Reston, VA

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors indicated interest in a pilot program for electric-powered buses during its transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 10).

During the meeting, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny delivered an presentation that explained the “ins and outs” of electric vehicles and and included a proposal for moving forward with a pilot plan.

The next step would be to return to the supervisors with a more in-depth financial plan that includes details such as when and where this would take place, and how long the demonstration would last, which could be in the early part of 2021, Biesiadny says.

“This is exciting,”said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay. “Clearly we need to jump into this area and we need to do it quickly.”

Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchick supported a pilot because it would help ensure the county implements these changes correctly.

“This is the future,” she said. “We need to stop going backward. I’m hopeful to see a plan not just to see a pilot but do a demonstration project, which in my mind, means ‘how can we move forward?'”

A pilot with four buses could cost between $3.8 million and $4.2 million, a gross cost that does not take into account sources of funding. Some money has been set aside through a bus replacement program, and there are grants available, Biesiadny said.

FCDOT has in-house and external expertise from Fairfax’s “ongoing partnership with Dominion Energy” and the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit team to draw from, said Tom Reynolds, the FCDOT Section Chief of Transit Services Division.

The pilot would help the department learn about the buses’ range and charging, how they perform during different seasons of the year and on various local and express routes, and what staff training needs to be done, Reynolds said.

“The sooner we do the pilot, the sooner we see the results of it, the sooner we can start to make longer-term decisions about some of the capital costs that would be necessary if we were to expand this,” McKay said.

When the county talks about costs, Palchik — who said she developed childhood asthma living in the area — and Braddock Supervisor James Walkinshaw emphasized the costs of treating asthma and the health impacts of poor air quality.

“In Virginia, we spend $87 million a year because of asthma hospitalization,” Walkinshaw said. “Fairfax County is lower, but Route One is higher. Annandale is higher. Other parts of the county are higher. It would be a small thing, but as we look at this pilot, we might want to look at locating it in parts of the county that have been hit harder by asthma.”

Fairfax County’s first effort to introduce electric vehicles into public transit came this year with the autonomous Relay shuttle now operating in the Mosaic District. That demonstration project is a partnership with Dominion Energy, Biesiadny said.

Photo via Electrify America

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Fairfax County should attempt to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040 and eliminate all waste from county government and school operations by 2030, the Fairfax County Joint Environmental Task Force (JET) recommends in a new report.

Presented to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Oct. 20 and the Fairfax County School Board on Oct. 22, the report urges both boards, along with the Fairfax County Park Authority and the Fairfax County Regional Housing Authority, to commit to producing net-zero carbon emissions from their energy usage by 2040.

To achieve this goal, the task force suggests that Fairfax County aim to cut its carbon emissions in half from 2019 levels by 2030, while transitioning to renewable sources to generate 25% of its energy by 2030 and 50% by 2040.

The task force also recommends reducing the total amount of energy used by all county facilities by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2040, and requiring all new county buildings and major renovation projects meet net-zero energy standards starting in 2021.

Other recommendations proposed by the JET include:

  • Fairfax government and schools should aim to produce zero solid waste by 2030
  • The Fairfax Connector bus fleet should transition to electricity or other non-carbon-emitting fuel sources by 2030, with the Fairfax County Public Schools fleet and non-bus vehicles following suit by 2035
  • The county government and schools should develop resources to educate students and adults about job options in “green” industries, including renewable energy, green building, resource and wildlife management, and stormwater management

“The JET’s ambitious goals and recommendations send a powerful message that our county and school system are committed to doing what it takes to protect our environment and address the threat of climate change,” Providence District School Board member Karl Frisch said.

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions executive director Meg Mall, one of nine community members on the JET, says her environmental advocacy group is “pleased that strong goals have been incorporated” into the task force’s report and hopes to see continued collaboration not just between different county agencies, but also between Fairfax County and the general public.

