Skip to content
PART 8: Political activism, the green way
The second month of Chester's Green Challenge is drawing to a close, so is dedicated to how you can continue to watch your impact on the climate.
As this series has shown, small actions can make a difference, if everyone does their part. But the effort to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions can't end there; most climate scientists agree that world emissions need to be reduced by 80 percent by the middle of this century to avoid the worst global warming impacts.
To make that goal, it's going to take not just wise personal choices at home, but also political and corporate action. If you want to stay involved, keep reading for a few ways you can do so.
And if you want to keep measuring your progress on you or family's carbon footprint, feel free to step on the scale any time at dailypress.com/gogreen.
Wind, solar, hydro-electric, geothermal -- energy sources that don't produce greenhouse gases are called green power. Can you buy renewable energy in Virginia? Yes, you can, but not many people have made that choice. Of the more than 2 million Dominion Power customers eligible to buy "green power," only about 1,200 have done so. Why? Cost. Electricity from Dominion typically costs about 5 to 6 cents an hour, depending on the time of year. Electricity from Pepco Energy Services, the one certified renewable energy supplier for this area, costs about 10 to 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Try www.pepcoenergy.com for more information. Your monthly Dominion bill will show your average kilowatt-per-hour (kph) cost.
Not without controversy, one emerging concept for reducing an individual's or a company's climate impact is the market of "carbon offsets." Usually done voluntarily, buying an "offset" directs money toward a project that reduces greenhouse gas emissions -- such as planting trees or contributing to a renewable power project. The idea is that a company or a family can measure its carbon footprint, and then cancel it out buy purchasing offsets, almost like giving to charity.
Some environmentalists discredit the idea as a way for people to continue their carbon-heavy diet of fossil fuel-generated electricity, while feeling better about themselves by buying offsets. Others argue that it is a first step, and shouldn't be tossed out because it's not idea. You can find a variety of offset providers online. Search for "carbon offsets" or "carbon neutral." Caution: Do your homework, there's been some fraud documented in the industry.
If all politics are local, you could say all local decisions are global when it comes to your carbon footprint. Many of the most forward-thinking policies related to climate change are originating from local government and state-level politics. As local politicians and elected officials have become frustrated with the federal government's lack of action, they've acted on their own: cutting down on energy, paper and plastic use, using biodiesel for truck fleets and hybrids for other vehicles.
On the Peninsula, Newport News Mayor Joe Frank and Williamsburg Mayor Jeanne Zeidler have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, along with hundreds of others across the country. The agreement pledges to reduce a city's greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent from 1990 levels by 2012.
If you think this is important, talk to your elected officials about the many local decisions -- road-building, neighborhood planning -- that affect a city's carbon footprint.
If there's a decisive moment yet to happen in the debate over climate change, it's the passage of some sort of federal legislation that demands cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Several bills have been floated. Most rest on some concept of an emissions trading system, where large-scale polluters such as power plants and factories are given a deadline to meet an emissions cap, but also given the option to trade credits with another that is already below the cap. This system gives businesses and utilities some wiggle room to make their cuts, while setting a broad overall reduction goal for the country.
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., recently jumped into the fray with his own bill along these lines. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. Go to Warner's Web site at www.senate.gov/warner to read more about it.