Environmentalist encourages clean energy to combat climate change

Joe Stelling of New York Public Interest Research Group on climate change: it “is a real thing.”

On Wednesday night, environmentalist Joe Stelling declared the existence of climate change and advocated that clean energy was the solution.

Stelling, New York Public Interest Research Group’s environmental campaign organizer, told a small group of students that climate change “is a real thing.”

“The bottom line is experts agree. It’s real, and we are driving the problem. It is driven by greenhouse gases,” Stelling said.

Burning fossil fuels (including coal, petroleum and natural gas) emits greenhouse gases leading to environmental extremes, such as more intense “storms, hotter hots and colder colds,” he said.

“It’s obvious we need to get off fossil fuels,” said Raymond Gutteriez, a graduate student at SUNY-ESF. “You can look at any of the data that’s out there: an increase in greenhouse gases leads to an increase in temperatures, which leads to an increase in severe weather.”

Events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene were results of climate change.

“It is not just in the United States, either,” Stelling said. “It is happening across the globe. Russia had unprecedented wild fires two years ago.”

Stelling proposed solutions like getting off traditional forms of energy and transitioning to alternative energies. Reducing fossil fuel consumption would decrease carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and slow climate change, he said.

“We could be producing up to half our energy from the wind, and wind energy works in concert with solar,” he said. “The way the earth works is usually one is happening: the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.”

This can be achieved via large energy farms or on an individual level. Energy companies could install wind turbines in a field and capture the energy for their customers, or there could be solar panels installed on rooftops powering an individual home.

“I’m all for it, but my concern is with how it’s done,” Gutteriez said. “There’s plenty of infrastructure out there. If we’re talking solar, let’s put solar on roofs in communities so it’s all locally based and decentralized.”

Stelling said the problem is that politicians are not on board, and incentives to use clean energies are small. Recently, alternative energy bills have been halted in Congress and President Barack Obama is now acting unilaterally.

“In the United States, we’re stuck in conservative and liberal ideals,” said Nicole St. James, Syracuse University’s NYPIRG project coordinator. “People are not thinking about the future. They are thinking about the costs to them right now, and those who are thinking about the future are leading the change.”

However, New York state is “making some moves,” Stelling said. Governor Andrew Cuomo is beginning programs promoting electric cars, solar energy and more.

Stelling said that this is just the beginning, because New York should be a national leader. He called on students to make a change.

“Get involved,” he said. “ Organize on campus and educate your peers. New York should be a national leader.”

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