Community

Frightened Students Petition for Solar Panels

By Leslee Kulba

Several youth spoke about climate change during public comment at the last Buncombe County Commissioners’ meeting. Several claimed affiliation with the Sunrise Movement, with a hat tip to Just Economics.

With the exception of Daniel Dewitt, speakers did not talk about refined assumptions going into modern climate models, nor did they mention any new critical experiments. Instead, for evidence, they only mentioned increasing extremes in weather, from rising temperatures to seemingly more frequent and more devastating natural disasters. Most only presented the number of signatures, totaling 2037, collected on their individual petitions.

Nothing was added to the public dialogue except an awareness of children’s fear. Citizen Don Yelton picked up on it and criticized any education system that would frighten children so horribly. To temper the mood, Yelton threw out some talking points from the other side of the argument.

“The science is extremely clear,” speakers repeated; and while it’s a step back from, “the science is settled,” the rote oversimplification still flies in the face of the lively art of critical investigation for which science had traditionally been known. Speakers further practiced bad science by falsely conflating correlation with causation.

Commissioner Joe Belcher illustrated this saying he was a Creationist. He left it at that, but a lot of people do believe climate change is a Sign of the Times. Everybody likes clean air and water, whether they call it stewardship or environmentalism. The problem Constitutionalists have is letting government use the force of law to clean the planet. The American way is to advance technology through private parties funding research for better products and investing in expanding production and marketing.

To illustrate, consider how the youth would respond to Belcher proclaiming from the dais, “The Earth is getting warmer. The heavens will be rolled together as a scroll, and the Earth shall melt with fervent heat and become as a sea of glass. In order to survive, Buncombe County citizens must repent and be worthy of the Rapture. I am calling on this body to cleanse local government of sin by 2020 and require the community at large to accept their Lord and Savior by 2040.”

Others, like Yelton, say Earth goes through climate cycles. As evidence, they cite the Ice Ages and the Maunder Minimum. Should Yelton cobble together a group of children to urge the commissioners to eliminate sunspots, which for a long time have been correlated with climate patterns?

On the agenda was a request for the commissioners to direct staff to solicit requests for proposals (RFPs) for adding solar arrays to public buildings. Currently, the county is only looking to see which buildings hold potential.
After some preliminary vetting, the buildings appearing to be best-suited for getting solar retrofits include a number of libraries, the transfer station, and the animal shelter. The list of sites the county is evaluating recently grew by 24, thanks to the City of Asheville, AB Tech, Asheville City Schools, and Buncombe County Schools adding buildings they own to the county’s list.

Chair Brownie Newman thought the county should aim to generate 20 megawatts of solar off public buildings. Belcher, who thought it might make better financial sense to convert a few buildings a year, was told the developers of solar projects consulted recommended doing many projects at once to realize economies of scale.

Adding solar panels to buildings is but one means the commissioners are pursuing for converting the county to 100% renewables by 2030 and do the same to the general public by 2042. Getting rid of automobiles that combust carbon chains is going to be another large project.

Commissioner Mike Fryar was of the opinion people were trying to get government to rush technology before the bugs were worked out and before the county had any clue how much it was going to cost and how it would be funded. He wanted the private sector to sort out how it wants to fuel its activities. “I think everyone who wants solar should have it,” he remarked facetiously.

Commissioners Al Whitesides and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara commended the youth for advocating for cleaning up the “mess” previous generations had left them. Commissioner Robert Pressley said the same, but, speaking of messes, added, “If you believe in what you read in the paper, what you see on the internet, and everything, who’s gonna clean these solar panels up in 20 years from now?”

Fryar was the only commissioner to vote against soliciting RFPs. He agreed with Pressley that 100% of anything is usually an unreasonable goal. On the science, he reminded the audience that, among other things, San Diego was supposed to be underwater now. Another concern was that, “The schools don’t have money.” He therefore expected Buncombe County property taxpayers to shoulder the burden of solarizing the aggregating add-ons.

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