Our Opinion: Cold days on a hot planet

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If the weather forecasters are correct, New England and the Northeast will be experiencing perhaps record-breaking cold temperatures over the next few days, part of an Arctic blast that will impact the Midwest and even parts of the South. And it's still autumn!

Unseasonably cold weather usually flushes out the climate-change deniers like so many Punxsutawney Phils, and their skills aren't significantly better than those of the Pennsylvania rodent. A late fall snowstorm in Washington, D.C. will inevitably produce the spectacle of some congressional climate-change disbeliever from a warm weather state triumphantly showing off a snowball at his desk to the camera crews. Weather, of course, refers to the day-to-day events of our atmosphere, which are highly variable. Climate is the weather averaged out over years, decades, eons. Climate change caused by global warming fueled by human activities is no longer disputed by anyone other the dead-enders and its impact across the globe and in Massachusetts is tangible and troubling.

State Sen. Marc Pacheco, a Taunton Democrat and chairman of the Senate Global Warming and Climate Change Committee, recently chastised his colleagues on Beacon Hill for failing to abide by the "New Year's Resolution of 2019" signed by 81 legislators promising to act on global warming during the course of the calendar year. The senator is urging an updating of the Global Warming Solutions Act, a 2008 law that set specific targets for greenhouse gas reductions. A number of business leaders have joined the Environmental League of Massachusetts in urging the update with the goal of transitioning to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. Various initiatives to reduce transportation emissions and encourage green energy efforts are also awaiting action in Boston.

The impact of global warming in the form of rising sea levels and more violent storms will be felt most dramatically in Boston and Massachusetts' other coastal communities, but it will impact the Berkshires as well. Increased mountain runoff from heavy storms will further overwhelm aging culverts, leading to potentially severe flooding and resulting damage. This past June, the Baker administration awarded just under $1 million to five Berkshire County municipalities for climate change resiliency projects through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program. The majority will be spent to replace culverts at Churchill and West streets that bring runoff to Onota Lake.

With the holiday recess looming, Beacon Hill won't address any climate change legislation in 2019. That will necessitate a "New Year's Resolution of 2020" that we hope all lawmakers will sign on to and abide by. And no one should let the cold weather fool them. Global warming is real, it's a threat, human activity is fueling it, and action is already long overdue.

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