Editorial: Carbon Free Boston

Data from the Fourth National Climate Assessment by the U.S. Global Change Research Program reports that by 2050, there will be 20 to 30 more days per year with a maximum temperature of more than 90 degrees fahrenheit. That’s hot.

On Jan. 29, 2019, the  Carbon Free Boston group of Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission released a report with research conducted by Boston University’s Institute of Sustainable Energy (ISN) to assess potential strategies to end climate change. They looked into the impacts in the fields of energy, transportation, buildings, waste and social equity in order to find a plausible plan of attack.

In order to fight the drastic weather, property damage, and displacement that climate change will cause, scientists project that greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced to a pace that keeps the global temperature from increasing by 1.5 degrees celsius. For this to happen, Boston, and many other cities around the world, need to become Carbon Neutral, meaning that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by 100 percent.

The findings of the ISN studies make it clear that the task ahead is herculean, and will require the collaboration of city halls, corporations, the federal government, and the people. As students, it is our role to find ways to make changes in our own lives, apply pressure, and advocate. The youth of this country are more socially and environmentally conscious than previous generations, and will soon rise into positions of power that will dictate the future of our planet. Please have compassion for the world we live in.

Many scientific studies have projected the negative impacts climate change will have in the future, but it remains a divisive issue.  No matter where one stands, the Climate Ready Boston 2016 initiative asserts that “Climate change is not a narrow issue, but one that affects the social and economic vitality of our city.”

Movements to fortify Boston against climate change will also spur innovation, create new jobs, make Boston a more livable city, and inspire connections and collaborations. This is our future city and our future workforce. Who wouldn’t want the absolute best?

One important area that the ISN studies explored was transportation. To keep carbon dioxide emissions down, all personal vehicles on the roads need to be electric. Obviously, this shift seems drastic, and too far off in the future. Today, however, citizens can make the conscious choice to use public transportation such as the Massachusetts Boston Transit Authority (MBTA), cycle, or walk.

According to the ISN, additional benefits that will arise from a shift in transportation include safer streets, improved public health from cleaner air and more physical activity, equitable access to mobility, and better connected communities.

The ISN also emphasized the importance of zero energy waste, which includes recycling, reusing, and composting. The high school has a sophisticated composting initiative, but it is up to students to take responsibility and actively sort their waste from lunch, or help their friends out. Little contributions from individuals build up to create significant change over time. But, those decisive actions need to be taken in the first place.

According to the ISN, the zero waste initiative also will lead to waste reduction, creation of jobs, and reduction of pollution and resource depletion.

Other changes that are necessary to minimize carbon emissions by 2050 include refurbishing buildings completely to make them better insulated and equipping them with facilities that are more energy efficient. Additionally, the ISN advocates for a low carbon intensity electricity grid, which means getting electricity from more sustainable sources, and converting many power systems to electricity.

These propositions may seem distant, lofty, and unfeasible at the moment. However, it is important that we as students start now before time catches up to us.

At the high school, students should get in touch with others interested in action and join organizations such as the Environmental Action Club at the high school.

To successfully create changes that our city needs, residents need to be educated, united, and apply pressure over time. “We must alter the way we design and operate our buildings, heat our homes, power our businesses, and get from place to place,” the ISN declares, The we here is a collective we.” Every Bostonian needs to contribute.