Our Opinion: If Tweety is wobbling, it is a bad sign for us

Massachusetts has made strides in recent years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, but achieving the ambitious, state-mandated requirements to scrub the skies of climate change-causing emissions will require addressing the transportation sector. It will not be easy, but Governor Baker said Tuesday the process of finding solutions will now begin.

The governor announced at a municipal climate summit in Westborough that administration officials will host three public listening sessions in the coming months to explore new policies, improve the transportation infrastructure and adopt a strategy to encourage greater use of electric vehicles. The state Global Warming Solutions Act established binding emissions restrictions requirements to be met by 2020, and it was a year ago Tuesday that the state Supreme Judicial Court agreed with environmentalists in ruling that the state was not doing enough to comply with the 2008 Act. The state must reduce its carbon emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, the transportation section is the single largest producer of greenhouse emissions in Massachusetts, accounting for roughly 40 percent. Power plants have been the greater focus, perhaps largely because their emissions are easier to address through law. The nation's electric car industry, for example, has lagged behind the competition in Europe and Asia, and it will be a challenge for Massachusetts to reach its goal of registering 300,000 electric vehicles in the state by 2050, a dramatic increase over the 11,000 currently registered.

While Massachusetts, its New England neighbors and New York have taken the initiative on climate change, it is difficult to do so in isolation given that climate change-deniers fill the White House and currently dominate conservative thought. (See Paul Krugman column on opposite page.) A disturbing report released this week by the Massachusetts Audubon Society asserted that scores of birds — including the state bird, the black-capped chickadee — will likely disappear from the state by 2050 because of rising temperatures.

The report noted that birds, which travel the globe according to the seasons, will lose their food supply when the trees whose flowers attract insects are killed off by climate change. Rising seas and the more powerful storms we are seeing frequently will destroy nesting areas.

Drawing a parallel with the traditional role of birds in coal mines, Christopher Leahy, a field ornithologist for the society, wrote in the report that "Losses for birds due to climate change presage losses in the quality of human life. When Tweety starts wobbling on his perch, it's time to take corrective action in the name of survival."

Massachusetts will do what it can to save our birds — and ourselves. But birds and people are global creatures, and climate change requires a global solution.


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