From John Cartmill February 3, 2014
The following is testimony that was given in person by John Cartmill to the Fairfax Environmental Quality Advisory Council in January, 2014:
I would like to begin by thanking the council for their hard work over the years. I am speaking here tonight on behalf of Fairfax Climate Watch. Fairfax Climate Watch is a non-profit organization, with the mission to honestly communicate climate science and related information in a productive context. It was founded by our executive director Matt Owens in 2012. My family has lived in Fairfax County since 1995. I joined the board of Fairfax Climate Watch last spring, when I realized I needed to assume an active role in combating climate change. This fall I also became a member of FACS [Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions].
My message tonight is simple: we need to reduce carbon emissions drastically starting now.
Cutting carbon emissions is essential to preserving the welfare of the planet. We are already feeling the direct effects of global warming here in Fairfax county. The Derecho, Snowmageddon and flooding rains are exactly the type of extreme events predicted by climate science and they will only increase in frequency and severity in the future. Homeowners and flood insurance rates are rising. Large scale disasters like Sandy and Katrina are consuming our federal tax dollars.
Future events such as an implementation of a carbon tax will hit areas dependent on fossil fuel power. Cities like Portland and states like Iowa with over 20 percent of its electricity generated by wind power will become the meccas for coveted “green collar” jobs. We may also be flooded with climate refugees from submerged island nations, or states like Louisiana and Florida already trying to cope with sea level rise, and from the now burgeoning exurbs as people abandon their McMansions to seek a more sustainable lifestyle.
There is also a moral issue. The CO2 we generated during the decades of dramatic growth is still warming the planet. And as carbon addicts we must assume some of the responsibility for mountain top removal, Deepwater Horizon and last week’s Elk City chemical spill along with many other environmental disasters caused by the extraction and processing of fossil fuels.
The task before us is daunting. Our county’s residents and businesses generate over 11 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year. That is 6 billion cubic meters, enough to bury every square inch of Fairfax County to a depth of 20 ft. Because CO2 emissions are cumulative, we must act swiftly to avoid even greater impacts. Dr. David Lea, science advisor to the U.S. Department of State to President Obama’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, in a recent lecture said we are already committed to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and to stay below 2 degrees the world must start cutting carbon emissions by 3 per year. Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK’s Tyndall Research Center thinks developed countries need to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2018 to allow undeveloped countries a decent lifestyle. In 2007 Fairfax County signed the Cool Counties pledge to reduce global warming emissions 80 percent by 2050, an achievable average annual reduction of 2 percent.
I am afraid, despite our best intentions we are not on a path that to meet those goals. We will be forced to make hard choices and cutting emissions must be considered in every decision the county makes. This will require much better planning and execution. Despite millions of dollars’ worth of studies and planning, every major road in the county has had to be redone since I have lived here. We are now even exploiting the shoulders of I-66. And every day I’m haunted by the brilliantly lit, but depressingly empty stations along the Silver line. Wasting electricity and adding to that project’s already huge carbon footprint. The billions spent on 11 miles of metro rail could have bought enough renewable energy and state of the art buses to make those goals I mentioned earlier easily achievable.
So what must we do going forward. Many good things are happening. The urbanization of Tysons Corner and Merrifield should pay handsome dividends, but there is so much more that needs to be done. We need to adopt a Marshall Plan mentality. The county must take the best of ideas from other communities around the area, around the nation, and around the world.
Cities like Minneapolis and Cincinnati are helping their residents go solar with innovative financing.
Tax assessments for vehicles and property could be tied to energy consumption.
Fines for brightly lit office buildings with idle computers.
Prohibiting homeowner’s associations from restricting solar installations, including the old fashioned clothes line.
Cut back on meat in school lunches and use locally grown produce.
Give bikes and pedestrian traffic the first priority in the transportation budget.
Stricter building codes - maybe even no more single family home construction.
But the one thing that absolutely must be done is to use the county’s greatest resource - its citizens. Engaging them, as you have here tonight, is the best solution.
Director of Fairfax Climate Watch