Rising to the Challenge of Climate Change—Inspiration and Action

By Michael J. Caduto

The expression, “Think globally, act locally,” was introduced in 1915 by Patrick Geddes, a Scottish conservationist and pioneer of regional planning. From deforestation and overharvesting of marine life, to the choices we make each day that impact everything from the volume of petroleum products we consume to the plastic waste we generate, our choices and actions have immediate and profound impacts on the world around us.

Perhaps the biggest concern with the global effort to reduce the carbon emissions generated by industry, households, transportation and agriculture, isn’t whether we can eventually accomplish our carbon-reduction goals, but whether we can do so in time to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change—from extreme heat, drought and flooding to species extinction and worldwide food shortages. Installing solar arrays and heat pumps, weatherizing our homes, engineering more efficient and affordable electric vehicles and batteries, setting national carbon emissions goals and meeting them—all take time, money and resources. The recent United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that industrialized countries must cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, and eliminate them altogether by 2050, with wealthier countries achieving net-zero by 2040.

One of the best examples of what we can accomplish on a global scale is the successful campaign to reduce air pollution that had severely depleted the stratospheric ozone layer that protects our planet from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. Excessive UV radiation can damage crops and ocean life as well as cause cataracts and skin cancers. Thirty six years ago, during the Reagan administration, more than 30 countries signed the Montreal Protocol, agreeing to reduce the production and use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Since that time, the use of CFCs has decreased by 99 percent. The United Nations Environment Programme recently reported that there has been a significant recovery of the ozone layer in the upper stratosphere, likely preventing millions of cases of skin cancer as well as severe damage to plants worldwide—harm that would have diminished plants’ ability to grow and store carbon to mitigate global warming. Since CFCs are also powerful greenhouse gases, their reduction has already slowed the progression of climate change.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases reached a peak in 2022, but a January 2023 article in MIT Technology Review highlights areas in which we are making progress in our fight against climate change. Fossil fuel emissions have begun to level off in the European Union, Russia and Japan. US emissions reached their highest point in 2005, and have since dropped by over 10%. Global levels of carbon emissions are projected to peak around 2025—the same year that emissions may level off in China, a country that has increased renewable energy production fourfold in just ten years.

From the watershed funding in the federal government’s 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—which is propelling the adoption of energy-saving technologies and renewable energy sources nationwide—to the countless local and regional actions that are reducing carbon emissions, there is significant progress to justify hope that we can succeed in our individual and collective efforts to mitigate the impacts of global warming.

What You Can Do:

  • We work to protect the things we love. Spend time outdoors to connect with the natural world and the beautiful environments that abound in our local communities and throughout New England.
  • Balance your exposure to the predominantly bad news reported in the press by visiting the Good News Network to learn about the multitude of positive things happening in the world, including many uplifting and inspiring stories about how people are helping each other and making progress on environmental issues, including climate change: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/
  • Read articles and visit websites that focus on the solutions to fighting global warming, such as those of the Natural Resources Defense Council (https://www.nrdc.org/stories/what-are-solutions-climate-change#renewable-energy) and 350.org (https://350.org/).
  • Get involved in local and regional actions to mitigate climate change through your local energy action committee. Sustainable Woodstock’s Energy and Transportation action group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 6 PM, over zoom. For more information contact: programs@sustainablewoodstock.org.
  • Learn what can be done at the state level through the Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network (https://vecan.net/) and Climate Action New Hampshire (https://www.facebook.com/ClimateActionNH/)

The false-color view of the monthly-averaged total ozone over the Antarctic pole. The blue and purple colors are where there is the least ozone, and the yellows and reds are where there is more ozone. (NASA photo)


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