by Eileen Weber
As part of Fairfield University’s Climate Change Week, a panel of political experts converged at the Barone Campus Center Thursday night. The main topic focused on greenhouse gas emissions and what Connecticut is doing to try to reduce it. The panelists represented the local, state, and national viewpoints on the subject.
Carbon emission is the main greenhouse gas that is affecting the environment. “Global politicians agree that climate change is a problem, but nobody can quite agree on how to go about it or how to gauge it,” said Professor Downie, Director of the Program on the Environment at Fairfield University who moderated the lecture.
To those who scoff at global warming, “The science is indisputable at this point,” said panelist Danielle Rosengarten, Counsel and Legal Assistant to Senator Joseph Lieberman.
She went on to say that Washington’s change in administration was a huge gain for climate change. But to panelist Robert Wall, of Energy Marketing Initiatives at the Rocky Hill-based Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF), climate change is still the “800 pound gorilla” in the room.
A little more than six months ago, the global warming bill for this state was passed. Its ambitious goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% in 2020 and a whopping 80% by 2050. But with mass transit still under-utilized including a Waterbury-Hartford train line still in the planning stages, transportation, and its ensuing carbon emissions, is still an issue.
Wall suggested initiatives for carpooling with companies like NuRide that offer incentives to employers for their workers’ transportation. And, each of the panelists pointed out the need for tax incentives to make climate changes worthwhile.
“Mass transit is the solution,” said State Senator and Minority Leader John McKinney, also a panelist. “Long term, we need to make it more affordable and convenient than sitting in your car.”
More to the point, one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Connecticut is the coal-fired Bridgeport Harbor Generating Station on the mouth of the Housatonic River. Owned by New Jersey’s Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), it produces 553 megawatts of electricity. But it continues to belch gunk into the air.
According to a May 15th article in the New Haven Advocate, “The coal-fired unit,” PSEG officials said of the Bridgeport facility, “has consistently been a low-cost producer in the New England Power Pool since it began commercial operation in 1968.”
That’s precisely the point: it’s low-cost. Who cares that it’s dumping a barge-load of carbon into the air everyday? It’s cheap! When money is tight, what’s cheap is what wins in the end. McKinney admitted that certain climate change proposals might fall by the wayside because there’s no budget for it.
Regardless, McKinney was very clear in his point of view. Climate change is affected by almost everything: land use, agriculture, forestry, public health, the economy. The list goes on.
“We’ve realized that global warming is not just an environmental issue,” said McKinney. “It impacts everything we do.”
Fairfield University plans another environmental event the week of April 22nd. There will be lectures, a beach clean up, and organic meals served on campus.