Let’s get one thing out of the way – climate change is real, and there is overwhelming scientific evidence proving that the climate change we are experiencing today is strongly influenced by our industrial practices over the past 150 years. Don’t take it from me, take it from the organization that took humans to the moon, NASA.
Climate Change Basics:
Carbon Dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and other greenhouse gases created by fossil fuels like oil and coal are really good at trapping heat in our atmosphere. A lot of it occurs naturally, and is one of the reasons life can exist on Earth. That however has changed since the beginning of the industrial revolution, with levels now approaching numbers much higher than what has been observed in the previous 650,000 years! What does that mean? Basically, more and more heat will be trapped, and it will change the atmosphere in unpredictable ways, changing short term weather conditions and long term climate in ways that can negatively impact many of the places we live, work, and play in today.
What are some of these possible impacts?
Rising global temperatures
Global temperatures on average are now nearly 2°F higher than pre-industrial levels, and rising. That might not seem like a whole lot, but spread out across the big world, that can make a huge difference. The rising temperatures are melting over 287 billion tons of land ice per year, raising sea levels by 3.4 millimeters per year, which will soon start to flood important American cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Miami along with cities across the world.
Rising temperatures are also making it easier for more water to evaporate into our atmosphere, making our weather events like rain and snow heavier because there is more moisture to fall from the sky. In other places, there will be an increase in droughts and other natural disasters. Overall, weather is going to be more extreme, and will cause more disruptions to our lives.
But what about our region?
In a place like Millvale, that means the potential for even more floods than we are used to. A recent report from the Army Corps of Engineers says that, “the region will likely experience increased flooding, altered aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and new demands on the operation of reservoirs, dams and other water infrastructure.” This means already devastated places like Millvale will have to plan for more frequent floods and natural disasters.
But is there anything we can do? And what about jobs and businesses?
Still not convinced and think it’s all mumbo jumbo to keep business and industry down? How about some words from the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, Ben van Beurden? In a recent interview, van Beurden said, “We believe climate change is real… We believe that the world needs to go through an energy transition to prevent a very significant rise in global temperatures. And we need to be part of that solution in making it happen.”
In fact, just this past week, the leaders of companies like Pacific Gas and Electric, Microsoft, Unilever, Apple, Morgan Stanley and 20 others sent an open letter to President Trump urging him to remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, citing reasons such as: Strengthening Competitiveness, Creating Jobs, Markets and Growth, and Reducing Business Risks. We agree!
We have the opportunity to be a leader in a new, and emerging economy where the world is working together to produce more renewable energy, creating new technology, and making our business practices more efficient.
Unfortunately, our President did not agree. But as we say in Millvale, think globally, and act locally!
What is Millvale Doing?
Here in Millvale, we believe in doing our part in preventing climate change, preparing our residents for the jobs of the future, and preparing our community for future impacts.
Preventing Climate Change
More and more of our community spaces are being solarized, and we have a strong track record of community led initiatives to reduce energy use. We have also been working to make Millvale a safer place to ride your bike by creating bike safety signage, reducing the need for cars. We are also working to grow more food within our community to reduce the amount of food that needs to be shipped into our region from far away places like California.
Preparing our residents for the jobs of the future
We see renewable energy as not only a path forward to reduce our carbon footprint by preventing the need for smoky, polluting, coal fired power plants, we also see it as the industry of the future that can create local jobs that will be here to stay, unlike a lot of fossil fuel jobs. In fact, as this article states, many coal miners across the country are starting to become solar installers because a lot of the skills are similar. Did we mention that Millvale is in this article?
Just this past spring, the Millvale Library led the Millvale Teen Solar Fellowship, which connected Millvale teens to professionals in the solar energy field, and taught them about the industry and future job opportunities for when they are done with school. We hope to create adult training programs in the future connecting all of our residents to the same kinds of opportunities that can grow our local economy. Learn more about the teen fellowship from this previous blog!
Preparing our community for future impacts
Millvale has felt the sting of a changing climate in the past, and it may once again in the future, but that has motivated us to take steps towards reducing our impacts. This includes the installation of rain gardens and bioswales in town while connecting our residents to information about things like rain barrels. That however won’t be enough. Recent analysis shows that upwards of 90% of the water that flows through Girty’s Run is from outside of Millvale’s borders. This means working with our upstream partner communities like Shaler, and Ross to together reduce our stormwater impacts. Through the North Hills Council of Government’s stormwater working group, the conversation around requiring stormwater impact reduction measures is ever growing.
But what can I do as an individual?
Short answer: Lots!
We know this problem can seem too big for us, but together, everyone can do their little part for a big impact. Everything from turning off the lights when not needed, driving less, wasting less, eating less meat, growing our own food, supporting local businesses, putting on more clothes and turning down the heat in the winter can have a huge collective impact. Oh, one other thing, vote vote vote, and tell your local and national leaders that our future is important!