Climate Corner: Public policy must do better

Nov 12, 2022

Eric Engle

A recent piece in The Washington Post included the fact that, “Carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 were 415.7 parts per million (or ppm), methane at 1908 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide at 334.5 ppb. Theses values represented 149%, 262% and 124% of preindustrial levels, respectively.”

“Scientists warn that if the world is to have a chance of reaching net zero carbon [and equivalent] emissions by 2050 and so prevent the breaching of the 1.5C limit [of temperature rise over a preindustrial baseline in the Paris Climate Accords], global emissions will have to be cut by 5% to 7% a year. At present, emissions are rising between 1% and 2% a year with little sign of that increase being halted,” reads a recent piece in The Guardian.

We’re in deep trouble when it comes to preserving a habitable planet by maintaining a stable climate system and we are not reaching the goals we’ve set for working our way out of this trouble. That has to be said. But that’s not the end of the story. The change we need starts with each and every one of us in our homes and our communities. While we should all be keeping a close eye on the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) going on in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt this week, we have to recognize that how we ourselves live and vote and use our voices matter tremendously.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed earlier this year, was a mixed bag at best, with environmental justice communities actively harmed by some of its provisions, but it will make renewable energy and energy efficiency measures more affordable and accessible for millions of Americans. More Americans will now be able to afford to better insulate their homes; replace windows; replace gas utilities with heat pumps (which both heat and cool homes and dwellings), induction stoves, and electric water heaters; purchase EVs and install at-home car charging; install solar panels or take advantage of community solar; and take advantage of other renewable energy like wind.

Important legislation has also passed in West Virginia as far as accessibility to solar, and more should be passed next session in the WV State Legislature. House Bill 3310, passed in last year’s legislative session, exempted solar power purchase agreements from the Public Service Commission’s jurisdiction. Power purchase agreements allow a developer to arrange and design and handle the permitting and installation of a solar energy system for a customer with little or no up front cost. Senate Bill 583 passed in 2020, which opened up the state for utility-scale solar development. House Bill 4561 did not pass last session but should be reintroduced and passed in the upcoming session to allow electric customers to subscribe to community solar through a solar facility and use credits against their electricity costs.

We need more by way of public policy and public and private financing to upgrade our grids, install far more renewable energy nationwide, adopt sustainable agricultural practices and more sustainable development measures, and to reduce pollution and contamination, especially that caused by plastics and petrochemicals. For these things to become realities, we will need to vote accordingly. I hope that as you read this you will have voted earlier in the week with climate change, sustainability, biodiversity loss, and pollution and contamination crises in mind.

Egalitarian democracy (i.e. “one person, one vote”) is so important to sustaining a habitable planet and protecting and preserving all the thriving life we can. So are critical and analytical thinking skills and the open and unfettered exchange of ideas. For these reason, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action supported the Parkersburg & Wood County Library levy and the Wood County Schools levies on the ballot this week.

There are those who have been attacking our library system and librarians and attacking one of the educators in one of our county schools. My hope at publication is that the levies for our library and schools passed this week, providing them with critical funding, and that those who threaten democracy and liberty have lost and continue to lose in their efforts.


Eric Engle is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.