The quest for clean air and a cool planet
Q&A with Adam Markham
By Maureen Kelly
In May 2000, Clean Air–Cool Planet, a regional non-profit
group that aims to find solutions to glob-al warming, opened its offices in
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Clean Air–Cool Planet encourages communities and
businesses to voluntarily reduce the amount greenhouse gases they emit into the
atmosphere. Adam Markham, the executive director, spoke to the Gulf of Maine
Times about the threat of global warming and what can be done to curb it. The
following is an excerpt from that conversation.
What does global warm-ing mean for New England?
Global warming could be a major problem for New England.
We know already that parts of New England are getting warmer faster than other
parts of the northern hemisphere. We’re already starting to see some changes–a
little more storminess in the weather, spring coming earlier, maybe by a week to
ten days–and that in turn is having some effects on ecosystems. People in
Vermont are tapping for maple sugar earlier in the season. The string of mild
winters that we’ve just had, until this winter, led to the steady movement north
of some bird species like the Carolina wren, which is tending to over-winter
farther north into southern New England. So, we’re start-ing to see little
signals of change–the canaries in the coalmine if you like.
In the future, the changes are likely to be pretty
extensive. Sea level rise is going to be a big problem for low lying coastal
marshes, particularly where you have a lot of human development and no ability
for ecosystems to retreat landward in a natural way. Warmer waters are going to
be a problem, particularly in southern New England. It’s already warming up
quite significantly in Narragansett Bay. They’re starting to see some changes in
winter flounder populations there, which may be associated with the warm-ing
water. Some marine diseases like Dermo in oysters may again be able to move
north as the waters warm.
How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
The main thing that citizens can do is try to think a
little bit about the pollution that they cause in their everyday life and then
take some actions to try to reduce that. One of the easiest things you can do is
turn down your thermostat a little bit in the winter. In the summer maybe use
your air conditioning a little less. If you buy new appliances, make sure you
buy ones that have the Energy Star certification. It means you’re getting the
most energy efficient appliances on the market. For example, you can now get
front-loading washing machines, which are two or three times as energy efficient
as top-loaders and also save a lot of water. Make sure you don’t leave lights on
in rooms where you don’t need them. And try to get out of your car occasionally
and walk or bike to work or to the shops if it’s possible. The more you use your
car, the more you’re polluting the atmosphere for future generations.
How are you working with businesses?
We’re working with businesses that recognize that there’s
not just an environmental benefit to reducing pollution, but also a bottom line
benefit to the company. Most companies could save a lot of money by reducing the
amount of pollution they put into the atmosphere. Energy efficiency is a great
way for a company to increase its margins. Shaws Supermarkets is one that we’re
building a partnership with. They’ve already done a great deal to reduce their
greenhouse gas emissions. We’re hoping that we’ll help them go even further to
raise the bar and have other businesses follow.
What other groups are you working with?
The way we’re looking at solutions is to work with all
aspects of civil society. We’re trying to find partners in business-es,
communities of faith, universities, towns, municipalities and communities. We’re
happy to have people contact us if there’s a possibility of working with us in
For a fact sheet and other information on the impact of
global warming go to Clean Air–Cool Planet’s Web site at: