climate action alerts
A regional resource for Cape & Islands climate advocates
December 14, 2021
7 Ways to Plan a Stronger Climate Change Response
Journal of the American Planning Association, (Vol. 86, No. 1)

Climate change is undeniably one of the greatest crises facing the world and as its impacts have increased, communities have been forced to respond. Many localities and public departments have addressed this complex challenge by creating mitigation and adaptation strategies in the form of climate action plans (CAPs) and resiliency plans.
Yet, there remains the question: Are current efforts enough?

In "Seven Principles of Strong Climate Change Planning" in Journal of the American Planning Association, authors Sara Meerow and Sierra C. Woodruff argue that current efforts by both communities
(next column)
and the field of planning are insufficient.

Drawing upon multiple studies of planning and preparation efforts in cities across the globe, they conclude that while plans are being made, there is room for improving plans by adopting stronger goals, considering the full breadth of climate impacts, proposing multiple types of strategies, including marginalized populations in planning processes, coordinating with other planning efforts, and including implementation details.

Responding to these insufficiencies, Meerow and Woodruff propose guiding principles to foster critical and effective climate change planning, synthesized from the "broader plan quality literature."The principles are:
  1. Ambitious yet attainable goals
  2. A strong fact base
  3. Diverse strategies
  4. Meaningful public participation and justice
  5. Coordination across actors, sectors, and plans
  6. Specific processes for implementation and monitoring
  7. Strategies that address uncertainty
While these may seem to be common sense, and not unique to climate change planning, previous studies show there are opportunities to improve. Read more.
36 Years Later, the Climate Changes at This National Park Stunned Me
By Jon Waterman,*The New York Times, December 7, 2021 (Photo credit: Jon Waterman)

Secluded in the far-flung Gates of the Arctic National Park in northwestern Alaska, the flooded Noatak River pushed our raft downstream into a brisk wind. Caribou trails spider-webbed the hillsides, while cumulus clouds gathered like ripened fruit above a valley so vast that you could feel lost without binoculars and frequent map consultations.

To avoid crashing into the banks, I had to keep sharp eyes on the surging river and hands on the oars. Since extreme rainfall had lifted the river out of its banks (and delayed our floatplane flight in from Bettles, Alaska, for three days), every potential campsite had been sluiced over with silt and left soaking wet.

Thirty-six years had passed since I had last worked as a guide on the Noatak River. This year, instead of simply enjoying a float down memory lane in the wildest country imaginable, I was stunned by how climate change had radically altered the place I once knew. Read more.
Mr. Waterman is a former national park ranger and author of National Geographic’s “Atlas of the National Parks.”
‘Don’t Look Up’ is a cautionary climate story
By Dharna Noor, The Boston Globe, December.9, 2022 (Photo credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Netflix)

On Sunday, I took the train to New York City, put on a freshly ironed dress, and headed to the world premiere of “Don’t Look Up,” the hotly anticipated new Adam McKay film shot in Boston last year that’s a clear climate change parable. I’ve covered major climate media events before, from the Sunrise Movement’s splashy 2018 protest in Nancy Pelosi’s office to last month’s international climate policy negotiations in Glasgow, but this one was different. Read more.
Energy & The Built Environment
Overextended: It’s Time to Rethink Subsidized Gas Line Extensions
By Abigail Alter, Sherri Billimoria, Mike Henchen, RMI, 2021

A new natural gas customer is added to the system every minute in the United States, , and existing gas customers are covering their construction costs through subsidies knows as line extension allowances. Each year, these extensions of gas service enable utilities to pass hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to existing customers while expanding the fossil fuel system for decades to come.

