OPINION: A Generation Rallies the Fight Against Climate Change

May 5, 2021, Submitted by Jessica Carr & Andrew Rohleder

We urge you to vote YES on the Climate Action Plan warrant article (#14) at Town Meeting Saturday, May 8th at 2:00PM. If you consider the climate-driven catastrophes looming during our probable life spans, you will understand why, especially for those of us in our twenties, climate change has become the defining issue of our lifetime. Unless we dramatically change course, climate change will inflict unfathomable violence on our environment and horrific suffering on our fellow human beings. Older folks shrink from trying to imagine it; younger people will live to see it firsthand.

Surveying our unprecedented impact on the earth, scientists have proclaimed the current geological age “the Anthropocene” – the Age of Man. They warn that temperature rise from the greenhouse effect is changing the eons-old patterns of the global energy systems that determine our weather environment -  the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and the jet stream above us. Cyclone “bombs”, extreme temperature events, vast wildfires and floods are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change.

The familiar photograph of a polar bear teetering on an iceberg is emblematic of a grim new phenomenon: the Anthropocene extinctions. Habitat loss due to rising temperatures, acidification of the oceans, de-forestation, a shrinking ice mass, and other climate impacts has already devastated many species and ecosystems. These abrupt, climate-driven changes make adaptation impossible for countless species; they are simply dying off. If we do not slow the pace of climate change, this will accelerate. We are inheriting, and will bequeath to our children, a tragically impoverished earth, with far less species diversity.

Hingham will not escape unscathed. Our town’s extensive floodplains, marshes, beaches, and infrastructure, as well as many residential and business properties, are all vulnerable to changing rainfall patterns, increasingly severe storms and rising sea levels. According to recent studies, 3.24% of Hingham’s land is currently at risk of flooding. Properties worth almost $75,000,000 are threatened, including the Bathing Beach parking lot, Foster Elementary School, Stodders Neck, the Hingham Shipyard, the Hingham Yacht Club Peninsula and various pumping stations. Climate change will increase the severity of flooding over time and expand at-risk areas. Studies predict that by 2070, Hingham will lose 92 acres of precious marshland, 70-100 acres of upland area and 26 acres of estuarine beach due to rising tides.

Climate change worsens environmental hazards, compounds inequality and is a threat multiplier, exacerbating social, political, and economic instability. Water and food insecurity can engender civil unrest (as evidenced in Syria), and extreme weather events can displace whole populations (as seen in New Orleans). Environmental hazards disproportionately impact low income people and communities of color. In the US, from Miami to Flagstaff, climate migration is already occurring. The well-off congregate in lower risk/higher priced enclaves; poorer people are relegated to the cheaper, more vulnerable areas.

There is a generational time delay in climate change impacts. Even if we stopped emitting today, the earth would continue to warm, but we would have forestalled the worst impacts. If we don’t cut emissions now, we will soon pass a tipping point leading to truly catastrophic impacts beyond repair. That burden will be passed on to future generations - not an heirloom to treasure.

We must act immediately and aggressively to reduce our emissions and adapt for climate change. Luckily, solutions exist. Greater investment in renewable energy will liberate us from our dependencies on fossil fuels. Expanded public transportation, an explosion in the EV market, and walk/bike infrastructure will drastically reduce transportation emissions (and reduce traffic). Expanded green spaces serve as natural defenses against flood, but also beautify Hingham. As we have learned from the coronavirus lockdown, parks and nature are essential to our wellbeing. But how do we organize ourselves to implement these ideas? It starts with a climate action plan (CAP). A CAP will guide us towards a net zero, climate-prepared future. It is an indispensable investment in our future. We hope you will join us 2:00PM, Saturday May 8th at Hingham HighSchool and vote YES on article 14 at Town Meeting. Hingham needs a climate action plan!

Photo courtesy of Jessica Carr

Photo courtesy of Andrew Rohleder

1 thought on “OPINION: A Generation Rallies the Fight Against Climate Change”

  1. The Climate Action Plan will save money. Some folks reject climate science. For you please realize that a climate action plan is still important. Solar and wind are lower cost than most forms of electricity. Electric cars are better than gas cars, if you haven’t driven a Tesla, I highly recommend it. And costs of EVs are dropping and will be lower than gas cars in no more than three years. The Climate Action Plan is about planning for these changes. For example, we are building a police station that will last for decades. We may not purchase chargers but a climate action plan would have us install the conduit and and over sized service panel so that when the police need charging stations for their cars they will have them. Lets be smart, lets be proactive, lets plan and save money.


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