climate action alerts
A regional resource for Cape & Islands climate activists
September 1, 2021
Feature Article
Demystifying Net Zero Energy
Massachusetts School Building Authority-hosted webinar, May 27, 2021

Several Massachusetts schools have pioneered net-zero energy building systems, meaning that the school building itself produces as much energy as it consumes. While there are several means to generate sustainable energy, including solar, wind, and hydro-electrical solutions, in Massachusetts the schools have found the most effective approach to be solar; these schools generate energy through solar arrays placed on the roof of the building or elsewhere on the building site, such as on canopies over the parking lot. Every school district that has set itself on the path to net zero energy has taken a different course, and on May 27, 2021, the MSBA hosted a webinar to showcase the paths school districts have taken to achieve net zero.

While solar arrays are the means through which energy is generated, they are effective because of several other building elements. First, the building itself must be designed to be energy efficient, because the less energy a building uses, the less energy it needs to generate on site in order to achieve net zero energy. At the webinar, designers presented an overview of the ways in which buildings can be made efficient, including the ratio of windows to walls, the composition of the building envelope, lower floor-to-ceiling heights due to reduced reliance on ductwork, and the way the building is oriented. Read more.
Senate Democrats are weighing game-changing climate legislation — they must approve it
A bill steering utilities toward greener energy may be the single most important legislation Congress can approve to slow the advance of climate change.
By The Editorial Board, The Boston Globe, August 24, 202

It has been an awful season of flood and fire.

Torrents of water have obliterated German villages and swept up families in Tennessee. Fast-moving flames have forced desperate Greeks to flee their homes by ferry. Californians have watched dumbfounded as entire communities have gone up in smoke.

And if the mounting destruction weren’t enough, an especially grim report from the world’s top climate scientists showing that the earth is heating up faster than previously thought has accentuated a message that should have registered long ago: It’s past time to act.

The most important audience for that message in the United States may be the 50 Democrats with a narrow hold on the Senate. They recently approved the broad outlines of a $3.5 trillion budget package that will only pass — if it passes at all — on a strict party-line vote. It is supposed to include a number of climate-related measures. But the single most important would provide financial incentives for electric utilities to switch to cleaner energy — and impose penalties on those that fail to act.

It’s known as the Clean Electricity Payments Program, a dull-sounding name for a game-changing policy. Cleaning up America’s electricity sector would eliminate up to a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. And if the country can convert more cars and heating systems to electricity — and then plug them into a greener grid — it could reduce emissions by 70 to 80 percent. Read more.

The Antidote To Climate Dread
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the constant, dire news of record-breaking heat, fires and floods, here’s what you can do, according to climate scientists.
By Sarah Ruiz-Grossman,, August 25, 2021

The reality of the climate crisis is dire — and it can be overwhelming. In the past month alone, we’ve seen the hottest July ever recorded on the planet (again), the largest ever single wildfire in California history (again, just a year after the last one), and deadly floods devastating the Southern U.S. (again).

The United Nations’ recent climate report repeated what similar reports have been saying for for years, with even greater certainty: Humans are the “unequivocal” cause of climate change, and the window to avoid catastrophic living conditions worldwide due to global warming is rapidly closing.

There have long been concerns in the climate science community about possible public “fatigue” at being bombarded with dire news of the worsening climate, and having this lead to widespread dread or overwhelm, which can create an emotional barrier to actually taking action. Read more.
State & Region
Mass Maritime makes key renewables sector appointment
By Staff Writers, MarineLog, August 12, 2021

Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) has appointed Capt. Michael R. Burns Jr. as the first executive director of its Maritime Center for Responsible Energy (MCRE). In this new role, he will oversee the center, which was established in August 2021 to deliver training to the renewable energy industry, develop robust, collaborative relationships with renewable energy stakeholders, and coordinate all the academy’s renewable energy efforts.

Burns will lead all aspects of the center’s work, including developing and delivering offshore wind workforce training, raising awareness of the Academy’s efforts in renewable energy, and managing MMA’s marine environmental initiatives.

...The offshore wind industry will be a key focus for Burns in this role. The United States Department of Energy estimates 43,000 new jobs will be created in the offshore wind market by 2030, and a Massachusetts Clean Energy Center study estimates that over the next decade, offshore wind farms will create 2,000 – 3,000 jobs and generate economic impacts between $1-$2 billion in the region. Read more.
Faith in Action
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 will invite us into guided meditation, reflection, conversation, and song, fortifying our spirits and deepening our resolve in the struggle for climate justice.

