Opinion

Commentary: Let’s go 100 percent renewable to protect the North Shore

By Ben Hellerstein, Estrella Diaz, and Carol Oldham

Last November, the federal government released the 2018 update to the National Climate Assessment, summarizing the predicted impacts of global warming and climate change.

The Northeast is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the report shows. By 2035, temperatures in our region are predicted to increase more than anywhere else in the contiguous United States, while sea levels are rising three to four times faster than the global average.

Fortunately, residents of Lynn and other North Shore communities are already mobilizing to meet these challenges.

For the North Shore, this isn’t just a hypothetical problem. The impacts of global warming are being felt today.

Last winter, Nahant was under a state of emergency, with flooding on several streets lasting for days. In Lynn, heavy rains caused an outdated sewer system to back up into homes and streets.

In the city of Lynn, Neighbor to Neighbor collected over 170 surveys by going door-to-door. There were many issues that rose to the top for community members in Lynn, one of which being flash flooding caused by the frequency of extreme weather due to climate change impacts, with 111 community members considering this as an issue that affects their daily lives.

Some of the survey responses were very alarming and profoundly important to hear from the community in Lynn, especially around energy costs. People spoke about having to skip meals in order to pay for high utility costs that sometimes reached over $6,000 per year.

Fortunately, we can envision a world where 100 percent of our energy comes from renewable, pollution-free sources like the sun and the wind, while keeping energy costs under control for communities like Lynn that are paying through the roof for fossil fuels.

With offshore wind alone, we could produce more than 19 times as much electricity as Massachusetts consumes each year. Putting solar panels on every available rooftop in the state could generate 47 percent of our electricity.

And new technologies, like air source heat pumps, electric vehicles, and energy storage, will help us power our transportation system, our buildings, and our electric grid with renewable energy at all times of the day and night.

When we achieve 100 percent renewable energy, our air and water will be cleaner. People across the state, including communities of color most impacted by global warming, will be healthier and have access to an environment and energy system that is just and equitable.

Across the country, the movement for 100 percent renewable energy is growing. California and Hawaii have committed to phase out all fossil fuel electricity by 2045. More than 100 cities, including Salem, have committed to 100 percent renewable energy targets.

In Massachusetts, Representative Marjorie Decker, Representative Sean Garballey, and Senator Jamie Eldridge recently introduced the 100% Renewable Energy Act. This bill will power Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, and transition other uses of energy, like heating and transportation, to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

So far, 113 legislators, including more than half of the House and Senate, have signed on to the 100% Renewable Energy Act. Several North Shore legislators, including Representative Peter Capano, Representative Lori Ehrlich, Representative RoseLee Vincent, and Senator Brendan Crighton, are among the sponsors.

Additionally, Senator Crighton, Representative Natalie Higgins, and Representative Andy Vargas have filed important legislation to make energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation programs more accessible to low-income families.

We can power our lives without polluting our air and water, exploiting people and the planet, or changing our climate. Massachusetts should lead the transition to 100 percent renewable energy, to protect communities on the North Shore and ensure a safe future for our children.

Legislators should pass the 100% Renewable Energy Act and other clean energy policies. A clean, healthy, safe future is within reach — if state officials act quickly.

Ben Hellerstein is the state director for Environment Massachusetts. Estrella Diaz is the political director for Neighbor to Neighbor. Carol Oldham is the executive director for Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN).

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