While these policies may have made sense in prior contexts, the climate and economic justifications have changed dramatically. Read more.
The carbon fight’s mundane frontier: Retrofitting homes and buildings
Doing the work to make old buildings more energy efficient isn’t as sexy as filling our roads with electric cars, but these smaller efforts are making a difference.
By Andrew Engelson, Investigate West, October 18, 2021

Jackie Zusi-Russell, a home assessor with the Community Energy Project, conducts a home energy audit in Portland last month. Her work includes going into the attic to check the insulation depth and type; checking for wall insulation on the exterior facing walls by poking a wooden skewer into the wall cavity; and measuring the square footage of windows and checking what type of coating (if any) they have. The data she records are used to calculate a “Home Energy Score.” Read more.
Harnessing the energy of the ocean to power homes,
planes and whisky distilleriess
By William Booth, The Washington Post, Nov. 9, 2021

KIRKWALL, Scotland — Ocean boosters like to compare the kinetic energy stored in the sea to a ginormous oil reserve that’s never going to run dry.

It doesn’t matter if the sun shines or the wind blows. The tides turn. You can set your watch to them. The trick is how to generate cost-effective, renewable electricity from that limitless, ceaseless motion. They’re working on the problem here on Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Read more.
Oil-Backed Group Opposes Wind Farms — For Environmental Reasons
Local think tanks that previously supported offshore drilling have engaged in a wide-ranging campaign to stop the expansion of offshore wind farms.
By Lee Fang, The Intercept, December 8 2021 (Photo credit: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In November 2019, local property owners in Delaware and Maryland were sent a letter from “Save Our Beach View” asking neighbors to lobby local politicians against the Skipjack wind farm.

The plan, which was approved in 2017, sanctioned a Danish company to build a 120-megawatt capacity wind energy project — enough to power 40,000 homes by placing turbines 26 nautical miles offshore. The letter warned that the project would “irreparably damage beach tourism, home values and the economy,” “lower rents generally,” and produce “no environmental benefit.” “In fact,” the letter claimed, “regional air quality would become worse because of them.”

While the letter was signed by a local resident, it made little mention of its true author: the Caesar Rodney Institute, a libertarian think tank at the time funded by the oil industry. The subterfuge was intentional. Read more.
Publishers have released a wide range of books on climate change, from science explainers, fiction, histories, memoirs, policy prescriptions,
how-tos, graphic novels, and more. Read more.
By Eric Roston, Bloomberg News, December 7, 2021
In the Spotlight: Island Climate Action Network
Climate Change and Fishing and Farming on Martha's Vineyard
Watch the short film

The Island Climate Action Network, with the support of the Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship and the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, created a short film about how our island farmers and fishermen are experiencing and adapting to climate change.

Hear men and women who make their living on the land, ocean and ponds of the Vineyard share their stories of how climate change is impacting their work and the places they love. Learn how they are shifting their practices to both adapt to the changes they see and to be a part of the solutions we need. Watch the film.
Around the Globe
The Millions of Tons of Carbon Emissions That Don’t Officially Exist
How a blind spot in the Kyoto Protocol helped create the biomass industry.
By Sarah Miller, The New Yorker, December 8, 2021

In the North of England, in a tiny village called Drax, there is a power plant, also called Drax. The name is ominous: the sad honk of a mistake, ending in a hazardous-chemical “X.”

In the taxi there, from my hotel in nearby Selby, in North Yorkshire, we travelled through flat, green countryside in cool, gray weather, until all at once the plant came horribly into view—it attacked the horizon, beyond enormous, beyond ugly, a row of twelve concrete cooling-tower children, each standing three hundred and fifty feet tall, but dwarfed by their mean and looming dad, an eight-hundred-and-fifty-foot chimney.

“Dear God,” I said to the taxi-driver. “How utterly terrifying!” Read more.
Scotland marks end to coal power as Longannet chimney is blown up
Nicola Sturgeon pushes button on controlled explosion at what was Scotland’s largest freestanding structure
By Jillian Ambrose, The Guardian, December 9, 2021

Scotland has marked the end of its coal-powered history by demolishing the huge chimney at its last remaining coal plant at Longannet in Fife.

