Letter: Climate change and Austin

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, April 10, 2019

In the distant past the earth has experienced five major extinction events all resulting in massive termination of entire species of animals, insects, and plants. Humans had not evolved yet, but we have now. Unfortunately if climate change remains uncontrolled, the sixth extinction event will soon begin. Many of the same conditions exist today that triggered those events millions of years ago. Greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide) has reached toxic levels in the atmosphere which is blocking the natural escape of the sun’s heat from earth. Earth’s average temperature is now rising at a rate never experienced in human history. The ocean is absorbing most of the reflected heat, thus heating the earth up to levels that can now affect weather patterns and sea levels. America’s political system is broken. Solutions that could help will be fought over ad nauseam. We do not have sufficient time to wait for them to make decisions related to climate change. Scientists have drawn a red line in the sand that we should and must not cross, the line of 1.5 degrees Celsius. We are approximately half degree from the red line and rising at an alarming rate. Saving ourselves is going to be left to individuals, cities and states.

I have been procrastinating about what I may be able to do to help. Some of the current options are daunting. Because time is running out, I need to make a decision. Like my father used to say, “Do something even if it’s wrong!” Almost every aspect of our existence relies heavily on the use of fossil fuels. I don’t suppose to know all the ins and outs, but for my part have been researching cleaner energy options for sometime. I feel more of an urgency now than I ever have since science seems to be nailing our coffins shut pretty tightly. I’m disappointed in myself for not seeing the severity of climate change consequences sooner. I’m old now, but I’m really worried about my grandchildren’s future. Will they have the same opportunities that I had? Will they have the option of a good education and a career that they will love? Or will they be spending their lives just trying to stay alive in their environment? They know what their generation will likely face, and they tell me that their friends feel the same despair. The world to them looks rather hopeless, and it’s very difficult to put some positive spin to all of this. When it’s all said and done I want to be able say and feel that I did everything I could to be part of the solution.

I want to do my share and reduce my carbon footprint. I initially envisioned the switch to solar in my home would be expensive. I imagined that the investment would pay off in a reasonable amount of time though. I first explored the Austin Utilities solar lease options that are offered through a cooperative agreement called Solar Choice. The lease provides the customers with the option to rent solar panels that are located elsewhere. The customer leases the solar energy already produced by panels offered through Austin Utilities. The leasing option looks impressive on paper, but it provides the customer with little or no net savings. It is certainly honorable for customers to go solar with nothing other than “it’s the right thing to do.” Lets face it, if we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint it will very likely require some serious customer incentives, at least to get started. Austin Utilities has already purchased approximately 18 percent of their energy from renewable sources, an impressive accomplishment! They additionally provide rebates for energy efficient appliances and home insulation projects. They’re most definitely on the right track, but much more is needed! We can and should set a community wide achievable goal to reduce our use of energy derived from fossil fuels.

Email newsletter signup

There are solutions being explored all over the world. Some are too large for our community to tackle, but some are not. The large ones will do the most good, but it doesn’t mean the small ones won’t matter. Maybe if enough of us act on climate change solutions it will shame federal politicians into doing their part. Many communities have developed long term strategic plans for projects as large and diverse as climate change. Some of my personal suggestions are as follows; others I’m sure will have their own recommendations.

•Develop community plan to reduce our carbon footprint.

•Training our community leaders to familiarize them with climate change and biodiversity projects.

•Developing a community solar array for Austin.

•Explore the feasibility of a geothermal electric generation plant.

•Making solar lease options financially desirable.

•Planting carbon absorbing trees, flowers, and plants throughout our community wherever we can.

Our local schools have youngsters under their care that will be responsible for following through on our plans. Schools are now teaching at the most important time in human history. They can provide leadership and instruction to our youth who will very likely be the generation that could save our planet. Doing nothing or leaving it to someone else will be apocalyptic!

Thank you

Wayne Goodnature

Austin, MN