Sunday, February 19, 2023

Voices of Franklin: Ted McIntrye on "Luke, Frodo, and you"

It is winter, 2023, in Franklin MA. The Shaw’s parking lot is bare of snow. As you begin the long march into the store, you see a fellow shopper in shorts and a light vest. If it all seems surreal, you are right to trust your spidey-sense. Winters in Franklin are getting warmer.  In fact, local scientists say "The climate I lived in as a kid is long gone." Boston Globe reporter Billy Baker notes that due to climate change, this winter is a bust, and “our very identity is at stake… We pride ourselves on being “true” New Englanders … it is a story of hardiness, and hardiness is earned in winter; it is the story we use to keep ourselves warm.” Our stories about keeping warm are easier to tell this year.

In the 1880’s, Mark Twain is reported to have said: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Times have certainly changed, and we humans in the 2020’s have, in fact, managed to change the weather! The big question is if - having dangerously upset the weather systems - we are heroic enough to face the challenge of reducing the risk from climate change. On that front, the New Year brings good news. 

Massachusetts recently elected a new Governor, one who seems to correctly accept the reality and implications of climate change. Governor Maura Healy is off to a good start. In her Inaugural speech she said “Let’s build a Climate Corridor that stretches from the Berkshires to Barnstable harnessing research, innovation and manufacturing. We’ll create thousands of new jobs in clean tech and blue tech, coastal resiliency, and environmental justice.” Then she appointed a first-in-the-nation climate chief thus “ensuring that climate change is considered in all relevant decision-making.” This is a critical step because the state already has a clear roadmap but also an alphabet soup of agencies (DOER, DPU, DEP, DOT, MBTA) that are not always aligned to the same goal. 

What is the “climate roadmap,” anyway? Once you accept that the climate science is accurate, the concept of a climate roadmap is pretty simple. It is a guide to what the state needs to do over the next 27 years (from 2023 right up to 2050) in order to reduce carbon pollution to safe levels while maintaining a thriving economy. This is a big job (sometimes called “decarbonization”), and there are lots of uncertainties about how we will do this. The roadmap lays out CO2 emission reduction goals for 2030 and 2050, with intermediate goals every 5 years.  For example, we need to reduce our annual CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030.  Right now, our job is to figure out how to reach that target. 

2022 was a year of progress, and saw the passage of Next Generation Climate Roadmap law, under the able leadership of our own Jeff Roy. The new law lays out specifics about how we will reach the 2030 roadmap goals. The year 2023 will see the implementation of many aspects of the law. As a town, we should be proud to have elected such a visionary leader as Rep Roy.  2022 also saw the release of the Clean Heat Commission report. It delivered a strong proposal for real progress on decarbonization, and will be useful throughout 2023 as our legislators consider next steps along the roadmap. If you want to learn more about the roadmap, how it is being implemented and how it impacts Franklin, turn to Franklin Matters. The podcast series Making Sense of Climate is there to help you understand.

The Massachusetts Climate Roadmap is more than a plan. It is an epic quest that we have embarked upon, which will lead us to a new and exciting future. Our journey along the roadmap is nearly mythical, and ranks with the tales of Ulysses, Luke Skywalker and Frodo Baggins for audacity and daring. As a state, we have collectively embarked on a heroic mission, not to find Princess Leia, or to destroy the Ring, but to save the future. There will be hard work, difficulties and setbacks along the way. The journey will require all the New England hardiness we can muster, but in the end we will have transformed our state into a better, more sustainable and more human place. 

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