Climate Change Forum Stresses Tools Individuals Can Use

By: Russ Allen

Topics: Environment

Climate change will lead to more frequent flooding of low-lying coastal neighborhoods like Old Wharf Road in North Chatham.  FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – Speakers at a forum last Sunday agreed: Climate Change is real – and humanity bears most of the responsibility for it.

Sea levels will rise as much as two to six feet by the end of this century, with higher levels resulting from storms. The coastlines of the Cape, and many key facilities such as hospitals, schools, fire and police departments, and government buildings, will be affected. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere worldwide, as projected by the Paris Agreement, will only slow the rate of climate change. Scientists now believe the only way to reverse this process is by extracting existing CO2 from the atmosphere. At present, there is no way to do that. In the meantime, Cape Cod’s towns are adopting hazard mitigation plans to address the anticipated effects of sea level rise resulting from climate change.

That is the context in which Lower Cape Indivisible held the fifth in its series of lectures featuring local climate change experts at the community center last Sunday. Three speakers addressed the topic from different perspectives, but with a common focus: What actions are being or can be taken by individuals and institutions on Cape Cod to respond to the reality of Climate Change?

Stephen C. Gates, Ph.D., the technical director and board member of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative (5Cs), shared information on the software resources available on the Collaborative’s website for those wishing more information about this topic, or need help in planning the action steps they wish to take in response. These include projections of the impact on the Cape of anticipated sea level rise and an elaborate and possibly overwhelming program identifying information useful in planning for actions such as installing solar panels, driving a hybrid car or using public transportation and even dietary changes. Gates was careful to point out that in the end people need to be comfortable with the level of their activities if they are to be successful.

Susan Starkey, chair of the Green Sanctuary Committee of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, spoke of the challenges the group faced in creating and implementing a strategy for responding to climate change both as a congregation and as its members. She argued strongly that for efforts in this area to be successful both the business community and government have to become proactively involved.

In connection with that topic, leaflets published by the newly created “Faith Communities Environmental Network,” which is affiliated with the 5Cs, were distributed. This is “a new initiative on the Cape and Islands working together to connect faith and ecology and to protect our earth home.”

Kevin Galligan, an energy consultant with Cape Light Compact, discussed the programs and opportunities available for more efficient energy use by individual and households.

In light of the realities involved in climate change, that our best efforts to reduce the level of CO2 being added to the atmosphere will not result in a reversal of climate change, what is the incentive for developing action plans that respond to this issue? One of the 5Cs software programs asks participants to decide how much their goal is to reduce energy costs versus the level to which they are responding to an ethical imperative of respecting creation. Of these two incentives, the former seems both understandable and measurable. However, the latter will require a broader understanding of and commitment to a fundamental set of beliefs about the nature and purpose of creation.