Panel discusses climate change policies in Massachusetts

By Abigail Charpentier

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/ Daily Collegian)

Approximately 60 people gathered in Gordon Hall at the University of Massachusetts on Monday to discuss the state of climate policy in Massachusetts and what the future may hold.

Former State Representative Ellen Story moderated the panel that included research and policy director of Climate XChange Dr. Marc Breslow, State Representative Solomon Goldstein-Rose, economics professor Robert Pollin, professor and Department Chair of landscape architecture and regional planning Elisabeth Hamin and mechanical and engineering professor James Manwell.

Climate XChange is a nonprofit organization working for a comprehensive policy solution on the issue of climate change.

Breslow, who received his Ph. D., in economics from UMass, mainly discussed Bill S.1821 and Bill H.1726 of the Massachusetts General Court, which act to combat climate change, promote green infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.

Goldstein-Rose, a graduate of Amherst Regional High School and Brown University, discussed how Massachusetts has the ability to take the role of developing technology for the rest of the world. He stressed how energy consumption needs to be reduced drastically and new technologies that can help with that issue. He discussed several energy solutions including the Clean Energy Trust.

“The idea is to have a pool of money that can be used to give loans, loan guarantees and other financing mechanisms to enable either energy efficiency projects or clean energy projects,” Goldstein-Rose said.

Pollin added to Goldstein-Rose’s argument and emphasized how we need to get carbon dioxide emissions down from the current level. He explained how economic growth does not need to be sacrificed because there will be more jobs. Pollin argued clean energy will create various types of jobs, including manufacturing, construction and transportation.

Hamin talked about the need to invest in infrastructure and how we have already adapted to climate issues, such as flooding and heat waves, by implementing rain gardens, green roofs, pools and cooling centers.

“What we need to do is invest in infrastructures that achieve multiple goals,” Hamin said. “We need infrastructures that achieve ecosystem restoration and protection and/or social goals.”

Manwell discussed off-shore wind and how Massachusetts has the largest off-shore wind resource. He briefly discussed the history of off-shore wind and its creation in 1972, but focused on how much energy Massachusetts could create.

“You could make all of the electricity for Massachusetts with off-shore wind,” Manwell said. “We need to take advantage of the resources that are intrusive to Massachusetts.”

The panel also discussed how citizens can become involved and make a difference. Goldstein-Rose encouraged everyone to write testimonies about the aforementioned bills and present them at hearings. He also suggested people reach out to their assigned representatives.

Breslow explained the power of reaching out to Senator Stan Rosenberg, Governor Charlie Baker and Speaker Robert DeLeo and how telling your story personally will have more impact.

Raymond Bradley, a professor in the department of geosciences said, “[The forum] was very interesting, [but I was] disappointed that nobody talked about public transportation because I think that is the biggest problem we have in Massachusetts.”

Bradley further discussed how public transportation is key to any successful area and driving individual cars can be difficult on crowded streets. Other audience members expressed their disappointment in the panel’s responses toward public transportation as well.

Joelle Labastide, a postdoctoral research associate in the physics department, voiced her concern of “access and opportunity” in regards to ecofriendly transportation in the future. She pointed out how she could easily ride a train, but couldn’t buy a car. She hoped this wouldn’t reflect the future of transportation and that everyone would have access to eco-friendly public transportation.

Abigail Charpentier can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.