Climate change—big interest at this year’s Fair

Now that climate change is widely discussed in the media, the challenge becomes how we and the world will deal with it. Energy advocates claim the world will need a 50 percent increase in energy supplies by 2030 to meet rising demands. Carbon reduction advocates call for up to a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. These differing views of our energy future raise multiple questions about how global warming will be addressed.

Will it be ignored or insufficiently addressed? Will efficiency and renewable energy become the backbone of our energy future? Will carbon sequestering and nuclear power be important components? Can economic systems be redesigned in a timely manner for less adverse effects on the planet? Is it possible for the planet to support an ever-growing population and economy while avoiding widespread degradation in the quality of human lives?

One issue is whether global warming can be better addressed through a carbon tax, trading carbon credits or a combination. Carbon tax advocates see increasing taxes on carbon releases as a means to send the correct price signal to all energy consumers. Higher energy costs, however, impose the greatest burden on low-income citizens who spend a higher proportion of their income on energy. Carbon credit trading systems advocates portray their approach as a more cost-effective market solution to the problem, but privacy and complexity inherent in market solutions raise questions regarding the ability to verify claims of carbon reductions with this approach.

The global dimensions of reducing carbon emissions adds to the complexity of the problem. Rather than wait for appropriate international and national actions to address the problem, many states, local communities and individuals are taking actions to cut their carbon emissions through conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.

This year’s fair has multiple speakers addressing the climate change issue. Hans Detweiler, deputy director, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, will provide an update on the work of the Illinois Climate Change Task Force. William Hass, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, will provide an update on state initiatives on RPS, wind farm property tax, and solar electric and heat installations, all of which affect carbon reductions.

Anthony Star, director of Policy and Evaluation, CNT Energy, Chicago, will focus on renewable energy, efficiency and peak load management implications of this summer’s legislative actions on Illinois energy policy.

Richard Breckenridge, Illinois EPA Agricultural and Rural Affairs adviser, will describe the Illinois Conservation Climate Initiative. The program recognizes farmers’ contributions toward mitigating greenhouse gases through conservation practices such as no-till/strip-till farming, planting new grasslands and timber and methane capture operations. In 18 months, 155,000 acres have been enrolled with farmers receiving $250,000 for these practices.

Rebecca Olson, Olson Ecological Services, will discuss how local farmers and conservationists are trapping carbon in the soil that would otherwise enter the atmosphere. She will explain how individuals can help in both small and big ways, including solutions on their home property.

Becki Clayborn of the Sierra Club’s Midwest Clean Energy Campaign will describe the major sources of global warming emissions in Illinois and the work of the Sierra Club in reducing those emissions. The Club’s programs include Clean Cars, Cool Cities, Coal Power, Carbon Regulation and Clean Energy.

Aur Beck, trained by Al Gore and The Climate Project, will present climate information as a means to facilitate discussions about solutions, including those involving personal behavioral changes.

Dave Kraft, NEIS, will present a multi-media participatory event, the Global Warming Café, designed to mobilize people to take greater personal action on climate change.

Tim Montague, Environmental Research Foundation, will present “Preventing Climate Chaos” and raise the issue of how our economy can make the transition to a clean and green economy which works for all socio- economic groups.

Craig Zabel’s slide presentation about global warming will pay special attention to the arguments of the skeptics.

Carbon Solutions Group’s booth tablers will inform individuals how they can offset carbon emissions from their energy use. A range of organizations hosting booths will have suggestions for cutting carbon emissions on the personal, community and governmental levels. Be sure to visit them all.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.

from the Aug 1-7, 2007, issue

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