climate action alerts
A regional resource for Cape & Islands climate activists
September 16, 2021
Feature Article
Want a planet-saving career? 8 young standouts share their stories
These Gen Z and Millennial stars are tackling climate change head-on: creating better batteries and air conditioning, turning CO2 into useful products, diversifying the ranks of climate activism, and helping startups and a global corporate giant slash their carbon footprints.

To stabilize our climate, we’ll need all of these solutions — and yours. What part of restoring a healthy climate excites you most?
"Air conditioning is a necessity for millions to work, learn, sleep, and in some cases, survive. Everyone deserves access to cooling without warming the planet."
— Radhika Lalit, 32, EDF Climate Corps grad and leader, Global Cooling Prize

Radhika Lalit knows the danger of heat firsthand. Growing up in Delhi, India, she was hospitalized more than once because of heat stress. Later, she learned that most room air conditioners are highly inefficient, achieving just 6%-8% of their theoretical max. With cooling demand expected to rise 400% over next 30 years, air conditioning alone could add an additional half-degree Celsius of warming by 2100, says the clean energy think tank RMI (formerly Rocky Mountain Institute), where Lalit is a manager. Read more.

The UN report is scaring people. But what if fear isn’t enough?
"If you’re trying to get people to act on climate change, then fear is not going to do it."
By Kate Yoder, Grist, September 7, 2021

It had the feeling of a scheduled fire drill. The release of a long-awaited report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday was met with appropriate alarm. The BBC warned that this was “code red for humanity.” The New York Times wrote, “A Hotter Future Is Certain.” A Guardian headline stated that major changes to the climate were “inevitable” and “irreversible.” 

Compared to previous versions, the latest U.N. report was unique in its emphasis on climate “tipping points” and used the most conclusive language about the state of climate science to date. The report’s first line was stark: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” Many advocates hoped that the report would serve as a “final wake-up call” that would inspire “quick and decisive action.”

Underlying most efforts to push for action on climate change is the belief that some combination of awareness, concern, and worry will be enough to inspire people. But what if that premise is flawed? Read more.
Quote of the Week
"The answer to climate change is Organizing.
Dealing with global warming is always going
to be about the
balance of power."
By Bill McKibben,
The New Yorker, September 1, 2021

Swiss Re Signed a $10 Million Carbon Capture Deal
The agreement, with Switzerland-based Climeworks, is good for 10 years and an unspecified amount of CO₂.
By Leslie Kaufman,, August 26, 2021

Reinsurance giant Swiss Re announced Wednesday that it had signed the world’s first long-term agreement to take carbon directly out of the air. The contract with Climeworks AG, one of the world’s leading direct air-capture startups, will net the climate technology company $10 million over 10 years.

Mischa Repmann, a senior environmental management specialist with Swiss Re, said the deal would not only help his company reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030, it could inspire other business considering the use of carbon capture technology. “It’s a call for action, and we’re hoping that others will follow,” he said.
Biden wants the sun to provide nearly half the nation’s electricity by 2050
The plan calls for the United States to double its installed solar power every year for the next four years, compared to 2020, and then double it again by 2030
By Darryl Fears, The Washington Post, Sept. 8, 2021

The Biden administration announced a plan Wednesday to use solar energy to produce nearly half the nation’s electricity by mid-century, part of its ambitious bid to address climate change.

The new Energy Department goal would scale up production of solar panels, which provide 3 percent of the nation’s electricity, to 45 percent over the next three decades.
The move, which would transform the nation’s energy industry and infrastructure, shows how President Biden is determined to reshape the economy and cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the face of staunch political opposition. Read more.
State & Region
Curb Boston’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions
A measure before the City Council could slash the carbon pollution coming from large buildings.
By The Editorial Board, The Boston Globe, August 30, 2021

The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Boston is not the cars on our congested streets. It’s the buildings that hover over them.

About 70 percent of the city’s emissions come from our homes and offices and hospitals. Buildings use huge amounts of heating oil and natural gas and electricity to warm our living rooms, cool our lobbies, and keep our hallways well-lit.

So if Boston is to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 — that is, if the city is to release only as much carbon as the environment can safely absorb — it has to get serious about reducing emissions from buildings. And that means approving a measure championed by City Council President Matt O’Malley that would require building owners to ratchet down emissions or face fines. Read more.
Energy & The Built Environment
The US city that has raised $100m to climate-proof its buildings
Ithaca has turned to private investors to help it decarbonize thousands of residential and commercial buildings
By Mike De Socio, The Guardian, 19 August 2021

When Fred Schoeps bought a 150-year-old building in downtown Ithaca, New York, a decade ago, he was one of only a handful of building owners dedicated to ending their reliance on fossil fuels and reducing their carbon footprint.

His three-year renovation of the building, comprising three apartments above a skate store, included installing energy-efficient windows and insulation, plus fully electric appliances, heating and cooling systems.

