Hartstein: Local climate action plan is giving us a road map
Climate change is now a climate emergency, but local action plan is giving us a road map.
Science matters! We have seen that during the pandemic: Scientists tells us if we get vaccinated and wear masks when needed, we would have a better chance at getting the virus under control. Similarly, in light of the flooding, tornadoes, storms, fires, drought and extended hot weather around the globe recently, we have been given a wake-up call on climate change and, once again, we are reminded that science matters. In fact, the noted Scientific American earlier this year stopped using that term and refers to it as our "climate emergency."
We are fortunate locally that the Village of Northbrook has shown a model to be emulated by other communities as a road map for taking on our climate emergency. Northbrook's climate action plan is a gem that does a superb job of analyzing climate change from a local perspective, and articulates various contributing factors and steps that can be taken by the village and its residents. I think it is a worthy read that is not only educational, but sets a stage for advocacy. You can find it on the village's website: northbrook.il.us/993/Climate-Action-Plan.
The bottom line, as clearly explained in the report, is that our climate emergency stems from more greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the earth's surface, warming the overall global temperature. As noted in the action plan, if we can reduce the GHGs in key sectors by reducing and eliminating fossil fuel combustion and using clean energy sources, we can contribute toward controlling or reducing global warming.
Those key sectors include transportation and land use, buildings and energy, waste and wastewater, local food and agriculture, health and safety, green space and ecosystem, and a climate economy. Obviously, what is done in one community has a relatively small impact, but taking action can spur others to follow. You would be surprised to learn that the numbers in one community are greater than you might think, and the cumulative impact of action can really add up. More significantly, the failure to see concerted efforts to address the climate emergency can create economic burdens on Northbrook -- and all communities -- as well as our state, nation and the entire world. We must all advocate, educate, participate and emulate to build on the Northbrook Climate Action Plan.
As noted in the action plan, emissions from vehicle traffic can be addressed from several approaches, ranging from reducing miles traveled, shifts to public transit and transition to alternate fuels and greater use of electrification in vehicles. It is significant to note the report shows that, in Northbrook, 70.5% of commuters drive alone; only 11.8 % use public transit and only 475 electric vehicles are registered. We can and must do better as must be the case throughout the country.
On the energy front, we have seen a 25% reduction in consumption in last decade in Northbrook, but we can and must see -- and demand -- an increase in the use of renewable energy by ComEd and consider it for our homes as well: using solar panels, plus more energy efficient windows, doors and furnaces.
In waste management, we have seen over a 100% increase in solid waste and its associated emissions in Northbrook since 2010. We need a greater commitment to recycling and sewage treatment and systems to avoid pollution in the region.
In terms of local food and agriculture, we need to promote more local gardens and support our own farmers market and others in the area.
When it comes to health and safety, we need to have plans in place to deal with disasters, sustainable infrastructure and increased flood control and cleaner air and water standards.
As for Green space and ecology, we need to maximize open green space and impervious surfaces, plant more trees and protect wildlife.
Producing a climate economy can be accomplished by supporting and promoting green jobs in energy efficiency, public transit, and renewable energy, plus considering carbon impact fees.
Addressing the climate emergency must be a work in progress to which we all must commit. This means making a personal commitment, like getting involved in Go Green Northbrook activities. and taking actions at all levels of government. Our local government efforts, like the Northbrook Climate Action Plan, are a start and should be encouraged in other communities. At the state level, we must push Springfield to get Energy Reform to the finish line to phase out coal-generated energy and encourage renewable energy. Nationally, we must speak out for finalization of both the bipartisan Infrastructure package and the Build Back Better Reconciliation package to ensure that the resources are made available to take on the many challenges of our climate emergency.
Yes, science matters. And we cannot afford to ignore the wake-up calls we have been getting any longer.
• Elliott Hartstein of Northbrook is an attorney and a former Buffalo Grove village president. If you are interested in possibly discussing this topic further over Zoom with Elliott and others, you can email him at email@example.com.