The Confluence of Local and Global Climate Crisis Discourse

By: Patty L. Buchanan

There was a recent notable confluence of local and global discourse on the climate crisis.  On Sunday, January 10, Croton’s Care for Creation Ministry (C4C) hosted a remarkable program with 7 speakers to discuss climate stabilizing solutions percolating right here in Croton.  On the same day, there was another program about the climate crisis that was live-streamed with millions of viewers around the world (that is now available on Youtube).  That panel, hosted by the Mind and Life Institute, brought together the Dalai Lama, Greta Thunberg and two leading climate scientists to discuss the increasing rate of global warming caused by feedback loops (global warming increasing because of its own warming).  Bringing together these world leaders, who span several generations, cultural backgrounds and intellectual/political disciplines, is a statement of how important it is that we all focus our action on solutions to this perilous climate crisis.  In this blog you are asked to consider these two programs that were inspired by spiritual and scientific calls to action, with our need to think globally and act locally. 

A recording of the local C4C program is available here.  You can also access it, and the presenter slides, on C4C’s website (in the “more” “resources” tab).  Here’s a teaser to entice you to learn more.  There are at least four local carbon emission reduction solutions that were discussed in the C4C program: 

(1) whether the Village of Croton should enact a ban of gas-powered leaf blowers, and if so when and how broad should the scope of such a ban be; (2) people and businesses that heat their space with oil were urged to reduce their carbon emissions by switching to a product that comes with at least 10-20% bio-diesel mixed in with the fossil fuel oil; (3) the financial and carbon emission reduction benefits to immediately transitioning the School District’s transportation fleet to electric vehicles, and some of the surmountable challenges in that process; and (4) the trade-offs in removing trees and disrupting established ecological systems on the Hudson National Golf Course area to install a 18.6 MW solar system that will provide about 10% of village residents’ electricity needs.

This program demonstrates that Croton is actively trying to address its role in the climate crisis.  Our community is working with our leading climate education and advocacy faith-based group, the Care for Creation Ministry, which hosts a monthly Second Sunday Sustainable Speaker Series (that’s an easy to remember, 5 S’es!).  Think about it, this program included solution ideas from a Village Government Committee (Conservation Advisory Council/Leaf blowers); our local not-for-profit climate crisis and solutions education advocacy group Croton100 (Bio-diesel fuel and electrification of the School’s transportation fleet) together with the Croton School District discussing its efforts to decarbonize its transportation fleet; and a significant large private land owner (Hudson National Golf Club) with a private solar farm developer (Matrix Development) and the long-established nature conservancy and education center Teatown (that gave voice on this program to the trees and ecological web that would suffer and be partially lost by this proposed approximate 7.5 acres of disturbance for this solar installation).

About the confluence:  I was reminded of the urgency of Croton immediately adopting solutions to the climate crisis as I watched the global panel hosted by the Mind and Life Institute which described the escalating scope of our crisis. 

Photo credit: Greenbiz, Shana Rappaport

The Dalai Lama reminded us of our interconnectedness and that actions have consequences; Greta stressed the need for understanding feedback loops and educating people about them.  Scientist Susan Natali spoke about the albedo effect, i.e., how the rapid melting of artic and glacier snow and ice is contributing to ever-faster global warming by increasing the amount of heat that is absorbed by the earth from the sun rather than the ice cap reflecting the sun’s heat away from the earth.  She explained that, relatedly, global warming is increasing because the melting of the permafrost that rests below these ice and snow masses releases methane, which is an extremely potent heat trapping gas.  The faster warming of the artic regions was also highlighted in a sobering report this week in the New York Times.  In the global panel, Scientist William Moomaw explained how the unprecedented wildfires that burn forests and wetlands is both adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by releasing previously stored carbon, while at the same time, reducing the vitality of systems that would otherwise absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and sequester it in trees, soils and wetlands.  

You can (and should!) learn about why feedback loops have scientists alarmed in a series of five short free films, which were previewed in the global star-studded Mind and Life Institute program.  It is truly alarming!  In response to Greta’s question as to why our carbon budgets do not take into account the escalating warming by feedback loops, the Scientists explained that the IPCC Report and other studies, for example about the reduction in emissions in 2020 due to COVID-19, have not had sufficient data and models to grapple with the complexity of feedback loops.

In short, the more we learn about feedback loops, the more we understand that the global warming crisis calls for more urgent action than previously understood.  

It has been a week to reflect on why we all must think globally and act locally with rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.  

We urge you to meet us and join us at Croton100’s community meeting on January 27 at 7:00 pm where we will be developing Croton100’s plans for 2021!

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