Our Opinion: Taking on climate change right here at home

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The growing impact of climate change not only concerns Berkshire and Massachusetts residents it frustrates them because the climate change deniers in Washington, D.C. are blocking reasonable plans to minimize its impact. There are, however, ways to combat global warming locally, and those efforts will be the subject of a forum Thursday night in Pittsfield.

The Berkshire Eagle and the Berkshire Museum will host a panel discussion featuring three acknowledged climate change experts Thursday evening at 6:30 (doors open at 6) at the South Congregational Church, 110 South St. Tickets for the forum, which is part of The Eagle's "Conversation Series" and the museum's "Voices and Visionaries" program, are $18 for the public and $15 for subscribers.

Comprising the panel are Elizabeth Kolbert of Williamstown, author of "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History" who has written on climate change for The New York Times and The New Yorker; Pittsfield native Kim Cobb, a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the school's Global Change Program; and Olivia Georgia, director of the City as Living Laboratory in New York City.

The evidence of the impact of climate change is around us in the form of more powerful hurricanes and tornadoes, "500-year" floods routinely devastating sections of the South and Midwest, abnormally severe forest fires in the West, melting ice caps and rising seas. This reality and the reality of rapidly escalating global warming in the years and decades ahead is attested to not only by the scientists of the International Panel on Climate Change but by a Trump administration report released a year ago by the State Department that the White House, motivated by ideology and its allegiance to the fossil fuel industry, has been trying to debunk ever since.

Last Saturday, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley devoted the Democratic Party's weekly address to local efforts to combat climate change. The senator's description of his state's forests, streams and mountain snowpacks recalled the Berkshires, although on a larger scale. All are threatened by global warming, and as the senator said, "If we do nothing, we condemn our children and grandchildren to suffer greater and greater difficulties."

Under Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party, "the Senate has become a legislative graveyard for climate action," said Sen. Merkley, forcing the states and municipalities to take the lead. The senator reports that many of them have done so by replacing fossil fuel furnaces, better insulating buildings, improving bike and transit systems, introducing electric buses and pursuing the goal of using 100 percent renewable electricity (six cities have achieved this goal). We're proud to say that Massachusetts, thanks to the leadership of Governor Baker and the Legislature, as well as many Berkshire communities, is participating in this effort to combat global warming.

Counter to claims that this effort will cost America jobs, the Oregon senator argues that a rebuilt green energy economy will create them. The Democrats' Good Jobs For 21st Century Energy Act would provide tax credits for companies that drive clean energy, technology and infrastructure programs and assure that their workers are fairly compensated in the process.

It's dispiriting that misguided political ideology can hold sway over science in a nation that once prided itself on its scientific acumen. But rather than give in to despair, Americans can participate in an encouraging effort to combat climate change at the community level. Come to Thursday night's forum and learn more about how.

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