The challenges we face in New Jersey as a result of climate change are significant, and so therefore are the opportunities. The experience of Superstorm Sandy showed us just how ill-prepared we are for the more frequent recurrence of extreme weather; and how important it is that we set an example for taking action to mitigate our own greenhouse gas emissions, as other states are doing around us. And there’s also no doubt about the urgency of it — as you can see from this remarkable video:
“Last Hours” describes a science-based climate scenario where a tipping point to runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra, and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane clathrate pools.
Burning fossil fuels release carbon that, principally through greenhouse effect, heat the atmosphere and the seas. This is happening most rapidly at the polar extremes, and this heating has already begun the process of releasing methane. If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt.
The world community and global citizens urgently need to chart a path forward that greatly reduces green house gas emissions.
“Last Hours” is presented and narrated by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio and Earl Katz. Last Hours is produced by Mathew Schmid of Tree Media Foundation, and was written by Thom Hartmann, Sam Sacks, and Leila Conners. Music is composed and performed by Francesco Lupica.
PACE represents a unique opportunity for New Jersey communities to address these challenges. Using private capital, public policy, and skillful implementation, PACE can finance energy resiliency and clean energy today, and through pending legislation may be extended to cover hurricane-resistant construction, flood proofing, safe rooms and the like for the most vulnerable areas. This does not require any government funding, but it does require the involvement of the local municipality to enable PACE financing.
The role of the local government is, essentially, to record a special assessment against the property, receive the assessment payments, and forward them to a trustee on behalf of the investor, which may be a Wall Street firm or a local bank. More broadly, however, both the county and the municipality can play important facilitative roles. Effectively implemented, PACE can be an economic driver and an effective tool for conserving energy, and reducing carbon pollution.
But getting the program established in the state is not a simple process. Towns must be approved to implement PACE programs, and must either issue special-placement bonds or obtain such bonds from county improvement authorities. Stakeholders must be educated and informed, capital providers identified, and mortgage lenders’ approvals obtained. Moreover a choice must be made at this point whether to focus on commercial or on residential, where the latter has essentially come to a standstill (everywhere except California, anyway).
New Jersey PACE, an offshoot of the 501c3 nonprofit Center for Regenerative Community Solutions (CRCS), has opted to focus on the non-residential sector, and to play the role of facilitating, administering, and promoting the program. Self-funded over the past two years, the group is now seeking to raise the money needed to roll out the program through an ambitious crowdfunding campaign.
The theme of the campaign is not a gimmick or splashy movie, but is rather the opportunity to make a real dent in the legacy of old and nonrenewable energy systems. By funding the program, donors will have a ringside seat on the development of a major new industry sector, administered on behalf of NJ municipalities by an open, transparent, and even-handed nonprofit. As noted by the organization, “Our goal is simply to encourage the greatest amount of transformation possible — in our energy systems, our buildings, and our communities. We invite the public to invest their philanthropic dollars in a genuine engine of societal change.”
This is an opportunity to put our money where our mouths are, to make a tangible difference in the world, and to begin to shift our economic focus from trashing the environment to restoring it. Those of us working on it are investing our lives in it. We invite you to support it with your contributions, and help to let others know so that this can become more than a program, a movement.
(Reprinted from Dead River Journal, August 7, 2014)