Michigan State University Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy Wolfgang Bauer said he is worried about what will happen to the Earth.
“Even if we stop producing excess CO2 (carbon dioxide) right now, it will take a long time for the atmosphere to come back to its CO2 levels prior to the industrial revolution,” Bauer said.
Environmental Services Administrator Cathy DeShambo said the East Lansing Commission on the Environment, or ELCOE, is looking for plans that will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint.
“Heat gets trapped by these greenhouse gases and can’t escape so … will Earth eventually face a similar catastrophic scenario that burns away everything that can live here, as Venus has undergone,” Bauer said.
Investing in infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of climate change is in President Joseph Biden’s plan to help achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050.
DeShambo and Bauer said that these upgrades to infrastructure are more cost-efficient.
“These investments in infrastructure, they’re lasting, and they create jobs, well-paying jobs,” Bauer said.
ELCOE will also use their Climate Sustainability Plan for a 100% clean energy resolution by 2030. It focuses on waste management, water management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and transportation.
“The city of East Lansing has really been a leader in this area for a long time," DeShambo said. "We were an early adopter of the climate sustainability plan back in 2012."
ELCOE has recently updated the Water Resource Recovery Facility, or WRRF, which treats wastewater, for energy efficiency.
“It would be easy to just say we can get to that goal by purchasing green energy through our local utility, but we want to lead in developing infrastructure,” said DeShambo.
According to Biden’s plan, investments in infrastructure are essential and every investment that receives federal funding should reduce climate pollution.
Biden plans to secure a global commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies by the end of his first term and redirect those resources to invest in clean energy infrastructure.
Eliminating the burning of fossil fuels is good for the planet and the economy, Bauer said.
“We save money by taking that green energy and the community wins because the air is getting cleaner.”
ELCOE is participating in a virtual community solar park for residents who want solar energy whether their home allows installation or not.
“We have made some changes in the city to make permitting for residential solar easier for folks,” DeShambo said.
One of the changes allows residents to pay for a panel at a solar park to receive credit back on their utility bills, DeShambo said. Due to tremendous response to the project, there is currently a waitlist to lease a solar panel.
Michigan State University will also start constructing a solar array farm on 110 acres near Jolly and Hagadorn roads in 2022.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects solar installers and wind turbine technicians to be the two fastest growing occupations through 2026.
Bauer said he wholeheartedly supports what the Biden team is doing to combat climate change.
“We don’t want to play with the only planet that we have.”
The global sea level rose about eight inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year.
“Sea level rise is real,” Bauer said.
In a 2012 report, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated that projected damages from droughts, floods, sea level rise, and other climate impacts associated with an increase in global temperature of two degrees Celsius will cost approximately $100 billion per year by 2050.
A warmer climate will mean dislocation for many people, Bauer said.
“We try to provide residents with information that is helpful for them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to be greener within their own homes,” DeShambo said. "Residents can get rebates for adopting more energy efficient appliances, for example."
ELCOE also has recycling and reuse programs for polystyrene (styrofoam) and packaging peanuts.
The polystyrene drop off site is an attempt to capture as many food and beverage containers as possible.
Instead of polystyrene, people can use table settings and containers that are reusable or designed to be composted.
The sites are open for use to anyone in the area, DeShambo said.
“We’re moving more polystyrene through that site than any place else in the region right now," DeShambo said.
President Biden is also supporting the research of nuclear energy pertaining to waste disposal systems.
“Every one of these measures (Biden's team's proposals) makes sense,” Bauer said. “It will also lay the foundation for decades to come where our economy is going to bloom and we’re going to be much more competitive internationally.”
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