But while that was an achievement on its own, said Schoeps, Ithaca can not address climate change one building at a time. “In order to move the needle, you’ve got to think in terms of a thousand [buildings],” he said. Luis Aguirre-Torres, Ithaca’s new director of sustainability, is trying to do exactly that. The upstate New York city of 30,000, home to Cornell University and Ithaca College, adopted a Green New Deal in 2019, a big part of which involves decarbonizing thousands of privately owned commercial and residential buildings across the city. Read more.
New York’s opt-out community solar program begins, but big changes loom
The pilot allows entire communities to purchase the output of community solar farms, delivering that energy to their residents. A new proposal, however, would look to shake up project ownership.
By Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine, September 1, 2021

What may be the first opt-out community choice solar program in the U.S. has gone live in the Villages of Brockport and Lima, New York, under the name Finger Lakes Community Choice program.

The pilot was developed by Joule Community Power and is similar to a traditional community solar pilot, but with a twist. As designed, the municipality signs up the entire population, leveraging the collective buying power at a scale large enough to secure better terms through a single competitive bidding process with solar providers.

For Brockport and Lima, six community solar farms will supply more than 3,800 households and small businesses with roughly 28 million kWh of electricity annually for the next 25 years, with roughly 500 of those households being low- and middle-income residents. Read more.
Land Use, Conservation & Sequestration
Let's Talk Trees: How Do Trees Communicate?

We already know that trees provide a vast array of ecological services, but how do they really become forests? For that, communication is essential. Trees communicate to grow, exchange nutrients, and avoid threats. Their underground network is a lifeline for young saplings in fully shaded parts of a forest, as bigger trees pump sugar, water, and other lifesaving resources into their roots. Research has even found that Mother Trees act as hubs that can recognize their own kin. One Tree Planted's new video summarizes, in under 3 minutes, all the basics for how trees communicate Watch the video. 
Climate Equity & Environmental Justice
Biden Opens New Federal Office for Climate Change, Health and Equity
The office will be the first government effort to focus specifically on the public health dangers of global warming.
By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times, August 30, 2021

WASHINGTON — Amid deadly heat waves and new evidence showing that wildfire smoke may contribute to premature births, the Biden administration is creating a new federal office to address the health consequences of climate change and their disproportionate effects on poor communities.

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity, which the administration announced on Monday, will be the first federal program aimed specifically at understanding how planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels also affect human health. It will fall under the Department of Health and Human Services. It’s an area that medical experts have urged the government to take more seriously, and public health leaders said the new office was long overdue. Read more.
Investing, Business & Finance
Financing a Net Zero Economy: The Consequences of Physical Climate Risk for Banks
New report offers analytics for banking industry
Ceres, September 8, 2021

This report offers detailed recommendations to guide the banking industry in fully measuring, analyzing, and acting against threats posed by the physical risks of climate change. It sets out a practical roadmap to help banks conduct risk assessments and incorporate climate risks into their day-to-day decision-making. Read more here.
Waste & Recycling
The Big Problem With Plastic
CR reveals where most of the plastic you throw away really ends up and explains what to do to limit its environmental harm
By Kevin Loria, Consumer Reports, September 08, 2021

Consider the amount of plastic you put into the trash or recycling on a typical day. There’s the lid to your coffee cup, and perhaps a bag from a newspaper. There’s the wrapper from a granola bar, a yogurt container, a salad clamshell, and the plentiful packaging from inside a box that arrived in the mail.

Many of these plastic items are useful and convenient, but they also come with a high environmental cost. In 2016, the U.S. generated more plastic trash than any other country—46.3 million tons of it, according to a 2020 study published in Science Advances. That’s 287 pounds per person in a single year. By the time these disposable products are in your hands, they’ve already taken a toll on the planet: Plastics are mostly made from fossil fuels, in an energy-intensive process that emits greenhouse gases and creates often hazardous chemicals.

And then there’s what happens when you throw them away. Read more.
Getting Manufacturers to Help Pay for Recycling
Municipalities are tired of footing the bill for recycling excessive packaging materials, from cardboard to foils to plastic. New extended producer responsibility legislation aims to force companies to pay up.
By Leslie Nemo, Bloomberg News, September 7, 2021

All that extra wrapping around items consumers pick up at the store or have delivered to their doorstep? A growing number of states want manufacturers, not municipalities, to help pay for recycling it. 

Maine is leading the way. It made history in July when it became the first U.S. state to force companies to help cover costs to recycle the packing that makes up about a third of the state’s municipal solid waste. 

Under the new law, brands producing the products encased in foils, plastics and more — the soap companies instead of the bottle manufacturers, for example — will pay into a stewardship fund based on the weight of packaging, how easy the material is to recycle and how clearly the disposal method is explained on labels. Read more.
The Cape Cod Bottle Ban
By Kennedy Ryan,, August 24, 2021

On September 1, 2021, single-use plastic water bottles will no longer be sold in 7 of the 15 Barnstable County towns including Brewster, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, and Wellfleet.

