Curbing the trend: New technology can drastically reduce heating, electricity usage


MANCHESTER — Can Vermont make a difference in countering the effects of climate change?

One environmental expert says yes.

Vermont and Oregon both issued bans to the ozone-depleting chemicals in aerosal cans in 1974, according to William Moomaw, professor emeritus of international environmental policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. A U.S. ban followed three years later, he said. The last ton was made in 2010, meeting the goal of a worldwide ban.

"This is a real success story," Moomaw told a crowded room at the Taconic Hotel last Thursday for the Bennington County Regional Commission's annual meeting.

Moomaw, who owns a home in Williamstown, Mass., spoke to attendees on the science behind global climate change and ways to counter its effects.

Half of the world's ice has melted since 1978, he said. Studies say the suitable habitat for maple, beech and birch trees may shift almost entirely out of the Northeast U.S. by year 2100.

Moomaw said there is an urgency in reducing how much warming gases like carbon dioxide are released, noting that it's not only about what will happen to our grandchildren, but what is happening now. The Northeast has seen a 71 percent increase in major precipitation events, he said. Recent years' storms have destroyed 150-year-old historic covered bridges.

"That is a changed climate," he said.

He said one action must be in addressing electricity sources. He noted many towns across Vermont are debating solar arrays.

"Be grateful you aren't deciding on how much fracking there will be in your town, how much strip mining there will be for coal, or how much tar sand will be dug up and forests destroyed," he said. "We benefit from other peoples' misery in terms of our electricity, because it all happens somewhere else."

He continued: "We need to figure out how we can get our own electricity in a way that doesn't damage the climate system and environment."

The good news, Moomaw said, is that there are steps Vermont can take to curb the trend. New technology such as light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs, residential-mounted solar, geothermal heating and cooling, and efficient windows and doors can drastically reduce heating and electricity usage.

Planners should also take transportation into consideration — walking and biking uses no fossil fuels and new battery technology means electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are more common.

Moomaw also pointed to new legislation that aims to take carbon from the atmosphere and put it back into the soil. A "Regenerative Agriculture Bill" by state Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, would encourage farmers to do just that, increasing farming productivity, retaining water, reducing runoff and soil erosion.

"With regional planning, we can do more together than we can alone," Moomaw said in closing remarks. He thanked attendees for their work to make "southern Vermont more viable, a better place to work and live, and to help us solve climate change."

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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