By Gary Friedmann, Special to BDN
Bangor Daily News Op-Ed
If you are scared by the extreme weather in Maine — drought, excessive heat, more intense storms — or discouraged by the disappearance of the Arctic ice pack, the devastation of coral reefs, North American wildfires and flooding and the Zika virus, I don’t blame you. Climate change can be overwhelming to contemplate.
Can we turn this around? Stanford engineering professor Mark Jacobson has calculated in detail how America could generate 85 percent of its power utilizing existing renewable technologies by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. It would take a tiny portion of the U.S. landmass to produce this solar, wind and hydro energy — and much of it could come from solar panels on existing rooftops.
The good news is that if we move quickly enough to meet the goal of 85 percent clean power by 2030, the world’s carbon dioxide levels will fall below 350 parts per million by the end of this century, enough to stop the heating of the planet.
Here on Mount Desert Island, a citizens group called A Climate to Thrive is leading the way to energy independence, demonstrating to our island neighbors and the state of Maine that we can meet this challenge and strengthen our communities in the process. Over the last year, we have been studying our consumption habits and opportunities for alternatives, and we learned that:
— A few hundred acres of solar panels could supply all of MDI’s electricity
— Or if every property owner with good solar gain installed rooftop photovoltaic panels, we could meet 85 percent of our electricity needs.
Of course, these figures do not address new, super-efficient applications for electricity like heat pumps and electric vehicles nor the offsets to be realized by plugging huge energy leaks in most homes and businesses.
A concerted effort to produce and install solar panels, insulation and heat pumps will employ lots of people and boost local economies. Instead of sending our energy dollars out of state to petroleum companies, we will be investing in our own communities. The savings reaped will pay dividends for decades.
When Americans were motivated to pull together during World War II, use of public transportation doubled and nearly half of the nation’s vegetables were grown in “victory gardens.” If we set our minds to it, we can turn back climate change.
Join the dozens of volunteers already working through A Climate to Thrive’s six committees. In collaboration with local and statewide organizations and businesses, we are addressing every source of carbon emissions, in alternative energy, building efficiency, transportation, local food, solid waste and public policy.
We can’t wait for elected officials in Augusta or Washington to get inspired. It’s going to have to come from us. So, let’s take the lead. It’s time to take on climate change.
Gary Friedmann is vice chair of the Bar Harbor Town Council and chairs A Climate to Thrive.