December 11, 2018

Editorial: Daunting issue of climate change can be tackled locally, too

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Editorial Board, Naples Daily News, USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

We’re often told to think globally, act locally.

Rarely is that advice more relevant than it is when the discussion turns to climate change.

The release last month of the federal government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment frames it. The Earth is getting warmer. While warming and cooling cycles occur naturally, human activity is likely contributing to the current rate of warming and that portends trouble on many fronts, including environmental, economic and geopolitical.

That is indeed a global challenge.

It would be easy, therefore, for local governments and individuals to throw up their hands and leave it to national and world leaders to come up with a plan.

That is neither wise nor necessary.

There are ways to act locally.

The human component of climate change is essentially the use of fossil fuels. Lessen the use, you lessen the severity of the changes, the consensus holds.

Partisans on the left and right will argue endlessly over how that should be accomplished and whether it’s even worth trying.

We maintain that regardless of your belief or lack thereof in man-made, catastrophic climate change, there are plenty of reasons to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

Burning them fills the air with pollutants beyond carbon dioxide, the main culprit behind climate change. We often purchase them from people and nations that mean us harm. They’re finite, so we’ll have to come up with something else eventually and compared to the most promising replacement — solar power — they are expensive.

Alternatives are out there and in use all around us.

Take for example the Lee County Waste-to-Energy Facility.

For 20 years it has been converting garbage into electricity that would have otherwise been generated by oil or natural gas.

It handles all the household garbage from Lee and Hendry counties.

Recycled materials are separated at the facility before incineration and the ash left after burning, about 10 percent of the original volume, is hauled to a Hendry County landfill.

When first proposed in the 1990s, critics fretted the incinerator would spew pollutants into the air, poisoning the region. That hasn’t happened. Instead, the plant has won numerous awards for its operation, including the 1996 Environmental Citizen of the Year Award from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Early on, Collier County considered trucking its garbage to the plant as well, but a deal wasn’t struck. Given the success of the plant since, might it be time for Collier officials to take another look at the waste-to-energy option?

Another case of local action on a global issue lies less than an hour north of us at Babcock Ranch. The burgeoning development seeks to become the first solar-powered town in America.

A solar array on land donated by the developer and operated by Florida Power & Light produces and stores electricity, as do “solar trees” in the town square and rooftop panels on many of the buildings there.

Residents are charged the same rate for electricity as other FP&L customers and excess power goes to the regional grid.

We can’t help but wonder if such an arrangement might work at any of the massive new communities being planned in eastern Collier County.

It might even make them more palatable to elements of the environmental community that oppose current development plans.

Individuals’ response to climate change can take many forms.

Recycling properly, using energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, walking or cycling instead of driving and planting a tree are some was to act locally on a global matter.

Brent Batten wrote this on behalf of the Daily News editorial board.