“FACS has been a strong advocate for the adoption of aggressive goals in the county’s climate mitigation and adaptation work,” Mall said. “…The county must lead by example within its own operations while concurrently working toward community-wide goals.”

The Board of Supervisors and school board formed the JET in April 2019 to coordinate county government and schools efforts to address climate change, energy efficiency, and environmental sustainability issues.

While the threat of climate change has loomed for decades, its urgency became newly apparent when the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in 2018 that found the world must achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and potentially avoid the most drastic impacts of climate change.

In addition to creating the JET, Fairfax County signaled that it intends to prioritize climate issues by establishing the new Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination in July 2019 and awarding contracts to solar providers in December to install solar panels at more than 100 publicly owned facilities.

The Board of Supervisors will discuss the JET recommendations and get updates on the solar power purchase agreement initiative, the development of a Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP), and the county’s yard waste collection bag policy during its environmental committee meeting today at 11 a.m.

Staff photo by Catherine Douglas Moran

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A report by a subcommittee of the county’s Joint Environmental Task Force is calling on the county to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2050.

The draft report, which will be discussed at a task force meeting today, offers recommendations on goals for adoption by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Fairfax County School Board.

Members of the task force’s energy subcommittee met several times between September 2019 and August of this year to formulate the report.

In order to achieve carbon-neutral status, the report recommends reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and a net-zero energy commitment for all new county buildings and major renovation projects.

Here’s more from the report on the next steps:

1. Carbon emissions: Achieve 50% emissions reductions by 2030, as compared to the 2019 baseline.

2. Clean renewable energy: Produce 25% of the County energy use from in-County renewable energy generation by 2030, and 50% by 2040, using 2019 energy use as the baseline.

3. Building Energy Performance Standards for existing buildings: Decrease total energy usage from all County facilities by 25% by 2030 and 50% by 2040, as compared to the 2019 baseline.

4. Net Zero Energy Commitment: All new County buildings and major renovation projects beginning planning and design in 2021 and after must achieve ‘Net-Zero Energy’ (NZE) performance as defined below, unless County staff advises the Board prior to the 30% design phase why a project cannot meet the NZE standard.

The report urges the county to coordinate with other organization in order to inventory all potential solar sites, options for geothermal installations, and the launch of a communications campaign about energy and emissions.

The county is currently in the midst of developing its first Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan.

Photo via Unsplash

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Work on the county’s new Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) is currently underway.

Now, Fairfax County officials are seeking the public’s feedback on the plan through a series of virtual public meetings.

The three meetings will aim to facilitate conversations on the count’s climate change management goals.

The CECAP Task Force will incorporate the public’s feedback into their final draft of the policy. The task force is composed of stakeholders from associations, businesses, and other organizations, in an effort to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions rate.

Here’s more from the county on the plan:

The Fairfax County Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) development process is administered by the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination with support from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and the Fairfax County-based management consulting firm ICF. The plan, which will be the first of its kind for the county, will include a greenhouse gas inventory as well as targets for greenhouse gas reduction in the coming years.

The CECAP will also include actions and strategies to help mitigate climate change and to reduce the impact of climate-related events on county residents and businesses. At the conclusion of the development process, a final plan will be presented to the Board of Supervisors for adoption. 

The schedule for the meetings is below:

Log-in and registration information is available in the links above.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Solar energy panels will be coming to dozens of Fairfax County public schools and facilities following the launch of a large-scale renewable energy initiative this week.

In a Tuesday release, the county has unveiled multiple solar power purchasing agreements with service providers, an agreement that allows the government to purchase solar-generated electricity from companies that install, maintain and operate solar power generation systems on county property.

County officials expect the new initiative could result in more than $60 million in electricity cost avoidance over the terms of the contracts. They expect the contracts to generate around 1.7 million megawatt-hours of clean renewable energy — equivalent to electricity used by more than 213,000 homes annually.

