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August 29, 2014
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editorial

Preparing for climate change; Reducing our region’s carbon footprint


This Friday the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will issue a formal statement based on its latest scientific assessment of climate change. Information about the report has been reported on since the end of September. The report, the first in six years, asserts that scientists are “more than 95% certain” that climate change is real, largely caused by human activities, and poses a grave global threat. The New York Times reported that the world’s top climate scientists have “formally embraced an upper limit on greenhouse gases for the first time, establishing a target level at which humanity must stop spewing them into the atmosphere or face irreversible climatic changes. They warned that the target is likely to be exceeded in a matter of decades unless steps are taken soon to reduce emissions.” (www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/science/global-climate-change-report.html?pag...)

This IPCC’s call to action already has been heard locally in the Upper Delaware River Valley by people and organizations currently working to build more sustainable and resilient local communities to reduce our carbon footprint and to prepare for the effects of climate change.

Today, we want to salute two local organizations that are working to reduce our carbon footprint and preparing us for the looming impacts of a changing climate.

First, we would like to salute the collaborative effort of Common Waters, the Pinchot Institute for Conservation and Climate Solutions University to scientifically assess existing and potential threats of climate change to our region’s forests and water resources, to our communities and their local economies. The goal of this work is to develop a strategic plan for how we will adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Last week, we had the privilege of receiving an update on this ongoing work, organized by another collaborative effort, the Upper Delaware Roundtable.

The climate change data collected locally shows evidence of spring arriving four days earlier than was once the norm (data go back to 1900), river and lake ice melting one to two weeks earlier, increasing average precipitation, more frequent extreme downpours, big storms getting bigger, repetitive loss during flood events to properties in the Upper Delaware Region, and (perhaps counter intuitively) longer intervening dry spells between precipitation events. Such changes are expected to put stress on our forests, water quality, water supplies and local agriculture; are expected to produce human health consequences; are expected to cause more weather-related power disruptions and infrastructure damage; and more.

The work of this collaboration, Common Waters, and its numerous partners and The Pinchot Institute of Conservation, is a vital contribution and opens the door to collaboration with government bodies and a variety of groups to study and plan for floodplain development and effective stormwater management, to assess policies for flow management of the Delaware River and address competing demands of the river’s millions of users. We congratulate the Upper Delaware Roundtable for connecting this collaboration with the other climate change activities happening locally, such as the work of SASD and NACL and the Town of Highland’s Weather Project.

Secondly, we would like to salute the Sullivan County Legislature for a series of actions that address the realities of climate change, including a Green Vision Statement in 2007; the establishment of an Office of Sustainable Energy (OSE) in 2008 and a Sustainability Policy Committee (SPC) in 2009; and joining the state’s Climate Smart Communities program, which it did in 2010. We further salute Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development (SASD), which has been involved in this process since 2009. Founded in 2004 to promote development that is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable, SASD was contracted in 2009 to consult on energy management and sustainability policy for the county. Today, the county’s OSE, the legislature’s SPC and SASD are working to produce a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that, among other steps, will set specific goals for greenhouse gas reduction in the coming years. A draft of the County Measures section of the CAP is anticipated early in 2014.

SASD also works to promote energy efficiency for homes and businesses, offering assistance to reduce both energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to support the installation of green technologies and renewable energy projects that create green jobs.

Climate policy and energy policy are linked; an energy policy for the future that relies on fossil fuels fails to address the future consequences of climate change. Together, energy and climate policy will help determine the quality of life enjoyed in the Upper Delaware River Valley in the 21st century and beyond.