PITTSFIELD -- How will warmer temperatures and intensifying climate changes affect the Berkshires?
County planners have recently sought answers to this question and another -- what can be done about it? -- and presented their initial findings at a Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) meeting this week.
Much of the information focused on the county’s energy future. Thus, a multitude of energy consumption facts -- who consumes what types of energies and how -- were given along with prescriptions on how to cut down on all of it.
By how much? BRPC Senior Planner Lauren Gaherty said a reduction of 25 percent by 2020 is the goal.
"Energy efficiency and renewables need to be hand-in-hand," Gaherty said.
Residents need only look around for motivation to act, Gaherty said. In recent years, temperatures and precipitation have risen, and the trend is projected to continue in the Berkshires and elsewhere.
That means less snow in the winter, more runoff in the spring and droughts in the summer. Local habitats and forests could suffer deleterious effects, in addition to the local farming, skiing and maple sugaring industries.
"We have to remind people that our climate is shifting," Gaherty said. "Precipitation changes are going to alter how we live and impact our properties and infrastructure. We need to talk about that and get the schools and colleges involved."
Municipal planners, too, will have to factor in these changes, Gaherty said.
But Gaherty believes circumstances are favorable for achieving BRPC’s energy reduction goal.
For starters, Massachusetts is second in the nation in renewable energy initiatives, second only to California.
And locally, large majorities of county residents favor solar and wind developments, Gaherty said, citing polls conducted by BRPC and Williams College. There also happens to exist large swaths of county land suitable for each type of development. But they must be encouraged and pursued, Gaherty said.
Participation by the business community -- the county’s biggest energy users -- is another must, Gaherty said. That includes taking steps toward more efficient energy use -- particularly by utilities -- and such measures as placing solar panels on roofs.
"We need to get together and talk about this as a region," Gaherty said. "What’s appropriate for us?
"Think of this as a master plan," she added. "What do we want Berkshire County to look like 20, 30 years from now for ourselves and for our kids?"