In a statement, Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill said the initiative was “a major step toward a more sustainable energy future.”

Fairfax County is striving to promote and encourage the use of renewable energy as we reduce our carbon footprint. We are committed to making choices around energy resources that benefit the residents of Fairfax County now and in the future,” Hill wrote.

Here’s more from the Fairfax County Public School officials:

“The notification of the award is another successful point in our journey to move FCPS toward increased adoption of renewable energy sources,” according to FCPS School Board Chair Karen Corbett Sanders. “Our ongoing sustainability efforts are worthy of highlighting. FCPS has achieved an annual reduction of 14.5 percent in total energy use division-wide since 2014, a cost savings of more than $31 million. Our move toward solar reinforces the School Board’s commitment to our environmental stewardship responsibilities.  Pursuant to School Board policy, FCPS will continue to take bold, innovative and sustained actions to help our country achieve climate stabilization.  There are still many issues to navigate as we move forward with solar energy efforts that will require cooperation at all levels of government to ensure success.”

 “We’re excited to be partnering with the County in a movement that’s good for our students, families and our environment, “said Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand.  “Lower energy costs through solar power purchase agreements will enable FCPS to save millions of dollars while freeing up additional funds for classroom investments.  We look forward to working with the County to expand this initiative to as many FCPS schools and facilities as possible.  Our solar investment will also become an amazing learning lab for our students to reinforce the value and sustainability of solar energy.”

The school system was one of the first regional school districts in the country to install equipment to capture solar energy. Terraset Elementary School used solar heat collector tubes to capture energy from the sun when it opened in 1977.

The following schools in the area are being considered for solar modifications:

  • Coates Elementary School
  • Hunters Woods Elementary School
  • Lake Anne Elementary School
  • South Lakes High School
  • Sunrise Valley Elementary School
  • Terraset Elementary School

Photo via Unplash

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

For the second week in a row my column opens with a reference to sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who spoke to the United Nations Climate Action Summit last week after having sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat. Her message was hard hitting. As she had said to a Congressional committee, it was not necessary that she speak for a long period of time for the scientists had already spoken in the numerous reports on climate change that had been written. As a leader who had inspired weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish Parliament resulting in a growing movement of youth climate activists holding their own protests in more than 100 cities worldwide her message was clear to the world leaders: “We will be watching you…How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight!”

Gun violence is an issue about which young people have become increasingly concerned as well. A student who was at the high school in Parkland, Florida, when there was the mass shooting there has been quoted in the Washington Post as saying that “You see these shootings on TV every day and very little happening around it. It’s painful to watch. And I think it’s been really hard for me and many other students and people that we work with to find hope in this time.” Once again, the young people are watching.

Students from the high school in Parkland have formed an organization called March for Our Lives whose very name indicates the seriousness with which they are approaching the issue of gun violence. They have more than 100 chapters nationwide. Their proposed plan to combat gun violence, “A Peace Plan for a Safer America,” goes well beyond the limited measures being debated in the adult world. Their plan creates a national licensing program with a gun registry, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a waiting period for gun purchases, and a mandatory buy-back of assault weapons. Their program may seem extreme to many, but it deserves careful attention for it is written by young people who have the experience of having survived a mass shooting where their friends around them did not survive. Once again, we can expect that these young people and others will be watching what we adults do about this issue if indeed anything is done.

Many years ago I worked in a manufacturing plant in the Shenandoah Valley with a man who as a devout member of the Brethren Church. He would regularly remind me that we should live our lives as though someone is watching us for we could be sure that someone is watching us and observing our ethics, honesty and sincerity. We may be able to talk a good game, but those observing our behavior can learn more about us than we may care for them to know. In the political world these days there is way too much talk and too little action on critical life and death issues. Young people are watching and are calling us out!