Cited by Bill McKibben as “one of the key figures in the religious environmental surge,” Rev. Fred Small served as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister for nearly two decades. He is also a singer-songwriter and environmental lawyer. In 2015 he left parish ministry to devote his energies to advocating and organizing for environmental, racial, and climate justice, and is currently Minister for Climate Justice at Arlington Street Church, Boston, and Director of Faith Outreach for Climate XChange, which advocates for carbon pricing legislation in Mass.
Energy & The Built Environment
A climate fix, slipping out of our grasp
Heat pumps could replace fossil fuels in homes, but state is slow to convert
By Sabrina Shankman, The Boston Globe, August 21, 2021

When Massachusetts officials look into the not-so-distant future of 2030, they see 1 million homes across the state comfortably heated and cooled by sleek, efficient heat pumps, their old oil- and gas-burning systems — and the climate-warming emissions they spewed — relegated to the scrap heap. But they are woefully behind pace to reach that lofty goal, and the more time that passes without an urgent response, the further out of reach it gets.

According to the state’s own plan, Massachusetts should be converting 100,000 homes a year from fossil fuels to electricity for heating and cooling. The reality is much different: Just 461 homes made the switch last year, according to data reviewed by the Globe. Read more.
‘Cool pavements’ could reduce summer heat by 3 degrees in Boston, MIT study finds
By Mihiro Shimano,, August 25, 2021

Record-breaking heat waves this summer have made walking outside in cities almost unbearable for many residents. Not only is the weather itself scorching, but the asphalt used on roads can heat up so much that doctors have warned pedestrians are getting burned by the surfaces that can reach 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit under a baking afternoon sun. 

In order to counter the rising extreme temperatures on paved surfaces, researchers at the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) examined using ‘cool pavements’, which they found emit less heat by reflecting more solar radiation. Read more.
Sweden's HYBRIT delivers world's first fossil-free steel
Reuters, August 19, 2021

STOCKHOLM, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Swedish green steel venture HYBRIT said on Wednesday that it had made the world's first customer delivery of steel produced without using coal as it looks to revolutionize an industry that accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

HYBRIT, owned by SSAB (SSABa.ST), state-owned utility Vattenfall (VATN.UL) and miner LKAB, said it would deliver the steel to truck-maker Volvo AB (VOLVb.ST) as a trial run before full commercial production in 2026.

"I'm happy to be minister for enterprise and energy in a country where industry is bubbling with energy for a (green) reset," Ibrahim Baylan, Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation, told a press conference on Wednesday. Read more.
Land Use, Sequestration & Conservation
Protect the Commonwealth's Old-Growth Forests

Although 3 million of Massachusetts' 5 million acres are forested, only 1,500 acres of this land is original old-growth forest, found scattered throughout the state in small patches. Old-growth forests are extremely rare, and serve as carbon sinks as well as rich and diverse habitat. They also serve as "living laboratories" where we can learn more about forest development, tree genetics, and climate change.

Currently, old-growth forests in Massachusetts are not lawfully protected from timber cutting. Help change that by reaching out to your state legislators!
Top of Cape Cod's sole-source aquifer not the place for a machine gun range
James Kinney, Cape Cod Times, August 29, 2021 29iew Comment
I strongly urge the Massachusetts Army National Guard to drop its plans to build the Multi-Purpose Machine Gun Range on Joint Base Cape Cod (JBCC) because of the inadequate environmental assessment regarding the project and the long history of public health and environmental damages past military activities have caused — and continue to cause — to the Upper Cape.
The National Guard assumes that their training requirements are the only priority.

Arguments in favor of the projects, and evaluation of alternatives, are given solely in terms of what the Guard needs, what will be most convenient for the Guard, and what will save the most time and money for the Guard. Read more.
Climate Equity & Environmental Justice
A new scorecard ranked companies on environmental racism. Guess who came in last?
ExxonMobil and other oil companies got negative scores for polluting nonwhite communities.
Grist, August 23, 2021

ExxonMobil isn’t exactly known for being an environmental justice champion. But according to a scorecard published last week, the oil major is dead last among the S&P 500 companies when it comes to racial equity and environmental racism.

