Climate change can no longer be ignored. Extreme droughts, record-high temperatures more severe and more frequent storm records are now common annual events in US (and the world).
The Tri-Town area is not isolated from the changing environment. Recently, the Tri-Town area experienced poor air quality due to smoke from the large fires in the western US. Marine life is affected due to the oceans becoming more acidic including the water is Buzzards Bay. Flooding probability models over the period from 2030 to 2070 have been developed for the Mattapoisett Neck Road Resiliency Project, Buzzards Bay Coalition. The study concludes, “It is not feasible to eliminate flood risk for the Mattapoisett Neck Road,” which could affect approximately 250 people. In some parts of the US, the environment is becoming non-livable.
The big-picture solution for reducing the climate-change problem is slowly coming into focus around the world. It involves converting all fuel-burning vehicles (cars, trucks, farm equipment, trains and ships) to electric drives and possibly Hydrogen fuel cells, converting all fuel burning appliances (gas stoves, dryers and heaters) to electric, replacing or converting all fossil-fuel power plants with non-fossil-fuel heat sources (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal) along with direct carbon capture from the atmosphere.
The technologies to convert transportation and appliances to electric already exist. Many of these electric systems (electric drives, solar, wind power, etc.) must be operated with batteries for energy storage when the primary electrical source is not available. Improvements in battery energy density and cycle life will continue to evolve with each step, making these combined technologies more attractive.
Heat pumps are starting to replace fossil-fuel heaters but only in small numbers. With more awareness and education, the sales of heat pumps will grow. Heat pumps change the temperature of a circulating gas and can both increase and decrease the temperature of this circulating gas. Compressing the circulating gas increases the temperature while expanding the gas decreases the temperature of the circulating gas. The change in temperature of the circulating gas is used to heat or cool the temperature of the air inside of the house. For low temperatures (typically below 0°F), heat pumps are supplemented with electric heating coils for heating. Air conditioning systems only expand the circulating gas and can only lower the air temperature in the house.
Appliances are labeled with an average annual electric use (kW-Hrs) that is converted to an annual operating cost by multiplying the electric use by the utility total cost. Air conditioners are labeled with efficiency ratings (SEER numbers, ratio of cooling to energy-usage efficiency). Currently central air conditioners are required to have a minimum SEER rating of 13, but SEER ratings as high as 22 exist. Purchasing an air conditioner with the highest available SEER rating and purchasing an appliance with the lowest annual operating cost will reduce the production of greenhouse gases.
Individuals can play a role helping the environment by converting appliances, cars, heaters, etc. from fossil fuel including natural gas to electric any time an opportunity develops. Electric alternatives to fossil-fuel burning appliances and transportation vehicles cost more, but they have a lower operating cost and do not directly contribute greenhouse gases.
Climate change is not a problem we can walk away from. It is having and will continue to have a major (negative) impact moving forward. There is a role for all of us, and it will take all of us to get our hands around the problem and focus on generating a better environment for us, along with our kids and grandkids.
Looking forward 50 years appears like a long horizon, but many of us – seniors in the Tri-Town area represent more than 30 percent of the total population – can look back 50 years and remember the ‘70s. Fifty years is not a long horizon, and most of our kids and grandkids will be around over the next 50 years and will live in the environment we leave them.
By Martin Hudis
Mattapoisett Land Trust