Experts now claim with 95% certainty that humans are the main cause of climate change, according to a report recently published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Student interns in Central New York are already working to reduce local impacts.
Meaghan Liddell and Kaitlyn Murphy, students at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, worked for the Village of Skaneateles this summer to compose a Climate Action Plan.
A Climate Action Plan is a set of guidelines for municipalities to follow in order to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. The plan outlines potential strategies that the town or city could implement, the annual cost savings, and the investment payback period.
Liddell and Murphy started the project last spring in an Environmental and Energy Auditing class. In this class, they worked in larger groups to start the planning process for municipalities across the Central New York Region. Throughout the semester, they both found an interest in their research. The Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board offered Liddell and Murphy positions to continue working on the plans into the summer. When the summer began, they were assigned to the Village of Skaneateles.
The Village of Skaneateles has developed a goal to be net zero by the year 2025- meaning that they would emit no carbon emissions within the municipality. This target is ambitious according to Murphy. “None of the other programs are looking for those kind of reductions, but we wanted to make it happen,” says Murphy.
To begin the process, there was initial data collection that looked at a wide range of carbon reduction strategies. “We would look at everything from installing solar panels to improving the walkability of the area. It was a hard task because there was a lot of data that we needed to make these estimates,” said Liddell.
Through their data compilation and analyses, they found a wide range of strategies that would be worth the cost of implementation. The largest source of carbon emissions reductions for the Village of Skaneateles would be from limiting vehicle idling. In the community sector, it was to install geothermal systems for heating and cooling.
After all of the strategies were compiled, there was a focus on getting the community aware and involved. The most difficult aspect of the Climate Action Plan for Liddell and Murphy was trying to reach the rest of the community.
“The work that is done for the village is not going to be where the most impact will be. If the Climate Action Plan is going to make any difference, then there needs to be community support. We were lucky because Skaneateles is so small. A lot of people would find out about the Climate Action Plan through word of mouth.”
The internship gave them extensive knowledge in community planning and showed them that, even as students, they can still enact change. “I am so glad I did this. It was a lot of work and could be so frustrating. But it made me feel like I was making a difference,” said Liddell.