The scorecard was compiled by the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow, whose racial justice initiative aims to hold large corporations responsible for their contributions to systemic racism. It released an earlier version of the scorecard in March, evaluating the 500 largest publicly traded companies on 26 racial justice performance indicators — things like workplace diversity, promotion rates of employees of color, and donations to organizations fighting for racial justice. Read more.
Investing, Business & Finance
How to transition to a climate-friendly, environmentally responsible, and eco-just investment portfolio
6th in 8-part eco-justice series

Faith community group members Unitarian Universalist Falmouth Whole Life Learning, St. Barnabas Outreach, and the Faith Communities Environmental Network recently presented the 6th of an 8-part webinar series on the Cape Cod Climate Emergency and Eco-Justice. This webinar focused on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing and featured Jason Lilly, Chief Wealth Management Services Officer and Craig J. Oliveira, Investment Officer, both of Cape Cod Five. View/read the resources below:
Billions are pouring into the business of decarbonisation
Wall Street giants and corporate titans are betting on climate innovation
The Economist, Aug 19, 2021

"Nerds will invent the future,” declared Vinod Khosla in 2010. The venture capitalist was not talking about the sorts responsible for e-commerce sites, games apps or social-media platforms. Rather, his speech at the California Institute of Technology was intended to inspire brilliant engineers and scientists to pursue climate-related innovation. The “clean tech” investment bubble had just popped, so it seemed an unsexy career option. But if top talent took on the hard engineering challenges involved, he argued, commercial successes and rising public awareness would produce a “Netscape-like” moment, referring to the web browser that ushered in the consumer internet in the mid-1990s. “Ten years from now,” he predicted, “the level of invention will explode.”
Waste & Recycling
ZeroWaste, February 1, 2021
Between residents, businesses, and institutions, the City of Boston generates around 1,156,000 tons of waste every year, with only 25% diverted from landfill—a full 12% lower than the national average

For Bostonians, the news gets worse, and in fact, of the 874,000 tons sent to incinerators and landfills, an estimated 75% is potentially recyclable or compostable. 

It’s no surprise then, that a few years ago Boston set out on an ambitious zero-waste plan to reduce the amount of garbage the city produces and increase the amount of municipal solid waste that is reused, recycled, or composted. 

In addition to local government initiatives by the City of Boston, numerous private enterprises have also stepped up to contribute to the zero-waste movement in the city, and the private sector is not alone, with community-driven recycling programs and other initiatives designed to drive circular economy concepts to the forefront of the city’s waste programs. 

Combined, all three sectors are making headway on the path to a zero waste Boston. Here, we look at how the city defines its zero waste goals and what it is doing to reach them with the help of the entire community. Read more.
Don’t Let the Fossil Fuel Industry Pivot to Toxic Plastics and Chemicals
By Marty Mulvihill, Gretta Goldenman and Arlene Blum, The New York Times, August 27, 2021

As the United States comes to grips with the climate crisis, fossil fuels will slowly recede from being primary sources of energy. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the petrochemical industry is counting on greatly increasing the production of plastics and toxic chemicals made from fossil fuels to profit from its reserves of oil and gas.

That transition is why the challenges of climate, plastic pollution and chemical toxicity — which at first might each seem like distinct problems — are actually interrelated and require a systems approach to resolve. The danger is that if we focus on only a single metric, like greenhouse gas emissions, we may unintentionally encourage the shift from fuel to plastics and chemicals that are also unsafe and unsustainable.

Already, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency, petrochemicals, which are made from petroleum and natural gas, “are rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil demand.”

Petrochemicals are ubiquitous in everyday products, and many of them are poisoning us and our children. Stain repellents, flame retardants, phthalates and other toxics are contributing to cancer, falling sperm counts, obesity and a host of neurological, reproductive and immune problems, research has shown. Read more.
Hearth & Home
Cape Light Compact Home Energy Assessments

Are you looking to reduce your energy bills and increase year-round comfort? Cape Light Compact's Home Energy Assessment is here to help! Including no-cost energy saving measures and expert recommendations, the program helps homeowners and renters alike create a healthier, more comfortable home environment. See if you qualify based on income for additional energy-saving upgrades. Schedule a Home Energy Assessment

Discover more ways to save

Cape Light Compact is partnering with the Cape and Vineyard's towns and chambers of commerce to offer local businesses no-cost, on-the-spot energy assessments through Main Streets events again this fall. Check out when the Compact will be visiting businesses in your neck of the woods. See Their Main Streets Schedule
As the world heats up, more people are buying air conditioners, and the sector is ripe for innovation.
By Elizabeth Segran, Fast Company, August 10, 2021

The earth is getting hotter every year, and people around the world are experiencing temperatures they’d never before dreamed of. This summer, the Pacific Northwest suffered through a heat wave where temperatures climbed as high as 121 degrees, causing hundreds to die of heat-related illnesses. In Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia, where many homes don’t have air-conditioning, families rushed to buy AC units—only to find they were all sold out.

