By Jackie Mercadante ’17
The Climate Change, Energy, and Health panel discussion took place in the Alumni Lounge on Thursday, Nov. 17 as part of a “Week of Action” advocating for renewable energy. Over 50 events were held across the country as part of “The Week of Action for Renewable Energy,” a collaboration between The Climate Reality Project, Environment America, the Student PIRGs, and other partner companies; the events’ subtitle was “100% Committed. 100% Renewable.” According to these groups, these events were held in order to show support for renewable energy in the face of President-Elect Donald Trump’s “outdated and dangerous energy platform that could set the climate movement back decades.”
All four panelists at the panel discussion were calling for a nationwide commitment to 100% renewable energy. The discussion focused on the need for our society to transform the way the world produces and consumes energy. As of today, 19 cities nationwide have made the commitment, including Salt Lake City, Utah, and Aspen, Colorado. The purpose of the “Week of Action” was to encourage more cities to make this commitment, as using entirely renewable energy is a manageable goal. Solar power has tripled in America in just the last two years with a new home or business going solar every three minutes. Wind power is now cheaper than gas and coal in many states. Scientists say we need to get off carbon by 2050 if we are going to hold climate change to a manageable level.
The first speaker, James Albis, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives representing the 99th District, described the legislative aspect of environmental actions. He stated that the state budget has to be balanced and unfortunately, money is usually taken from the environmental fund to achieve this balance. Despite this, many policies have recently been proposed and implemented that don’t cost the state money or even go so far as to make the state money.
Mike Trahan, the next speaker, serves as the Executive Director of Solar Connecticut, “a non-profit organization based in Connecticut,” whose mission is “to facilitate the building of a state-wide ‘community’ of ‘stakeholders’ including industry, installers, customers, educators, outreach organization and government with specific interest in the use of solar energy through website, regular networking events and newsletters,” as well “tapping into a body of “expert resources” to discuss market opportunities, technology developments, regulation, best practices, government programs and other relevant issues.” Trahan said that in the future solar panels on everyone’s house will have to power both their house and their electric cars if we are to have a world with 100% renewable energy. He also recommended that we should take measures to reduce the many obstacles one has to overcome in order to get a permit for solar energy. By making this process easier and less time consuming, it will encourage more people to do it.
The third speaker, Mary Jane Williams, the Chair of Government Relations for the Connecticut Nurses’ Association for the last ten years, discussed the public health impacts of climate change. She described the change in the severity and frequency of health problems and also the increase in the amount of health problems in general. She also raised the question of how climate change affects workers and athletes and suggested that we study all groups and evaluate how we are meeting our needs and educating the public.
Finally, Melissa Everett from Clean Water Action, an organization which “campaigns statewide and locally to reduce and eliminate toxic chemical exposures in our everyday lives,” discussed how we can get people involved despite what their preconceived notions or political party affiliations may be. She mentioned that people need to consider human nature when determining a strategy because we aren’t going to reach this goal through the usual incremental methods. People concerned about climate change should strive to be inspiring, engaging and interesting in order to transform the way we produce and consume energy.
“Local support for action on the climate crisis is more important now than ever,” says Ken Berlin, President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project. “College campuses, mountain communities, businesses, cities and towns across the country are committing themselves to renewable energy that will lower our emissions and, more importantly, help to build a national movement demanding an end to carbon pollution.”