Why we do what we do: Unfortunately Global Warming is real and having real effects here and now

Seth Kaplan

Much of CLF‘s work these days is focused on the challenge of global warming and in particular reducing immediately, structurally and effectively the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and the other “greenhouse gases” causing the problem.

This is, of course, not all that we do.  But much of our work on this over-arching problem overlaps with other important work like reducing air pollution that directly harms the health and lives of people or providing good transit access to urban communities, thus providing access to jobs for residents of those communities while reducing automobile trips and emissions. Still other CLF work, like protecting and nurturing our fisheries and forests, ensures that management of those resources is mindful of the changing climate while preserving unique ecosystems both for their own benefit and to ensure that future generations will be able to use and enjoy special places and resources.

When we step up and assert the benefit to the climate of, for example, wind farms in Maine or in Nantucket Sound or energy efficient light bulbs or the need to consider the climate in considering a transmission line across New Hampshire or in a merger proposed between utilities the question comes back to us: is it worth the cost?  Often it is a cost measured in dollars but sometimes it is a “cost” in terms of a view from a house or a beach or a mountain changing.

Responding to this question presents us with two challenges: first we need to show that the result we are advocating in favor of will actually reduce emissions and then we need to show that the need for those emissions reductions outweighs the cost of taking the action we are advocating.

One good example of how we show that an action will actually reduce emissions comes from the world of wind farms.  In those cases we can present expert testimony about how deploying wind resources will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  And that analysis isn’t just created by our experts, it draws upon reports done by the planners and operators of New England’s wholesale electricity system – work that is sometimes summed up in official summaries and nice presentations that include informative charts like this one showing how when the system gets 9% of its power from wind that emissions drop by 9% but when it gets 20% of its power from wind the emissions drop by 24% for reasons explained in the report:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we turn to the question of showing that this all matters and the cost of taking action outweighs the price of that action.  In our cases, again using the wind farm example, we use expert testimony.

But the bottom line is that we as a society are getting to the point where the cost of global warming is no longer a horrible possibility- it is an immediate reality, all around the world from Russia to Texas and points in between like New England.  And what we are experiencing is only a preview of what is to come and a strong reminder of the need to take action.

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