Keweenaw Climate Cafe discusses energy solutions

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette A breakout group at Thursday night’s Climate Cafe discusses an area where action on climate change can be taken locally. About 70 people attended Thursday’s event, put on by the Keweenaw Climate Community.

HANCOCK — In the Keweenaw Climate Community’s fourth and final Climate Cafe, the group heard from people who have come up with local responses to the issue of climate change.

Presenters Thursday were Melissa Davis of Houghton Energy Efficiency Team, Ray Sharp of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, Dave Camps of Blue Terra Energy and Grayson Morrow of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

HEET is involved with Georgetown University’s $5 million competition for creating a plan for sustainable energy in communities. The competition wraps up Dec. 31.

The group is also pulling together 20 videos from the sources playing a role in the U.P.’s energy landscape. HEET is challenging residents to watch 15 of the videos. There will be an online forum, as well as monthly meet-ups, for people to develop a community response.

“Keeping this energy conversation going is important,” Davis said. “That’s why I’m interested in doing it, and I think we might get some good results out of it if we network with each other.”

Blue Terra has been working on measures to reduce energy costs and carbon footprints, Camps said. Current projects include 544 solar modules being installed at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, as well as LED lighting for industrial and commercial users.

“That’s one of the most effective and fastest ways you can reduce your power bill,” he said.

Sharp addressed the greater risks of disease stemming from climate change. It could cause greater instability of weather and more extreme events, such as the tornadoes that have begun to occur in the Upper Peninsula. Increased heat could also make the Upper Peninsula habitable for insects that spread disease, such as Lyme disease or the Zika virus.

“As Michigan weather becomes milder, we’re going to be at risk of the diseases you think of as tropical diseases,” he said.

Morrow, of Wakefield, talked about his work with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which included going to Washington, D.C., to speak with legislators about a proposal for a pollution fee on carbon dioxide emissions from coal, oil and gas. The tax would be aimed at bolstering renewable energy sources. Proceeds would be divided equally among American citizens.

After the presentations, the crowd split into smaller groups for a 45-minute breakout session on actions that can be taken locally. Groups included energy conservation, land adaption and policy.

Adopting old Air Force lingo, he called the group “high speed, low drag.”

“Don’t stop doing what you’re doing,” he said. “You’re doing exceptionally well, and I hope you can include the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in that, so we can take how you feel and bring it to Washington, D.C.”

Robert Handler, an organizer for the event, encouraged groups to write up some of their ideas and submit them.

“We’re going to take these back, broadcast them through Facebook and email, and keep the ball rolling,” he said.

Zoe Horns, a plant ecology junior at Michigan Technological University, was in the renewables energy group. Much of their discussion centered on ways to collect more solar energy, she said.

“The biggest thing is if some of these events get through and people get interested, then we can follow through with action,” she said.