A collective sigh could be heard from W2O when the U.N. Climate Panel published their findings today. At first glance, it seems like the same old doom and gloom story. It might be easy to throw up our hands and feel helpless when the news is so dire about what is referred to in a New York Times summation of the findings as “the profound risks in coming decades.” But the article also offers hope, “Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.”
At W2O’s recent event Women emPowered: Leading the Future of Clean and Efficient Energy at the New England Aquarium, our assembled experts echoed feeling hopeful about energy options and about how we can be a part of the growing moment to protect our planet, oceans and health by educating others about how to curb emissions.
“Think about how over air conditioned your office is, how cold your hotel room is when checking in on a hot day and lights your kids-or you-don’t bother turning off. Energy efficiency is about the supply we can avoid buying,” according to Massachusetts Dept. of Utilities Chair Ann Berwick.
And women are at the center of that hope. “Women are driving the choices. They are the decision makers,” Tom King, Executive Dir. and President of National Grid USA offered. Home energy usage is one of the leading contributors to climate change. “But if you don’t know how much energy you are using”, commented Kateri Callahan, President of the Alliance to Save Energy, “how can you make a change?” Signing up for an energy audit to find out your energy usage might be a good place to start because, according to This Old House’s Kevin O’Connor, “customers care about cost, comfort and convenience.” Says Callahan, “Legislation for climate change may not be soon but the sweet spot on the hill is energy efficiency.” Callahan recommends taking further action by writing in favor of the Shaheen-Portman energy bill which supports investment for innovative energy efficient solutions.
Ann Berwick wants us to take a closer, more analytical look at the data that tells us that hope lies in renewable energy sources. Her slide, included here, focuses on off shore wind because “although it comes with enormous challenges, and is expensive-no getting away from that- its nowhere near as expensive as the failure to address climate change. It is scalable to an extent that other renewable resources simply are not”. The Wall Street Journal quotes the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, as saying “Analyzing the costs and benefits of mitigation is a “complicated question,” but warned against putting a dollar value on the loss of human lives, ecosystems, oceans and marine life threatened by climate change. “The affordability question has to be seen in what will happen if we don’t take these steps,” Mr. Pachauri said.
Ann Berwick concluded at our event; “Given the current state of technology, no renewable resource can match off shore wind in terms of the potential size of the suppy and accessibility-right off our coast. It’s expensive, but it’s pay now or pay a lot more later.”
Kevin O’Connor, Kateri Callahan, Tom King and Ann Berwick (photo: David Parnes)