This run on ACs is part of a global pattern, experts say: Climbing temperatures, couple d with growing populations and rising incomes, will cause the demand for cooling to spike... As more people buy ACs to cope with the climbing temperatures, they emit more greenhouse gases that accelerate global warming, making future heat waves even more likely. Read more.
A TED Talk with Freeman H. Shen

What if your car could drop you off and then find parking by itself? According to electric vehicle entrepreneur Freeman H. Shen, this technology already exists. He shares his vision for a future where AI-powered electric vehicles will solve many of the problems cars currently cause, like smog, traffic congestion, accidents and, yes, endlessly circling the block looking for somewhere to park.Watch the video.
The evidence that the world has passed ‘peak car’
A look at how transportation could change without an addiction to automobiles. 
By Nathanael Johnson, Grist, August 25, 2021

Cars aren’t what they used to be. Sure, they have more horsepower, more features, and require less fuel — but they are losing their power over humanity.

At least that’s the argument in a new book on the history of transportation by journalist Tom Standage, deputy editor of The Economist. In A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next, Standage argues the world may have already passed what he calls “peak car” — the point at which car ownership and use level off and start to decline. It can be seen in a drop in the number of automobiles that factories produce each year, the number of miles the average person drives, and the importance of cars in our lives. Read more.
How Much Does Our Food Contribute To Global Warming? New Research Reveals All
By David Vetter, Forbes, March 10, 2021

Researchers in Europe have revealed an unprecedented picture of the climate impact of the food we eat, all the way from its production to its consumption.

The new findings show that more than a third—34%—of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions are generated by food systems. They also show that food generates an average of 2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per person annually.

The data indicate which elements of our food production processes are most harmful, showing that while the way we use land accounts for most emissions, food distribution and processing methods have become markedly more energy intensive since the 1990s.

Lead researchers Adrian Leip and Monica Crippa, at the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) at Ispra in Italy, spent a year compiling the database, named EDGAR-FOOD, and touted as “the first global food emission inventory.” They hope that the research, which involved the creation of a new database covering all aspects of food production, will help policymakers and institutions to more accurately target specific segments of the food industry in the global effort to cut carbon. Read more.
Actions, Trainings & Webinars
Join us on the Road to COP26 for Decarbonizing Transportation! 
NECEC hosts the last event in its Connecting Regions on the Road to COP26 series 
Tuesday, September 14
11:00AM - 12:30PM

To meet the ambitious carbon reduction goals needed to stay on a well below two-degree pathway, collaboration will be key. Join this virtual event to hear what is needed to achieve the 2030 targets that will ensure we’re on a path to net zero by 2050. Hear a panel of experts speak about lessons learned from decarbonizing the transportation sector in the UK and the U.S., share how to scale these solutions, and discuss ways to address environmental justice by providing equal access to the environmental benefits of a clean transportation system to all communities.
Creating a Zero Waste Kitchen Event
Join CLF for a Live Discussion with the Founders of Food Waste Feast

Monday, September 27, 2021
3:00 PM - 3:45 PM

To see how we can cut down on our own food waste, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is partnering with Food Waste Feast to host a live, virtual event. Co-founders Mei and Irene will join us from their home kitchens to share a few tips and tricks on how to cut down food waste in the kitchen – and save money. Plus, the sister-duo, who also co-founded Mei Mei Dumplings in Boston, will answer all your zero-waste foodie questions. Have a question for Mei and Irene? RSVP and submit any questions you have for them below!
We want to change the way New England deals with waste. That means moving from our current, unsustainable model to a Zero Waste approach that minimizes the amount of trash sent to landfills and incinerators. We are advocating for systematic changes to the region’s recycling and waste management, but we need your help. Together, we are the solution.
Climate Reality Virtual Global Training
Climate Reality Leadership Corps offers free online training

October 16-24 (On-demand video sessions)
October 18-24 (Interactive Zoom sessions)
October 16, 17, 23, 24

You see our climate changing and injustice growing across the planet. You want to make a difference.

Join the Climate Reality Leadership Corps of activists and learn how by attending a free online training led by Al Gore and a team of world-renowned scientists, activists, innovators, and more. Space is limited - and filling fast. Register today.



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.