Editor:The front-page article (Kennett Paper, 3/17) about the Borough Council’s consideration of replacing their mercury vapor street lights with LED ones is excellent – with one major exception. It neglects to mention global warming, climate change, and the resulting reduction in CO2 emissions from that lighting change.
Using data from the article and the US Energy Information Administration, it is straightforward to calculate that this change would result in a reduction of CO2 emissions by about 460 tons per year. That’s equivalent to getting approximately 76 cars off the streets.
Given that, as was reported, there is apparently no budgetary impact on the Borough, this change should indeed be a ‘no brainer.’
Earth’s average temperature has continued to rise. Everyone is no doubt aware that 2014 and 2015 were record-setting years for global average temperature, 2015 by a significant amount. The winter months of Dec ’15 and Jan-Feb ’16 have set even more records. February’s increase was ‘off the charts.’ Nine of the 10 hottest years have come since 2000. The 10th is 1998.
The scientific community has strongly recommended that humans take actions to limit the global temperature rise to 2˚C. We have already reached 1˚C, and there is more heating in the pipeline. Earth’s energy balance is out of balance, and the temperature will continue to rise even if CO2 emissions went to zero tomorrow.
However, a recent paper (http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n3/full/nclimate2868.html, 02/24/16) in the scientific literature has actually lowered the estimated budget amount of fossil fuels that can be burned before we push the planet to the 2˚C limit recommended by scientists. It did not factor in the recent recommendation coming out of COP21 in Paris in December that the limit should be reduced to 1.5˚C.
Humans have burned 545 GtC (gigatons of carbon, 1 GtC = 3.66 GtCO2) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Now we are burning about 10 GtC every year. The new lower bound estimate in this paper means our remaining budget is 161GtC. Thus we may have as few as 16 years at our current burn rate before blowing through the 2˚C rise.
Emissions must go to zero, and do so quickly. Therefore, we will have to leave a significant amount of fossil fuels in the ground. They cannot be burned.
It is very important that the US take the lead and set an example; it is a moral obligation. The current global warming is due to the cumulative CO2 in the atmosphere from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present. The US, with only 4.4% of the world’s population, is responsible for 27% of the current global warming. Yes, China’s yearly emissions have now exceeded ours, but with 19% of the world’s population, they are only responsible for 11% of the current warming.
At the federal level, global warming denial perpetrated by a conspiracy of fossil fuel companies (e.g., Exxon-Mobil, et al) and the Republican Party has made actions virtually impossible. In fact the Republican Party is the only major political party of any nation on Earth that is a global warming denier.
Therefore actions, such as that considered by the Borough, being taken on the local level are exceedingly important.
I am a retired physicist and a Member of the Board of 4CP, Chester County Citizens for Climate Protection.
B. Gerard Bricks, Ph.D.Kennett Township, PA 1934