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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Curbing Climate Change

Dec 30, 2019 09:00AM

In The New Year 

by Sheryl DeVore

Climate change is the most urgent environmental concern of the 21st century, according to most scientists. Chicago sustainability leaders say individuals can make a difference by resolving in 2020 to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels and support important legislation that promotes clean energy.

Nancy Tuchman, dean and founder of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability at Loyola University, in Chicago, says, “We really have a 10-year window before Earth’s systems become so chaotic that we’ll be in a constant mode of emergency cleaning up after rains, wildfires and hurricanes. We have to mobilize and act, and we have to have the sense that the house is on fire. We’re going to have to be willing to expect a little bit of pain to help solve this problem.”

She explains, “The first thing we have to do is get off of fossil fuels, and there are lots of ways individuals can do that.” Choosing transportation wisely and changing how buildings are heated and cooled are two steps. People can make a conscious choice to ride their bicycle or walk whenever possible to do errands such as shopping and going to the library. Those who want to purchase a car in the new year could consider an electric or hybrid model and read the specs to see how many miles per gallon the vehicle gets.

When electricity is needed for vehicles, homes or businesses, it needs to be derived from sources other than fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, which produce carbon dioxide when burned because that increases global warming, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Tuchman says, “Wind and solar are two of the cleanest and most well-researched forms of clean energy.”

Go Solar

Tuchman, who lives in Highland Park, suggests individuals as well as businesses call their energy providers to learn ways to purchase cleaner energy. She has worked with her own electricity provider to find ways to have her energy come from solar and wind sources rather than fossil fuels. Such action can raise an electric bill for some, but she says it’s worth it. “We’re saying we don’t want a fossil fuel-based economy and we’re willing to pay more to jumpstart the renewable energy economy. That’s how we move the needle, with our money and with our feet and with our votes. It’s all about action.”

Online research to find clean energy providers can help homeowners learn ways to use more renewable energy and how much it will cost. In 2020, many renewable energy technologies will be no more expensive than using fossil fuels, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

David Husemoller, sustainability manager for the College of Lake County, in Grayslake, suggests businesses and homeowners go completely solar if possible. He notes options are available to homeowners that want to do so. One involves paying a monthly fee toward having solar panels installed on rooftops. “It’s like you’re buying electricity from your own rooftop,” Husemoller explains.

TheIllinois Future Energy Jobs Act, which was enacted on December 7, 2016, has among other things, provided rebates to those that convert to solar. Husemoller suggests visiting Illinois Solar Energy Association to learn more about alternative fuels and find installers that can explain and offer consumer choices. “Seek more than one estimate,” he adds.

Avoid Plastics

Tuchman also recommends avoiding plastic, which is derived from oil. Our pens, cell phone, computer, storage bins—the list is endless—contain plastic parts. This year, vow to use items made with fewer plastic parts—and reuse items instead of tossing. We toss plastics into recycling bins, thinking they are recycled, but nearly 80 percent of it is accumulating in landfills or ending up in oceans and other habitats, according to a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

The key is to stop using plastic whenever possible, Tuchman says, and that includes shoppers bringing reusable bags to stores. In February 2017, the city of Chicago levied a seven-cent-per-bag tax for paper and plastic grocery bags to curb the use of plastic and raise money. A similar proposal for the state of Illinois has failed to get approved so far. Tuchman says it’s up to consumers to bring their own reusable bags when purchasing items and push for stores to stop providing plastic and paper bags.

Support Climate Change Legislation

Husemoller says creating the fastest and biggest changes requires pushing for the passage of important legislation such as the Clean Energy Jobs Act of Illinois. It calls for Illinois to phase out coal use by 2030 and use 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 while providing more funding for non-fossil fuels such as solar power and wind turbines. Other legislation to support includes the Path to 100 Act, which is designed to add more funding to provide for sufficient funding for solar and wind energy advances (HB 2966/SB 1781).

Climate change groups have been trying to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act at the federal level. This bill imposes a fee on the carbon content of fuels, including crude oil, natural gas, coal or any other product derived from those fuels. The fees would be used to provide monetary dividends for citizens that use fewer of those products (Congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/763). The legislation is being championed by the Citizens Climate Lobby of Lake County, one of many Citizens Climate Lobby chapters worldwide. People can learn how to effectively target legislatures by joining any of a variety of local and national organizations and attending meetings or training on making a difference in betting legislation passed.

Doing something to curb climate change might be costly, but not doing anything has already been shown to be costly, according to Donald Wuebbles, the Harry E. Preble Professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Illinois, and a former science adviser to the White House. He told participants at a recent climate conference at the College of Lake County, “Severe weather events alone over the last 37 years have cost American people more than $1.1 trillion, and the number of those events that occur annually is increasing,” Wuebbles says.

Sheryl DeVore has written six books on science, health and nature. She also writes nature, health and environment stories for national and regional publications.

 

Some Climate Change Groups to Follow in the New Year

Climate change-focused nonprofits provide resources for ways to curb actions that promote global warming, the latest knowledge on the issue and ways to promote important legislation that promotes clean energy. Subscribe to  mailing lists, attend meetings and call members on the phone to learn more about ways to help. These groups help educate people about what individuals can do to further legislation that will combat global climate change. Here are four to consider.

  • 350 Chicago (World.350.org/chicago) focuses on inspiring Chicagoans to work toward a future without fossil fuels.
  • Citizens Climate Lobby (CitzensClimateLobby.org), has chapters around the world, including 20 in the region encompassing Evanston, Naperville, Lake County, McHenry County, Northbrook and parts of the Chicago region, including the south side, west and north side. Chapters provide monthly meetings, actions, conferences and climate advocate training.
  • The Climate Group (TheClimateGroup.org) is an international organization working with businesses, individuals and experts on reducing global warming.
  • Faith in Place (FaithInPlace.org) works with houses of worship in Illinois on issues such as climate change.