Conversations on Climate Change

cop21For the next two weeks many of our world’s leaders will gather in Paris to create a global pact that will ideally include commitments from nearly every country to consider enacting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions[1]. As explained in The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan (2009) greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to New England’s changing climate in ways such as sea-level rise, warmer winters, reduced snowfall, increased rainfall, and more severe weather events. [2]

The Climate Change in New Hampshire report explains that: “Overall, southern and northern New Hampshire have been getting warmer and wetter over the last century, and the rate of change has increased over the last four decades.”[3] According to the report, in southern New Hampshire temperature change seems to be most drastic in the winter seasons. The number of snow-covered days has decreased by as many as 27 (as measured at the Durham, NH weather station), and the number of days with minimum temperatures of less than 32 degrees have decreased as well.

Cameron Wake, one of the authors of Climate Change in New Hampshire and a climatology professor at the UNH Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, addressed climate change and the Paris talks on the December 1st episode of NHPR’s The Exchange. Joining Cameron Wake was Catherine Ashcraft, assistant professor of the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at UNH, and Mike Fitzgerald, assistant director of the Air Resources Division of NHDES. NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen also called in to share her thoughts on the topic of climate change.

The three panelists and Senator Shaheen discussed climate change on several levels. Cameron Wake shared that he was optimistic about a low carbon future adding that New Hampshire has already decreased their greenhouse gas emissions by 18%, while the state’s economy has grown by 28%. Ashcraft elaborated on Cameron Wake’s idea that having some type of policy in place is great and that regulations can always be implemented in the future when the need arises. Fitzgerald added that New Hampshire is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35-45% by 2030 and that the plan created by the New England Governor’s/ Eastern Canadian Premiers assisted in the reduction.

Wake also shared the importance of relying on natural gas, energy efficient practices, and the implementation of initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases. UNH, in collaboration with NHDES, has worked to utilize alternative fuel by using methane released from waste at the Turnkey Landfill to generate power to the core of the University of New Hampshire campus.

Senator Shaheen spoke to changes being made in New Hampshire, such as the increased use of public transportation to Boston, and explained a bill proposed by herself and Ohio Senator Rob Portman that would encourage energy efficient practices. She noted the effects of climate change including negative health effects, rising sea level, and changing weather patterns.

Conversation during the program was directed to the manner in which the state functions at the local level. Panelists spoke to how changes at the local level regarding land use and transportation planning can affect a reduction in greenhouse gases. New Hampshire cities, towns, and businesses can take steps to join this mission to reduce the state’s carbon footprint. Fitzgerald noted that change happens little by little and the process is like “trying to turn the Titanic”. With that said, the state is on track to meet their goals for reduction of greenhouse gases ahead of schedule.

This NHPR segment is just one of many conversations centered on climate change that are happening in light of the Climate Summit in Paris. Hopefully these conversations will spark implementation of new ideas and policies for reducing greenhouse gases in the region, state, and globally.