Report Available on Second Adirondack Regional Responses to Climate Change

On June 15 & 16 we held the second scenario development workshop in our new series on how the region responds to the threat of disruptive climate change.  The full report on the workshop is now available. A diverse and engaged group of 29 people came together for the workshop and really advanced our thinking on these issues.  We encourage you to read the report.  We will continue the discussion at the CGA Forum on July 15 in Long Lake.  Please join our workgroup at the Forum.  The details on how to register are in the previous post.

Registration for the 2015 CGA Forum is Open

The 2015 Common Ground Alliance Forum details and registration information have been released.  It will be at the same Long Lake location as usual on July 15.

Click here to go to the registration and information page.

Jim and I will be there to lead the working group considering how the ADK region might think about responding to climate change.  We have held 2 full two day workshops on the topic – one at Paul Smiths College during a snowstorm last December, another just this week, June 15 and 16 in Chestertown.  Also we held the prototype of a 3-4 hour version of this with a sustainability class at Paul Smiths in May, just before finals, on  Sunday, and 50+ students came.  We also worked in the Southwest this past winter, with the Dept of Interior Climate Science Center in Tuscon and learned a lot about how the west is handling the impacts of climate change on large scale conservation landscapes.  So we will have a lot of information to offer for consideration by people who come to our working group.

Hope to see you on July 15.  There are a number of other work group too, don’t read this and think the Forum is only about climate change.  Click on the link above and find out about the whole agenda.

 

743 Items of Evidence, and Counting

If you have not seen it, please note we have been monitoring what our region is actually doing vs the ADK Futures scenarios.  You can see what progress is being made here where more than 734 items of evidence show substantial progress toward realizing the vision laid out for our sustainable future.  More evidence is added all the time.

Recall that we were surprised by the strength and depth of the aligned intentions of most people in the region?  Well, if you were surprised by that, the progress since then is actually astonishing, and I encourage you to take a look at the breadth and depth of actions already taken.  Encouragingly, no single person is organizing and driving all this activity.  The progress is made by by hundreds of people in a distributed fashion.  It is clear that the region is making real progress toward what it identified as its desirable and attainable goals.

It is a good news reading, you’ll enjoy it. Look here and click on the header called ‘category’. Then you can look through each category and see what’s been going on.

Next Workshop on Adirondack Responses to Climate Change

We are accepting registrations for the next two-day workshop on Adirondack Regional Responses to Climate Change to be held on June 15 and 16 at the Chestertown Town Hall.  This workshop requires pre-registration.  It offers the opportunity dig deeply into the issues that climate change presents for our region and the possible responses we might make.  The report on the previous workshop can be found in an earlier blog post.  If you are interested please email jim12942@gmail.com.

Workshop at The Wild Center May 16 on Welcoming LGBT Visitors

The Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council (ADAC) is holding a training workshop at the Wild Center on Saturday May 16 from 9:30am to 1:30pm.  The workshop is designed to hep participants provide a more welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who want to live in or visit the Adirondack Park.  The workshop will be led by well known author and educator Brian McNaught.  This is part of a growing effort to raise awareness of diversity issues in the Park and to take steps to be more welcoming to a broader set of visitors and new residents.

Dave and I know Brian personally and can say that he is really good. You may think that you are fine with gays, etc., but are you really aware of the issues that transgender people face?  There is a lot for us all to learn.  We will be there and hope to see you there.

CGA Annual Forum Survey Available to Take

The annual CGA Forum will be in Long Lake on Wednesday July 15, 2015.

As they did last year, the CGA Core Team has prepared an online survey of potential work group topics for this year’s Forum.  Please take the survey as part of designing this year’s forum.

The survey asks you to identify the issues you want to work on in small groups at the Forum.  We need you to pick some from a long list of ideas.  Please complete the survey by April 1st even if you can’t attend the Forum.

Click here to take the survey.

Why is minimizing our carbon footprint so difficult?

Near the end of the December 2014 workshop on Adirondack region responses to climate change, someone asked a really good question.  Why was the “(C)Sustainable Life” scenario in the ADK Futures workshops of 2011 and 2012 considered most desirable AND most attainable while the “(A)Minimize our Carbon Footprint” scenario in this new workshop was considered most desirable but LEAST attainable?