According to Sustainable Practices, a Barnstable County-focused environmental action group, over 1,500 single-use plastic water bottles are used and discarded every second. While it’s better to recycle single-use plastic bottles than throw them in the trash, refusing them altogether has become the top priority.

Back in June of 2021, all 15 Cape Cod towns instituted a Municipal Plastic Bottle Ban, which eliminated the purchase of single-use plastic beverages by town governments and prohibited the sale on town properties. In addition, 10 of these towns have now adopted a Commercial Plastic Bottle Ban, prohibiting the sale of single-use plastic water bottles by in town retailers. Beginning in September of 2021, the water bottles will no longer be sold in Brewster, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Orleans, Provincetown, and Wellfleet with the towns of Chatham, Dennis, and Sandwich soon following suit in later months. Read more. Watch the video.
The Major Problems Blocking America’s Electric Car Future
The electric future is coming. But how quickly is less certain.
By Daniel Yergin, Politico, August 31, 2021

Just a decade and a half ago, the then-CEO of General Motors Co. Rick Wagoner observed to Larry Burns, at the time GM’s head of research and strategy, that not many industries stay the same for a century. But the automobile industry, Wagoner added with some anxiety, had so far been the exception. Its business model remained that pioneered by Henry Ford with the Model T a century earlier — “gas-fueled, run by an internal combustion engine, rolling on four wheels.” “What’s the car of the next hundred years going to look like?” Wagoner asked.

Recently, I asked Wagoner about that conversation. “The focus then was on making the internal combustion engine better,” he replied. “I was asking, ‘If we were starting the industry today, what would be different?’”

A pretty clear answer about how different came earlier this month from President Joe Biden when he issued an executive order setting out the goal that “50 percent of all new passenger cars and light vehicles sold in 2030” should be electric.... “There’s a vision of the future that is now beginning to happen,” said the president. This vision clearly does not involve making the internal combustion engine better. Read more.
Faith in Action
Church Leaders Call For Climate Action
Nexus Media News, September 8, 2021

The heads of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion issued an unprecedented joint statement calling for action to address climate change and social inequity. “Today we are paying the price [of the climate emergency],” the statement said. “Tomorrow could be worse…Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

The statement appealed to delegates at the upcoming COP26 U.N. climate summit to “cry of the earth and of people who are poor … for the sake of the earth which God has given us.” Pope Francis is expected to attend COP26, scheduled for early November in Scotland, and has asked Christians to pray world leaders make courageous choices. The Vatican plans to host a major gathering of world religious leaders and scientists ahead of COP26 to take a common stand against the climate crisis and raise the stakes of the Glasgow conference.
Co-signer and former oil executive Archbishop Justin Welby of the Anglican Commission has previously been outspoken about the moral crisis of climate change, but has failed to fully divest his Church of England from carbon-intensive companies, arguing it can force more change on the fossil fuel industry as a shareholder.

Actions, Trainings & Webinars
Give Light: Spiritual Support
for Climate Activism
An interactive, multi-faith workshop led by Reverend Fred Small

Saturday, September 18
10 a.m. - 12 noon
St. Christopher’s Church
625 Main Street, Chatham, MA 02633
Reservations (70-person limit; masks and physical distancing required)

As we come to understand the gravity of climate disruption, it's easy to become disheartened. How do we maintain equanimity and compassion for ourselves and others while sustaining effective activism? In this interactive workshop welcoming all faith traditions and spiritual orientations, Rev. Fred Small--cited by Bill McKibben as “one of the key figures in the religious environmental surge--will invite us into guided meditation, reflection, conversation, and song, fortifying our spirits and deepening our resolve in the struggle for climate justice. Event will be Live Streamed
Internalizing risk: What 1.5°C (and beyond) looks like
Woodwell Climate Research Center launches Kaneb virtual lecture series

Wednesday, September 22, 2021
3 p.m. ET

Despite public perceptions, 1.5C degrees of warming has never been “safe,” and current events are raising awareness of the severity of impacts we face. This hard-hitting event brings into sharp relief the near-term physical, socioeconomic, and geopolitical risks of continued warming, and spotlight the power of internalizing climate risk for driving change in public- and private-sector decision-making.
Bringing Back Native & Natural Outdoor Space
Presented by Unitarian Universalist Falmouth, Saint Barnabas’s Outreach & Faith Communities Environmental Network

Wednesday, September 29
7:00 pm - 8:15 pm

Fall planting time is here and you are invited to join this virtual meeting -- the 7th session in the Cape Cod Climate Emergency and Eco-Justice Seminar Series! We’ll begin by considering the relationship between justice and land with discussion led by Rev Natalie Thomas. Then we’ll hear about climate-wise landscapes, using native plants (for caterpillars!), and stewarding lands in trust from Kristin Andres of APCC, and Tom Stone and Alex Zollo of The 300 Committee.





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've got 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.