Climate & Energy

The West Chester Green Team helps educate the community on the severe consequences of climate change and shows what can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to improve our quality of life.

Ready for 100 is the clean energy group associated with the WC Green Team. See Chesco Ready for 100’s web site (source of image to the left) here.

See the national RF100 web site here.

Cities and communities across the country are ready for a just transition to 100% clean, renewable energy!

Climate, Energy and Chester County

In our immediate area, East Bradford, East Goshen, West Chester, West Goshen, West Whiteland and Westtown are working with the West Chester Area Council of Governments (WCACOG) and the Cadmus Group toward using 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable energy for heat and transportation by 2050. See WCACOG’s page West Chester Area Clean Energy Future here.

If you live in one of the municipalities boldfaced above, please congratulate your Board of Supervisors or Borough Council on having formally accepted the plan and the associated joint Power Purchase Agreement.

If you live in one of the other municipalities above, please confirm to your Board of Supervisors that you’re ready for 100% clean energy for all!

If you are not in one of those 6 WCACOG municipalities, check the list here and then either congratulate your local government or urge them to move toward the RF100 pledge.

Chester County now has an official plan to do its part to counteract the climate crisis!

“The Chester County Climate Action Plan was adopted by the County Commissioners on October 7, 2021. The plan was prepared by the Chester County Planning Commission in partnership with the County’s Environmental and Energy Advisory Board. The Climate Action Plan provides a blueprint for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency at County government facilities and community-wide.”

History: The Evidence on Climate

What a generation ago was regarded by many as science fiction is today a crisis, not only climatic but biological and planetary, since habitats are changing far faster than species can adapt. Respected scientists have reached the consensus that humanity’s current irresponsible behavior will have catastrophic consequences.

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Our following italicized paragraphs are slightly edited from the text of NASA.

Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of urban civilization. These historical climate changes are largely attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Most of the current warming trend is extremely likely (greater than 95% probability) to result from human activity since the mid-20th century and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate.1 Earth-orbiting satellites and other technology have enabled scientists to collect many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale.

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and sedimentary rocks. This paleoclimate evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit (1.18 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century.

Causes of Climate Change

Over time, insolation is pretty predictable. The sun’s output follows an 11-year solar cycle, and the amount that reaches our surface depends on our orbit and axial tilt. The effects of increased insolation, and related phenomena like wind and monsoon patterns are hard to prevent, but on the historical time scale (e.g., today’s Sahara desert was grasslands until after the last Ice Age, about 8,000 to 6,000 years ago), sun-related causes can not be responsible for our current rapid warming trend.

The amount of particulates in the Earth’s atmosphere is unpredictable, as solar radiation is measurably reduced by volcanic eruptions. In an extreme example, the volcanic eruption of Huaynaputina in 1600 caused the coldest year in six centuries, leading to the Russian famine of 1601-03, which killed two million people. Luckily for us, beyond these short timescales, eruptions don’t factor into current calculations.

This leaves us with greenhouse gas levels, which have risen and fallen historically. Carbon dioxide, the product of animal respiration, is the most common of these, and the above graph from NASA of its prevalence in the atmosphere over time shows past peaks dwarfed by the current ongoing spike. An even more potent greenhouse gas, methane, also reduces the re-radiation of heat into space.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is measured by many instruments flown by NASA. Carbon dioxide from human activity is increasing more than 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age.3

In short, while all three of these factors – insolation, particulates, and greenhouse gases – contribute to changes in Earth’s temperature over time, the most significant and pressing factor in the current period is the accumulation of man-made carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. On causes, see also NASA.

Effects of Climate Change

Respected scientists have reached the consensus man has only 10 years before we irretrievably damage our atmosphere.

Flowing meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet

Increasing average temperature does more than just melt glaciers. With each fraction of a degree of warming, more energy from heat is built up in the atmosphere, which is then dispersed by bigger and more destructive weather events, as we have seen all too clearly in 2021.

Heat also changes how weather is distributed around the Earth by affecting the speed of the jet stream, imposing unfamiliar weather conditions on infrastructure and people around the world and endangering ways of life across the planet. Fossil fuel consumption is even warming and acidifying the world’s oceans, with far-reaching effects already underway.

Just a few of the effects of climate change are: severe weather, heatwaves, wildfires, illness.

Hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, and flooding are among the most devastating effects of climate change. Loss of life and property, contaminated water, and the spread of waterborne illnesses are common results of water-related disasters.

In the coming decades, rising sea levels are expected to put 10 million more people at risk of flooding, forcing millions to leave their homes and become climate refugees. Some low-lying island nations are already making evacuation plans.

Increased temperatures lead to longer and more severe droughts. Researchers have found that with rising emissions, yields of vegetables will be cut by about 35 percent in the second half of this century.

Crop loss to insects will also increase. When temperatures are higher, the body temperature of insects is higher, leading to increased energy demands. The result is more insects consuming more food. Two degrees of global warming could double the volume of wheat that is currently lost to pests.

What all of this results in is higher food prices, less stable food supply, and general food insecurity.

Heat waves will become longer and deadlier. Dehydration and heat stroke are common heat-related fatalities, and heat can exacerbate many underlying conditions. The 2003 European heatwave was estimated to have led to the death of 70 000 people – and that was after less than 1°C of global warming.

Wildfires resulting from drier conditions are extremely destructive of land, human life, and wildlife. Increased fire risk is especially true in the western and northern parts of North America. The USDA Forest Service says just one degree of annual temperature anomaly, which we’re already approaching today, has led to a 600% increase in median annual burned area in some forest types, and is a significant cause of the annual wildfire season having extended over two months in duration longer than average.

As temperatures and waters rise, disease-carrying ticks and mosquitos will thrive in the hot and humid climates.

Vector-borne illnesses, such as malaria, Zika virus, Lyme, and West Nile Virus are already increasing. In the past 13 years, mosquito- and tick-borne diseases have increased threefold in the US. By 2050, it’s estimated that 68% of California’s populations will be at an increased risk for West Nile Virus with current climate change patterns.

On effects, see also NASA.

What Can You Do?

Jakob’s house moves toward Net Zero. Click to see video.

Sometimes ideas seem not worth carrying out because the impact seems low to you. And yes, doing something to reduce your carbon footprint is a small step. But small steps do help, especially if many people take those steps. So let nothing stop you; these small projects help save the environment and also save you the hard-earned cash on the monthly energy bill.

Solar installation at West Chester’s Chestnut St. garage, from flyover video, Oct. 2021

As one example of how an individual can act, Brian, a resident of Coatesville, aims to not only make a change to his life style but also to help you learn what you can do. Please follow this link to Brian’s website and learn how Brian reduces his carbon footprint making little steps with big impact.

Here is an example of how small steps have big impact: the ducts of your heating/cooling system lose a lot of heat through leaks and exposure to the cold environment of your basement. The result of completely sealing and insulating the ducts can be a temperature decrease of 2 degree Fahrenheit in the basement. That saved heat goes now into the house instead of into the basement

Impressive scale of pipes in WCU’s geothermal plant on Rosedale Ave., 10/19/19, as seen on Ready for 100’s annual clean energy tour.

If you are up for moving toward energy self-sufficiency, solar energy is the most popular way for homeowners and businesses to ensure their own clean energy supply. Geothermal is also feasible, and heat pumps are helpful.

See a 2-minute video here with Director of the WCU Office of Sustainability Dr. Bradley Flamm about WCU’s geothermal operation, which heats and cools almost half of the inside space on campus and allowed demolition of the University’s former coal-fired plant. West Bradford’s municipal building is also geothermally heated and cooled; see video here.