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Mission of the York Energy Efficiency Committee

Our mission is to respond to the global warming crisis by promoting energy efficiency, alternative energy, and environmental initiatives throughout the town of York, Maine.
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On Global Warming and Y2K

From my letter to the editor in today’s York Weekly:

Combat global warming now

To the Editor:

Remember Y2K? It was that infamous “mother of all computer bugs” scare that caused such concern during the late 1990s. The basic gist was this: People were worried about the world’s computers — especially the giant mainframes that still ran most of the world’s industry and commerce at the time. They were worried about an error embedded in the machines’ original programming, one that stored the calendar year as a two-digit number, instead of a four-digit number (e.g. “85” instead of “1985”).

Because people were dealing with the unknown, there was growing anxiety and fear about what the future might hold. So many critical applications of the time were running on those old mainframe computers — everything from subways and stockmarkets to power plants and pumping stations. What if the error caused them all to go haywire?

Nobody was really sure what to do about it, but as the mid 90s turned into the late 90s, and it grew closer to the year 2000, armies of programmers from countries all over the world were ultimately employed to fix the error. Just in case.

As it turns out, the Y2K moment — when it finally arrived — was a bit of a dud. Nothing happened. As expected, computers all over the world correctly recognized the date as “01/01/2000” and everything kept working the way it was supposed to be working. The lights were still on, the TV still worked, the phones still had dial tone.

Nothing went haywire.

So maybe this is what will happen with all the concern over “global warming.” Maybe one day, we’ll look back and conclude that CO2, just like Y2K, was not actually a serious concern after all. And maybe all the money and energy spent on managing it, wasn’t really necessary.

Let’s hope so.

But for now, it probably makes sense to continue investing in energy efficiency, and limiting our CO2 emissions anyway. Just in case.

Now just for the record, I don’t actually think that the concerns about CO2 are misplaced at all.  I think the physics of heat trapping gasses are a fairly well understood phenomena – and given the sheer enormity of the CO2 we’ve emitted into the air over the last 150 years, it seems quite clear to me that we have a significant problem on our hands.

However, we do tend to live in a fear-based society that is constantly hyping ominous threats – it seems like we are constantly panicking about something – (e.g. Y2K, SARS, H1N1), so I understand why people are leery of the “doom and gloom” prophesies that accompany discussions around climate change, and are skeptical about calamitous declarations about what the future climate will look like.

My advice: hope for the best, and prepare for the worst!

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