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions sailboat to speak at the United Nations Climate Action Summit this week. Thunberg has a strong reputation as a climate activist having staged weekly sit-ins outside the Swedish Parliament resulting in a growing movement of youth climate activists holding their own protests in more than 100 cities worldwide. Having a young person speak about climate issues is appropriate considering the higher-level interest shown by young people over adults on climate-related concerns. After all, it is their future that is being discussed.

Results of a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last week found that young people include climate change among the issues they think are most important facing the country. Eighty-six percent of youth think that human activity is causing climate change. Of considerable concern is the finding that 57 percent of the youth polled said that climate change makes them feel afraid. It is their future, and they feel afraid of the future we adults are leaving them. The good news is that 54 percent feel motivated to do something about it.

But young people fortunately are not alone in being fearful of climate change and motivated to do something about it. The 2019 Virginia Climate Crisis Forum held at the First Baptist Church in Vienna attracted nearly 300 activists to focus on climate justice. The forum was moderated by William Barber, III, son of the famous Rev. Dr. William Barber II, and Karenna Gore, the eldest daughter of former Vice President Al Gore. Reflecting the broad interest in the issue, panelists included representatives of the Green New Deal of Virginia, People Demanding Action, Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions and others. Emphasis of the discussion was on working together to repair a damaged climate while ensuring that everyone most impacted–including low-income people, people of color, the vulnerable, and those on the front lines–are part of every solution and not disproportionally impacted.

Coming out of the Virginia Clean Energy Summit also held last week was an announcement by Governor Ralph Northam that the goal in Virginia is that by 2030, 30 percent of Virginia’s electric system will be powered by renewable energy resources and by 2050, 100 percent of Virginia’s electricity will be produced from carbon-free sources such as wind, solar and nuclear. In his Executive Order establishing the goals, the Governor expressed the concerns being heard from the young people and in the various meetings on the issue: “Climate change is an urgent and pressing challenge for Virginia. As recent storms, heat waves, and flooding events have reminded us, climate disruption poses potentially devastating risk to Virginia.” Reflecting the concern about economic justice, the Governor’s Executive Order stated that “These clean energy resources shall be deployed to maximize the economic and environmental benefit to under-served communities while mitigating any impact to those communities.”

Young people remind us that there are ample reasons to be afraid of an unknown future with climate change. The best response to that fear is to intensify the discussions such as have been going on while taking positive steps like that by the Governor to reverse impact on climate change.

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A group of mothers from Fairfax County are banding together to push county schools to use electric school buses.

The group, Mothers out Front Fairfax, recently formed a local chapter of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front.

“Our county has a chance to be on the cutting edge of technology and to be a national leader in providing our kids with healthy air and clean energy future,” said Kathy Keller, a nurse at Inova Fairfax hospital, Mothers out Front Fairfax member and a mom with two children in county schools.

The group formally launched its campaign at Patrick Henry Library in Vienna on Tuesday (August 20). Fairfax County Public School’s school board member Pat Hynes spoke at the event.

Here’s more from the group about their initiative:

Electric school buses, with no tailpipe emissions, eliminate children’s exposure to dangerous diesel exhaust during their ride to school. They have lower global warming emissions than diesel, even when the source of electricity is taken into account. They have no engine, muffler, or alternator that requires tune-ups, meaning a lifetime fuel and maintenance savings over diesel buses of up to $170,000. They have a lower center of gravity than diesel buses and are therefore less likely to roll over. They are safer for our kids and cleaner for our environment.

The health and environmental benefits of electric school buses are well documented. Studies show that that exposure levels to harmful chemicals can be between 4 and 10 times higher on school buses than in the surrounding environment.

The county has the second largest public school fleet of buses in the country, behind only New York City.

Mothers Out Front is a national advocacy group. Members are mothers who aim to “ensure a livable climate for all children,” according to the organization’s website.

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A new statewide progressive advocacy group for climate change is set to launch at Great Falls Library on Saturday (August 17).

