency, increase wind power X 4 and solar X 10. PA needs to pull the 52-point climate change plan from 4 years ago out of the drawer. We have to cross partisan lines. But that means both parties will have to do it (Hanger).
If discussions of this caliber took place across the country, and if people listened and reflected, we might move faster to solve one of the principal problems of our time — and one that we can, indeed, solve.