Submitted by Myra Klockenbrink
The Climate Situation
The difference between knowing what’s coming and having it happen is really what the climate conversation is about. It is indisputable that human activity is warming the planet at an alarming rate, far faster than even scientists anticipated. Because this crisis is so multi-pronged and complicated it can be overwhelming to think about, much less act upon. Many different variables are happening all at once, threatening to cascade into dire consequences for millions of people and as many species, both locally and globally.
Our challenge is daunting: we need not only to change the trajectory of the warming by ending our dependence on fossil fuels, but also to innovate ways to adapt to the changes that are happening now and those that are bound to come. Many of us are reluctant to change our habits and our ways of organizing ourselves. It can be intimidating to consider an electric vehicle when a gas-powered SUV is so familiar. It can be baffling to consider solar for a residential rooftop or to discern what products have the least impact on the environment.
But questions far more basic are going to present themselves, and soon. Where is our food going to come from and who will grow it? Is our water supply safe? Is our air clean enough for children to breathe and still grow up healthy? Are we prepared for catastrophic weather be it massive flooding or interminable heat? Are our homes too big to heat or cool efficiently and the cost too high? What kinds of choices are we going to be forced to make is only one way of considering our future. But the longer we wait to make systematic change the fewer choices we will have.
The Climate Resolution*
Do we need a Climate Resolution? Not necessarily. But we do need leadership. We need policies and plans. We need a vision for our community beyond the status quo, every day assumptions about what tomorrow will bring. Most of all, we need coordinated action. We need to buckle down, put our heads together, grab each other’s hands and meet our future.
Fortunately, young people — high school students — have stepped up and are providing leadership. They recognize the future we have all taken for granted is not necessarily their birthright. Instead it is slipping out of their reach as the generation before them squabbles and dawdles.
The climate crisis has begun, though we can fool ourselves that we will escape its worse effects. That may be true at an individual level. There is no escaping that this situation has the potential of great human harm and a scale of ecological collapse once reserved for science fiction, is now destined if we do not act.
What We Can Do
Greenwich has done some things to address climate change. It has mapped coastal flood zones. It has haltingly begun to address drainage issues caused by flooding. It is beginning to talk about energy efficiency. The Town has installed an electric vehicle charger at Town Hall. The Town Sustainability Committee tracks efforts addressing food security, waste reduction, habitat restoration, conservation of resources, and all manner of pollution mitigation. All of this work is in the right direction and a Climate Resolution could set the Town on a course to scale these efforts into a working response to climate change.
So much of what the Town can do is simply to inform residents of its intention to respond to this climate situation we are in, create a public conversation much like what we are having now with the proposed Resolution and give them resources that are already available by way of education and incentives. The new middle school we are building is a tremendous opportunity to learn what we are capable of when we decide to build with sustainability in mind.
To act is the great hope and inspiration of our situation. Just this month in an astounding feat decades in the making, mere human ingenuity and collaboration have sent a telescope to the far reaches of space a million miles away and returned images of the young universe full of galaxies and wonders that we will spend the coming decades beginning to comprehend.
We have that astounding capacity. Which means we have the potential to surmount this crisis and bring stability and harmony to humanity and the wondrous planet we are fortunate to occupy. The young people who have brought this resolution forward intuit this collective capacity and are calling upon it to address this untenable situation that is global warming and a climate out of balance.
Everybody has to step up, put aside differences and work together to meet this challenge. Every country, every state, every city, municipality, every community down to each and every person, has to put their shoulder to the wheel to avert this catastrophe. Do not be the one link in the chain that does not hold. Commit.
Reach out to the First Selectman and Board of Selectmen and ask them to pass the Climate Resolution.
*RESOLUTION DECLARING GREENWICH’S COMMITMENT TO ADVANCE SUSTAINABILITY
AND CLIMATE RESILIENCY – Version 7/26/22
WHEREAS, the Town of Greenwich has experienced extreme weather events, including severe storms, drought, and intense heat, which have resulted in increased risks to public health and safety due to an urban heat island effect, loss of power and basic utilities, high riverine floodwaters, inland and coastal flooding; and
WHEREAS, the state of Connecticut’s average annual air temperature has warmed 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century(1); and higher temperatures have a direct impact on air quality and people’s health, triggering heat-related illness, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory disorders and the higher probability of mortality; and
WHEREAS, there have been 14 extreme weather events in the state of Connecticut since 2012, including Ida, which caused an estimated $16 to $24 billion in flooding damage in the Northeastern United States, making it the costliest storm to hit the region since Hurricane Sandy in 2012(2), with an estimated $44 billion in insured loss(3); and
WHEREAS, predictions by CIRCA show Connecticut sea level rise could increase 1.5 feet by 2050 and up to 3 feet by 2100, based on the level of action taken today to reduce carbon emissions (4). Portions of coastal communities and sections of I-95, rail lines, and local airports are expected to experience tidal flooding, without storm action, due to increased sea levels (5); and
WHEREAS, vulnerable communities in Connecticut and around the United States have disproportionately suffered detriments to their health and quality of life from climate-related impacts and are at greatest risk of the effects of climate change (6); and
WHEREAS, scientists project that extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity in the coming years and have stated that emissions from human activity are the greatest driver of the climate change impacts experienced today, that average global temperature increases be maintained to 1.5 degrees Celsius [2.7 Fahrenheit] from pre-industrial levels to prevent the most catastrophic impacts of a changing climate, and that all strategies need to be pursued to achieve a rapid drop in carbon emissions; and
WHEREAS, local communities play a crucial role in addressing climate change as they are on the front lines of its consequences and their actions can have a measurable impact on the region; and
WHEREAS, it is vital that the Town of Greenwich recognize and continue to address the challenges presented by a rapidly changing climate.
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE GREENWICH BOARD OF SELECTMEN
- The existence of a rapidly changing climate, which threatens the future of our natural world upon which our community, region and country rely; and
- that it shall be the policy of the Town of Greenwich that, taking into account other Town priorities and policies, all Town department heads shall consider ways to advance sustainability and climate resiliency whenever they develop future departmental priorities, policies, plans, budgets and actions, and that the Board of Selectmen hereby encourages other Town committees and commissions to do the same; and
- that the Town of Greenwich sets forth the following goals: the development of a Sustainability and Climate Resiliency Plan by December 2023 that shall include strategies in the areas of new buildings, energy efficiency, transportation, renewable energy, solid waste, water and wastewater, land use, natural systems and the Town operations, to move Greenwich toward carbon neutrality and increase community resilience to a changing climate; and
- that the Town of Greenwich will advocate for coordinated climate action at the regional, municipal and local levels to restore a safe and sustainable climate for all living beings on Earth.
Adopted this ___ day of , 2022