The group, Earth Rise Indivisible, seeks to seeks to mobilize the public to address what it calls a “climate crisis.”

The science on the climate crisis is precise; climate change is happening, and can likely be attributed to human activities.  We are impacting every facet of life on our planet destructively.  However, we can take action to save our big blue marble.  Immediate action can stop or reduce potential adverse outcomes,” according to a press release issued by the organization today (Thursday).

The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and features a vegetarian bag lunch, a celebratory happy hour at Old Brogue (760 Walker Road), skill-building workshops, yoga breaks and presentations by Climate Reality and Green New Deal VA.

Registration is open online.

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Advocates on behalf of cleaning up our environment got further strong evidence of the need for “bold, swift action on behalf of our environment,” a phrase used by many who have recently written letters to me. A 1,500-page report based on thousands of scientific studies by hundreds of international experts has concluded that “humans are transforming earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plants and animal species are now at risk of extinction posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival.”

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that produced the report for the United Nations found that “piecemeal efforts to protect individual species or to set up wildlife refuges will no longer be sufficient.” Instead, they call for ‘transformative changes’ that include curbing wasteful consumption, slimming down agricultures and cracking down on illegal logging and fishing.” The writers of the assessment are hoping that policy makers will see the importance of nature to the health of people and local economies and will able “to strike a more careful balance between economic development and conservation.”

As Virginia advocates point out in their plea, “it will now be up to the 2020 Virginia General Assembly to stand up for our health and the environment, for clean energy, and to protect Virginians from the ravages of climate change of which we are already feeling the effects.” The most recent session of the General Assembly demonstrated that the legislators in charge can make all the difference. In a strictly partisan vote, the Republican majority had language inserted in the budget that restricts the Commonwealth’s ability to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that will be a critical avenue for reducing carbon emissions in the state and addressing the negative effects of climate change on the health and safety of the people.

While the language by the Republicans was not subject to a line item veto by the Governor because of past court decisions, the Governor nonetheless has pledged to move forward with new regulations much the same as would be part of RGGI to make significant reductions in carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants. The Governor has made it clear that the budget he prepares next year will delete the Republican language. With the probable change of control of the House of Delegates and State Senate this year the language will not be carried forward in future budgets.

It is unfortunate that the actions of the Governor on this and other items in the budget have been sharply criticized because of a misunderstanding on the part of many that the Governor’s line item veto power is not unlimited — supported by court decisions but still controversial. The good news is that the Governor has indicated in many other actions that he recognizes the need for bold and swift action to protect our environment. I look forward to working with him in greatly enhancing Virginia’s protection of the environment.

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum, who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

There was both shock and amazement on the part of many Restonians to hear last Friday evening that our community was under a tornado warning by the National Weather Service (NWS). These warnings occur all the time especially in the Midwest and earlier that day across the deep South. For us the weather is relatively mild, although the winds do seem to blow harder these days, and the rains this spring seem to have brought a lot of local flooding. The amount of snow varies from winter to winter.

About 8:30 p.m. on Friday the National Weather Service found that an approaching squall line ahead of a larger storm’s cold front distorted into an S shape across Northern Virginia. Gusts along the bow were significant until the bow broke up into a rotating storm. Doppler radar revealed a counterclockwise circulation known as a mesocyclone over Reston that developed into a cyclone.

Technically the National Weather Service recorded that on Friday, April 19, there was a tornado event in Reston beginning at 8:55 p.m. estimated time with estimated maximum wind speed of 70 mph, with a maximum path width of 100 yards and a path length of 4 miles. The NWS uses the Fujita Scale to classify tornadoes into one of six categories–EF0 (weak) to EF5 (violent). The tornado in our community was rated at the lowest ranking, EF0.