A big difference between the two scenarios was the level of government, especially Federal government, intervention required.  The new scenario explicitly requires that governments put a price on carbon to create the necessary economic incentives to spur rapid adoption of clean energy.  Participants had already expressed their lack of faith in the top-down government led approach to capping emissions and thus it was consistent to believe that this regional scenario would be unattainable – Federal government is not functioning well today and no improvement is expected.

Another factor in our view is that the new scenario explicitly called for solving the harder parts of actually getting emissions in the region down by 80% of 2005 levels by 2040.  The older “Sustainable Life” scenario was much vaguer about doing good things to reduce our carbon footprint.  In the new scenario we focus on how to move away significantly from dependence on fossil fuels for transportation using a combination of electric and hydrogen vehicles coupled with efforts to reduce the total number of miles driven, a much more demanding scenario.

The new scenario posits that, over the next 25 years, regulations are enacted that put a price on GHG emissions all over the world.  The logic goes that the perception of the seriousness of threat of destructive climate change later in the century will increase during this period as the science will improve and impacts on the climate system begin to manifest themselves.  Large-scale change in the energy system requires engaging market forces by making energy sources that emits GHGs expensive relative to those that don’t.  As carbon prices increase, the rural northern lifestyle would be penalized because it consumes more transportation and heating energy than urban living.  Seeing this coming, the region can work proactively to minimize our fossil fuel use so are not impacted much as GHG prices increase.

Clearly the Adirondack region would not be the only part of the country hurt by placing a price on GHG emissions.  States that are big suppliers of fossil fuels (e.g., Wyoming, West Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, etc.) would see their economies hurt as their markets shrink.  It seems clear that to get a carbon tax adopted, those hurt by it will have to be compensated in some way.  This is how our political system works.  One idea, for example, is to grant most of these funds collected back to individuals and small businesses as a ‘carbon dividend’.  Thus, rural life might not be as hurt as thought at first glance, and adoption of such a tax might not be impossible after all.  It depends how the revenues are used.  Still, global adoption of carbon taxes in some form is hard to imagine as easily attainable.

Other aspects of this new scenario minimizing our carbon footprint that might be difficult to imagine are an almost complete abandonment of heating oil in favor of biomass, solar thermal, geothermal or electric heat.  Biomass for thermal is a competitive option vs heating oil in our region. In its Renewable Heat initiative, NY State is targeting replacement of old wood stoves largely for health reasons.  But soot and other black carbon particles are also a driver of climate change as they settle on arctic snow fields and cause them to absorb more solar energy.  The State will pay you to remove and dispose of your old wood furnace, AND give you a grant to buy a new state-of-the-art unit.

Lastly, the new low carbon scenario called for more clustering of our residents in fewer towns where people walked and biked more.  By living closer together, and closer to work, we drive less.  Clustered homes and businesses could share a district heating system.  Also, as storms worsen, we can better fortify and upgrade key community infrastructure (communications, water, power, fire, EMT, etc.) in the larger towns, not in every town.  Communities where people know each other and see each other daily are stronger, more cohesive than communities where most people live outside of town, isolated from each other.  Once again this raises the specter of smaller remote, more marginal, Adirondack towns fading away, a possibility that was raised before in the ADK Futures workshops and something that is widely rejected.

This new low carbon scenario is primarily about efforts to mitigate the impact of our emissions.  One certain contribution we make is keeping our forests healthy and functioning as a major carbon storage system.  Assuming a push to reduce emissions gets into gear nationally, we can benefit from cost reductions in new technologies as they are adopted widely, just like everyone else, e.g. electric and hydrogen vehicles.  But developing and testing new technologies will happen elsewhere.

To expect the Adirondack region will be a leader in mitigation is almost certainly a stretch, except for maintaining our forest carbon storage.  But we can do our part. A common argument against aggressively mitigating our region’s GHG emissions is that we have a negligible impact on the global situation.  But most regions could say the same – no place matters much, but everywhere matters – and therein lies the conundrum.  Creating a global economy that doesn’t depend on wrecking the atmosphere and the oceans requires everyone, everywhere, to make changes, including us.   To have these changes in energy use adopted widely in the region, we will need to get more people to see the consequences of not acting.  At the State level, there is recognition of the need to act.  At the county and local level less so, but talk about storms and you find support.  Getting local leaders, citizens and youth to the point of being aware of the problem, and participating in sensible changes, remains our biggest opportunity.