Action Drives Fauquier Climate Change Group

By Posted on Oct 04 2019 | By

Belief or disbelief in climate change engages the electorate today as perhaps no other issue. The science, or as some believe, the lack of it, can create “heated” discussions among the gentlest of souls. So how do you defang passion and discuss fact?

“When I talk climate change, right up front I let people know I don’t care whether people are responsible for it or not,” says Kevin O’Neill, director of the Fauquier Climate Change Group, noting that it takes away much of the intensity and makes it easier to discuss the reality.

“I’m a pragmatist,” he adds. “I look around and see 99.9% of over 20,000 scientific studies conclude the climate is changing.” He quickly underscores global warming can occur as either hotter or colder temperatures.

It could be a long-term climatic cycle unfolding or human activity driving the change. The causes can be left for future science to determine, but action to address the changes lies in the hands of an informed public. “We all need to sit down and come up with a viable game plan,” Kevin notes. “If we don’t, we’re sticking our heads in the sand and hoping everything works out. There is no Planet B.”

Noting the preponderance of the world’s population resides on or near oceans and that ocean levels are rising is a sobering reality. Kevin explains that we have tens of trillions of dollars of infrastructure on the world’s coastlines, and this infrastructure and human lives are at risk since there are already climate change refugees in certain regions of the world.

So, who is Kevin O’Neill and why does he care so much? After enjoying several successful careers, including 20 years as special agent for the State Department, he joined the Fauquier Climate Change Group four years ago and serves as its director. “This country has been very good to me and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities I have had. I want to give back,” he says.

The organization was founded in 2013 by county resident Judy Lamana. It is comprised of local citizens—spanning the political spectrum from conservative to liberal—who are passionate about finding ways to ameliorate damage caused to the planet by worldwide temperature changes. Group activities include working with members of Congress and raising the profile of climate change in the community, including churches and schools.

“We’ve talked with the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Warrenton, urging them to switch to LED lights,” Kevin explains. “That one change alone would reduce the carbon impact dramatically, including a decrease in people’s electricity bills.”

He also describes how teaching youth the value of LED lights sets the stage for generational acceptance for such cost-effective lighting. The group takes their “energy cycle” to schools and for kids to ride. When they cycle as hard as they can, it lights up the incandescent bulb panel. When they maintain an easy, steady pace, the fluorescent lights flicker on. Yet by contrast, with almost no pedal pressure at all, the LED panel shines brightly.

As dire as today’s climate prognostications are, Kevin speaks positively about the rate of change. Underscoring that it takes an average of 50 years to introduce a new technology, he thinks we are 30 to 35 years into a transformational conversion to solar and wind energy, noting that the price of a solar cell today is about a dollar.

Fauquier Climate Change Group’s message is clear; being part of the problem offers the opportunity to be part of the solution. The group meets on the third Wednesday of each month (the next meeting is on October 16) from 7:00–8:00 p.m. at the Bistro on Hospital Hill, and there is no cost to join nor any membership fees.

Published in the September 2019 edition of Discover Fauquier.

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