The chimney, which was Scotland’s largest freestanding structure, dominated the skyline for more than half a century before it was destroyed on Thursday morning with 700kg of explosives. Read more.
NZ-21 Conference
Missed the conference?
Not to worry!
Across the Country
Biden signs order for government to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050
US will ‘lead by example in tackling the climate crisis,’ says White House, by eliminating greenhouse gases from its activities
Oliver Milman, The Guardian, December 8, 2021 (Photo Credit: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The US government will be a net zero contributor to the climate crisis by 2050 by slashing the planet-heating emissions from its operations and transitioning to an all-electric fleet of cars and trucks, according to a new executive order signed by Joe Biden.

The federal government is the largest land owner, energy consumer and employer in the US and it will “lead by example in tackling the climate crisis”, the White House said, by eliminating greenhouse gases from its activities.

Under the order signed by Biden on Wednesday, the government will cut its emissions by 65% by the end of this decade, before reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Read more.
More Than Half Of Nebraskans Guaranteed To Receive Clean Electricity By 2050 Thanks To Advocacy Around State’s Public Utilities
Holly Harpel, ClimateXChange, April 29, 2021

Wind energy capacity across the United States has been expanding rapidly for years, especially in Nebraska. From 2017 to 2018, the nation averaged an eight percent increase in wind energy capacity, but according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association, Nebraska saw a 39 percent growth after adding 558 megawatts of wind energy in 2018. By the end of 2018, projects aiming to add another 1,100 megawatts of power were already underway. Wind energy generated almost $8.5 million in state and local taxes, paid out more than $5 million in leases to farmers and landowners, and employed 4,000 people in the state in 2018. One out of every three Nebraskan households were powered by wind in 2019. 

We know which way the wind is blowing, and it’s towards further growth in the industry as more individuals and even more corporations recognize the value in wind energy. But where did all this unprecedented growth come from? Read more.
The Local Stage: Your Climate Voices
Who's on Board: Joyce Flynn puts her energy into saving money for Yarmouth
By Denise Coffey,, March 23, 2021
iew Comments
Who's on Board is a series highlighting local boards and committees on Cape Cod and the people who serve on them.

YARMOUTH — Joyce Flynn has spent the past decade reinventing herself in some ways. In an earlier life she taught English and Irish literature. Now she spends her retirement years helping the town save money as it invests in green energy.

Flynn has spent the past 12 years learning about energy. When she turned 60, she enrolled in a course at Cape Cod Community College. The motivation? She began to think about how energy usage was affecting the climate and the world. 

She is now chairwoman of the Yarmouth Energy Committee. The nine-member committee advises the Select Board on energy matters, evaluates the possibilities of wind- and solar-powered energy installations on town land and recommends initiatives. Read more.
Conservation, Land Use & Leaf Blowers
Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns)
A Long Island couple say fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.
By Cara Buckley, The New York Times, December 3, 2021 (Photo credit: Karsten Moran)

WADING RIVER, N.Y. — If Bill Jacobs were a petty man, or a less religious one, he might look through the thicket of flowers, bushes and brambles that encircle his home and see enemies all around. For to the North, and to the South, and to the West and East and all points in between, stretch acres and acres of lawns.

Lawns that are mowed and edges trimmed with military precision. Lawns where leaves are banished with roaring machines and that are oftentimes doused with pesticides. Lawns that are fastidiously manicured by landscapers like Justin Camp, Mr. Jacobs’s neighbor next door, who maintains his own pristine blanket of green. “It takes a special kind of person to do something like that,” Mr. Camp said, nodding to wooded wilds of his neighbor’s yard. “I mow lawns for a living, so it’s not my thing.” Read more.

"Pound for pound, gallon for gallon, hour-for-hour, the two-stroke
gas powered engines in leaf blowers and similar equipment are vastly 
the dirtiest and most polluting kind of machinery still in legal use.