For professional weather people who deal with bad weather all the time, the tornado in our community that lasted an estimated five minutes may have seemed weak. But for those who sought refuge in their basements and heard the wind whipping around their homes and saw the trees swaying in their yards the storm was anything but weak. Fortunately, no one was killed or reported hurt. Lots of trees and branches were downed and several cars were damaged with one townhouse being severely damaged. Everyone is left to wonder if we will be as lucky if the flukes of weather send their wrath on us again.

Weather refers to what happens in the atmosphere around us with rain, snow, wind, and thunderstorms as examples. For many of us weather conditions seem to have become more severe. Only scientific recordings of weather events over a long period of time will provide evidence needed to confirm or deny our hunches. All the weather events of temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns averaged over seasons, years or longer creates our climate. There is ample evidence to demonstrate that climate is changing and that human behavior especially in releasing more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere is a leading cause. Completing the circle of what is happening in our world is that climate change is bringing about more extreme weather events.

While extreme weather, climate change and global warming may be controversial topics to some, many of us are deeply concerned. This week’s celebration of Earth Day was a global experience. Our local weather event while relatively mild reminds us that we need to be serious about the subject and serious about our response to it.

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This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Former Vice President Al Gore entitled his book on climate change “An Inconvenient Truth.” Many years have passed, but the truth he put forth that the climate is changing and that human behavior is causing it may continue to be inconvenient for a few to acknowledge because of personal biases, ignorance or financial interests.

But climate change is even truer today than when Gore first focused public attention on it and its causes.

Over the last several weeks I have written three columns in this space on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change brought together by the United Nations. It issued a report last month, written and edited by 91 scientists from 40 countries and based on a review of more than 6,000 scientific reports, predicting much more dire consequences of climate change much earlier than previously had been expected.

Some may see such predictions as inconvenient, but I and most of the world see them as “a warning too dire to ignore.”

Last week the federal government came forth with its National Climate Assessment publication of over 1,000 pages produced by 13 federal departments and agencies overseen by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. The researchers found that climate change “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.”

Most significant to this report that has been produced annually over the last four years is the conclusion that “humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

As clear as the evidence is about climate change and the near unanimous endorsement of it by climate scientists, the current federal executive branch continues to ignore this truth. Ideally, a national response to climate change could ensure the effectiveness of mitigation and other responses to our country and the globe. Since that seems unlikely in the next few years, state governments must step up. I share the concern that the pace of state action seems too slow, but progress is being made.

Last year in Virginia we moved forward with grid transformation that will allow consumers and utilities to have the information needed to make informed decisions on their electricity usage. The best way to eliminate the need for more electricity is to reduce demand even as the population grows and the economy expands. Since 2015 the solar capacity in Virginia has increased by more than 700 times to 825 megawatts — still a small number, but we are clearly on our way.

What was once described as an inconvenient truth is well documented for all but a few skeptics and is recognized as an emergency by most. I plan to maintain my 100 percent voting record with the League of Conservation Voters and my commitment to making Virginia a leader in ending the behaviors of people and companies that lead to climate change.

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

If the 91 scientists from 40 countries who analyzed more than 6,000 scientific studies on climate change are to be believed, the dire consequences of climate change will be felt as soon as the next couple of decades, within the lifespan of most of the readers of this column.

Do exaggerated weather conditions of hotter temperatures, excessive rains and winds with more hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts over many years for some regions, wildfires covering thousands of acres as well as the death of the coral reefs and some wildlife sound familiar along with recurrent flooding and disappearance of some beaches? All of these are signs of climate change.

The warning from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the second in as many decades. Will it be heeded? Many policymakers will not be around to feel the consequences of inaction, but what about the old-fashioned notion that we have a responsibility for future generations including our own progeny? Should we try to save the planet for them? Any one action by an individual will not change the course we are on with changes to our climate, but the serious and collective actions on the part of most citizens have the potential to make a difference.

I have heard arguments from those who take a religious view of the issue that they do not believe that the god they worship as the creator of the world would let humankind destroy it. Could it be that the same God who gave humankind dominion over the planet would have an expectation that we would be good stewards of the resources and protect them?

