January 24, 2018

Sustainable Head Urges Climate Action Plan To Reduce Emissions

By Donald Gilpin

Sustainable Princeton Executive Director Molly Jones, in a speech at the Universalist Unitarian Church Monday night, described the challenges of climate change, outlined Princeton’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), and explained how citizens can most effectively get involved.

In the presentation hosted by Indivisible Princeton, Jones emphasized, “Climate change is not a silver bullet problem. It’s a silver buckshot problem. There are many small things we can do.” 

Jones noted that Princeton took action immediately in responding to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and other actions designed to roll back Obama-era environmental policies. Mayor Liz Lempert signed on to a Climate Mayors agreement; Sustainable Princeton, in coordination with local authorities, is leading an effort to develop a community CAP; and Princeton University is working towards its goal of achieving 1990 emissions levels by 2020.

She pointed out that “most people think that climate change will harm Americans, but they don’t think it will happen to them. It’s a problem that someone else has.” She noted, however, that the reality of climate change at its current pace will mean that while we currently average six days per year of temperatures over 95 degrees, by 2060 it will be 23 days and by 2100 49 days per year.

Continuing to set forth the consequences of climate change, Jones mentioned the increasing frequency and aggressiveness of storms and flooding, costly and dangerous infrastructure damage, major property damage, devastation to local habitats, and health implications, including increases in vector-borne illnesses (ticks and mosquitoes), asthma, and stress-related mental health effects.

She proceeded to present necessary steps to reduce carbon emissions. First, she said, is to quantify greenhouse gas emissions, tracking where emissions are coming from, and providing a means for measuring progress.

Next she urged setting an overarching goal for emissions reductions, for example a decrease of 80 percent emissions by 2050 or a return to 1990 levels by 2020. The target areas to be measured against quantifiable goals would be transportation, buildings, land use and
community design, water, waste, and natural environment.

“What can I do?” Jones asked rhetorically, and continued by encouraging listeners to “educate yourself on the realities of climate change,” “act to reduce your personal footprint,“ and “advocate to make your opinion known.”

Among the measures she suggested were to push for public school referendum projects to prioritize a sustainable approach, to send a letter to the editor of Town Topics (“In this small community, it’s a great opportunity to get your voice heard”), to stay informed about Governor Murphy’s plan for a Clean Energy Economy, and to support efforts, possibly in conjunction with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, to pass legislation that positively impacts the environment.

Jones’s “three items to advocate for now” include the transition away from gas powered vehicles, better stormwater management, and composting.

In discussing how individuals can reduce their footprints, Jones mentioned the areas of transportation, home energy efficiency, and lifestyle. “Focus first on reducing, then reuse, and thirdly recycle,” she said, issuing the challenge, “Choose one change to make in your home, transportation habits, and lifestyle to focus on each month.”