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB),
the two-stroke leaf blowers and similar equipment in the state
produce more ozone pollution than all of California’s
tens of millions of cars, combined."
James Fallows

The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Leaf Blowers
By Margaret Renkl, The New York Times, October 25, 2021 (Photo Credit: Tom Williams/Roll Call/Getty Images)

NASHVILLE — Into these perfect October afternoons, when light gleams on the red dogwood berries and the blue arrowwood berries and the purple beautyberries; on the last of the many-colored zinnias and the last of the yellow marigolds and the last of the white snakeroot flowers; on the shining hair of babies in strollers and the shining ponytails of young mothers and the tender, shining heads of old men walking dogs — into the midst of all this beauty, the kind of beauty that makes despair seem like only a figment of the midnight imagination, the monsters arrive.

They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts. Read more.
Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers: the End is Nigh Just in time for autumn
A guide to what you need to know about the most polluting form of machinery still in legal use in the US. It won't be for long.
By James Fallows, New York Times, Oct 2, 2021
This is a one-time post to pull together resources, links, and info on a topic I’ve followed for a long time. Let’s start with a brief quiz.

Check out the two photos below. One, of chronic congestion on freeways in my Southern California homeland. The other, of familiar modern “gardening” practices.

Which do you think is overall a greater contributor to certain kinds of air pollution, carcinogenic emissions, lung disease, and hearing loss, in our nation’s most populous state? Read more.

Commonwealth & Region
Two crucial pillars of the state’s plan to cut carbon emissions have crumbled. Where does it go from here?
Transportation emissions are the region’s largest source of greenhouse gases
By David Abel, The Boston Globe, December 7, 2021 (Photo credit: Robert F. Bukaty, AP)

A year ago, the Baker administration released a detailed road map to effectively eliminate the state’s carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

Now, just weeks after a United Nations summit in Scotland underscored the need for urgent action to address climate change, crucial pillars of those plans have collapsed. The ambitious cap-and-invest pact known as the Transportation Climate Initiative, or TCI, promised to cut transportation emissions — the region’s largest source of greenhouse gases — by at least 25 percent over the next decade.

A separate initiative, the New England Clean Energy Connect project, sought to build a $1 billion transmission line in Maine to deliver large amounts of hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts, which would help to significantly reduce the region’s reliance on fossil fuels. Read more.
Climate Education & Communication
Climate Change in the Irish Mind
By Anthony Leiserowitz et. al, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, December 14, 2021

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency commissioned the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication as their academic partner to help conduct a nationally representative survey of public climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, policy preferences, and behavior in Ireland. 

We find that 96% of the Irish people think climate change is happening. By contrast, our latest national survey in the U.S. found that 76% of Americans think global warming is happening. [The term “climate change” was used in Ireland, while “global warming” was used in the U.S.] Dowload the report.
Waste & Recycling
The Future of Landfills is Bright
How State and Local Governments Can Leverage Landfill Solar to Bring Clean Energy and Jobs to Communities across America
By Matthew Popkin, Akshay Krishnan, RMI

There are more than 10,000 closed and inactive landfills around the country. These sites offer an incredible opportunity for solar development. By installing solar on closed landfills, states and municipalities advance local solar energy while repurposing relatively large, vacant sites within communities that have limited reuse potential.

Solar and landfills are a natural combination for many communities looking to accelerate local renewable energy development. Landfills typically have good sun exposure and limited other redevelopment opportunities, making solar one of the few ways to put the land to productive use. Moreover, reinvesting in closed landfill sites can help revitalize the local, often lower-income, host communities.

Yet, despite these benefits and opportunities, landfill solar is neither common practice nor common across the renewable energy industry. This report highlights our analysis of the current status of landfill solar and the technical potential of what is possible if scaled across the United States. Read more. Download the report.


We are an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to reach carbon neutrality or net zero on Cape Cod and the Islands of Massachusetts by enhancing communication, collaboration, and activism among organizations, programs, and individuals committed to mitigating the climate crisis. We depend upon the generosity of our stakeholders to conduct our work. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.
The Climate Action Alerts newsletter is curated and crafted by Fran Schofield. If you have a climate story from your home, school, workplace, town or organization, please be in touch! And don't forget to share this action alert with your friends and suggest they subscribe here.