I support a total reversal of the insane policies on climate change of the current federal administration. I abhor this administration’s policies and practices to ignore the clear warnings and to pursue environmental rules based on personal and corporate strategies to make a monetary profit or to gain votes from a constituency. As I discussed in this column in prior weeks, I plan to provide leadership on issues at the state level that will curtail and reverse actions furthering climate change.

Now it is up to us individually to live our lives in a way that shows our mindfulness of the effects of climate change and our willingness to make changes ourselves that will start to reverse the damage. As consumers, we need to reward businesses that pursue climate awareness policies and actions and to not deal with those whose manufacturing processes and actions contribute to climate change.

We need to buy energy from renewable sources even if may cost more. We need to live in such a way that enhances the health of the natural elements around us. We need to plant more trees that can have a great impact on greenhouse gases. We need to walk or bike more and drive internal combustion engine vehicles less.

Who’s in with me? Let’s prove the scientists wrong by changing the way we live in order to preserve our planet. If it is too late for you, what about your grandchildren and their children?

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Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Last week I wrote about the dire warning of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the more immediate consequences of climate change than had originally been predicted. Avoiding the damages to our planet and to our way of life would require “transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has no documented precedent,” according to the report.

The greatest economies in the world must lead the changes necessary to preserve our planet and the quality of life for our families rather than dismissing or debating its findings. The time for action is now with the report describing a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040, a little more than two decades away.

What we have instead are politicians at the highest level of the federal government making promises at political rallies in West Virginia to bring back coal, the greatest offender of climate change, and in Iowa to increase corn production for ethanol that when added to gasoline may release more carbon from the lands than it saves. Scores of regulations intended to reduce climate change have been rescinded to gain favor of those who see them as interference in their quest to make more bucks or to gain more votes from a political constituency.

Absent little or no help on this concern at the federal level for the next couple of years, what can be done in the meantime? At the state level I will be pushing for a strengthening of a commitment by state government to increase its efforts at energy conservation, eliminating any subsidies for coal production, intensive economic development in green jobs for areas previously dependent on coal, a tax on carbon, accelerating the use of renewable energy, and establishing Virginia as a green state in its policies as well as reforestation. There are many reasons to take this immediate action in Virginia if for no other motive than that we stand to be among the first state to lose a significant chunk of our land mass with climate change and sea level rise.

I am pleased that Fairfax County has made a nod in the direction of concern about sea level rise, but there is reason to believe that one of the wealthiest counties in the country can find the will and the resources to do even more. We have been planting trees, but we need to plant many more. We have been working to get people out of their individual cars, and we must incentivize more people to use cleaner transit. Thanks to School Board Member Pat Hynes for her resolution calling for state and federal action on climate change. It is a beginning, but the locality must budget as a social cost for the county and not for the school district the addition of solar panels on the millions of square feet of roof space on our schools. Also, our school lots should be forested and not lawns.

Small actions taken by many can produce significant results. We have our warning. No time for hand-wringing. We need to get to work.

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Friday Morning Notes

The historic designation debate — In this opinion piece, the writer explores two historic designation issues in Herndon and Reston. [Greater Greater Washington]

Trout fishing season is here — You heard that right. The Fairfax County Park Authority invites you to fish for trout at Lake Fairfax Park. Season passes are available. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Tishman Speyer sheds some land — The Pinkard Group paid $3.15M to acquire the 3.3-acre parcel at the corner of the Dulles Toll Road and Monroe Street in Herndon, part of the Woodland Park East development, from Tishman Speyer. [Bisnow]

Climate change in schools — Well, not in schools. The Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution last night calling on state and federal action on climate change. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

In the time machine — Flavors of Fall brought beer, wine, food and fun to Reston Town Center last weekend. Mercia Hobson offers a recap here.  [The Connection]

Photo by Lindi Mallison

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