Noelle Swan

Posts Tagged ‘air quality’

EEA takes Massachusetts pulse on climate policy

In Uncategorized on May 16, 2010 at 9:37 am

Over the past few years, Massachusetts has taken the national lead in developing a “clean energy economy” and tackling climate change. Governor Deval Patrick signed the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) in August of 2008. This act represents a long-term commitment to slash GHG emission to just 80% of the level that has remained steady since 1990. A short-term goal has been established to reduce emissions by 10-25% by 2020. Secretary Ian Bowles of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) is charged with setting a specific goal within this range by January 1, 2011.

The EEA’s Draft Climate Implementation Plan identifies existing and potential measures that could be taken by the transportation, building, and energy sectors. Existing and anticipated policies include adoption and implementation of various international, federal, and regional standards and regulations. Projection models indicate that these measures alone are likely to result in a 19% GHG emission reduction by 2020. While this is well within the range of 10-25% set by the Global Warming Solutions Act, the EEA has identified several other areas holding potential for emissions reduction.

The question is, how much of a commitment are the people of Massachusetts willing to make?

The EEA will take the pulse of Massachusetts’s residents on this very issue at a series of public hearings scheduled to take place throughout the state next month. Individuals, businesses, landlords, and large companies alike are all invited to weigh-in at one of these hearings or through written comments.

EEA Assistant Secretary for Policy, David Cash described these upcoming public hearings as “hugely important.” His office is casting a wide net amongst potential stakeholders, reaching out to environmental groups, business groups and local municipal groups. Still, he says it’s hard to gauge who will show up.

The EEA is specifically looking for public comment on 5 questions outlined in the Draft Climate Implementation Plan.

1. Where between 18 and 25 percent below 1990 levels should the emissions limit of 2020 be set and why?

2. What role can Massachusetts state government play in catalyzing the clean energy economy? What policies could inspire entrepreneurship and create markets for clean energy products and services?

3. Over what number of years should cost effectiveness of strategies be evaluated in pursuit of the goals of the Commonwealth for 2020 and 2050? How should future costs be compared to present costs?

4. How should the Commonwealth evaluate and prioritize strategies to achieve 2020 and 2050 goals?

5. How should green house gas reduction strategies be valued or prioritized?

Individual hearings will be held in Boston, Pittsfield, Worcester, Lowell, Lakeville, Springfield, and Woods Hole between June 1 and June 22. Additional comments can be submitted via email at climate.strategies@state.ma.us.

Taking the Guilt Out of Air Travel

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Americans work hard for their vacations. U.S. businesses are notoriously stingy with vacation time and their employees like to make the most of what time they can get.

While a trip to a foreign country for Europeans can be a quick drive over a border or two, Americans travel farther and rely more heavily on air travel. Those flights that carry us across oceans and language barriers leave behind a wake of carbon dioxide in the stratosphere.

I will not be boarding a plane for spring break this year, so rather than stew in jealousy, I thought I would take a peek at my friends itineraries to get an idea of the impact of various spring breaker destinations.

The UC Berkeley Environment and Sustainability Portal estimates that an escape from snowy Boston to sunny Jamaica deposits 1.23 tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere over the course of the 5000 mile round trip. Berkeley further suggests that a modest donation of $13.39 each to the UC Berekeley Climate Action Fund will sufficiently offset the emissions of their trip. CO2 Balance suggests a $22.04 donation to send energy efficient stoves to the developing world.

A trip from Boston to Cancun, Mexico yields similar CO2 emissions as the Boston to Jamaica trip. A vacation to Hawaii, the most distant sun seeker destination, results in more than twice the CO2 emission at 3.2 tonnes per seat and surpasses even transatlantic flights.

Whether or not these calculators are accurate is debatable and much discussion board space has been devoted to their critique. Their principle, however, is highly intriguing. Environmentally conscious businesses have been purchasing offsets to their travel for several years now. These web based calculators and small scale offsets have brought an easy and affordable way for the individual travelers to compensate in a small way for the massive fossil fuel use included in their ticket price.

Sources:
“Air Travel Calculator.” UC Berkeley Environment and Sustainability Portal.
http://enviro.berkeley.edu/aircalculator. Last accessed January 21, 2010.

“Air Travel Carbon Dioxide Emission Calculator.” CO2balance.com.
http://www.co2balance.com/us/co2calculators/air-travel. Last accessed January 21, 2010.

Save Our Cities

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2009 at 4:55 pm

The San Francisco Bay area prides itself on its aggressive implementation of environmental policies. Surprisingly, David Weintraub reports in his December 26, 2009 NYT article Air Quality Guidelines Face Unexpected Critics that some Bay area environmentalists are opposing caps on green house gas emissions. As the region’s air quality regulators propose new guidelines, these environmentalists have become wary that increased regulations will drive builders to outlying areas, contributing to urban sprawl. While this specific issue is based on local zoning laws and loopholes, there is a discussion that is applicable to every metropolitan area.

We need development within our cities. People who live in cities put fewer miles on their cars. Heat that is lost through endless rows of suburban roofs rises up heating apartment after apartment in cities. Suburban supermarkets stock a large selection of perishables, resulting in a high throw away rate. For all of their faults, cities are places of efficiency.

Air pollution is a very real concern today for the majority of America’s cities. City Mayors.com cites an American Lung Association report, “Six out of ten Americans live in urban areas where air pollution can cause major health problems.” Statistics like this are evidence that while want to avoid pushing developers out of the cities, we need to prevent them from further contributing to the poor health of the city.

So the quandary of the century is, how can we motivate developers to invest in cities despite the rising costs of meeting new standards?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification has brought recognition to the table as well a set of measurement standards. Those developers of LEED buildings wear their certification as a badge of honor. Yet, so far, this designation means little to the majority of the population. It is only when lessees begin seeking out LEED certification on a large-scale that developers will feel the pressure to pursue certification.

What is called for is an aggressive public relations campaign bringing the term LEED to dinner tables and water coolers near you.

Sources:

http://www.citymayors.com/environment/polluted_uscities.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/us/27sfpolitics.html?_r=1

http://www.usgbc.org