Tallying up climate change tradeoffs

Trinity Episcopal Church in Stoughton is discovering that fighting climate change requires some tradeoffs.

The church wants to reduce its carbon footprint, so it recently began exploring whether it would make sense to chop down a group of trees on the property to make way for an array of solar panels.

Church leaders brought in Eric Olson, a senior lecturer at Brandeis University, to measure the carbon stored in the small forest. As Bruce Gellerman reports for WBUR, “temperate forests like those in Massachusetts are the best in the world at storing carbon from the air, socking away twice as much per acre as tropical rain forests.”

What Olson and his team of graduate students discovered was that the solar panels were the way to go to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The solar array would pay back the loss of the forest in about 2½ years,” Olson said.

These types of calculations are likely to become commonplace in the years ahead as individuals, organizations, states, and nations struggle to deal with climate change.

In the recent Senate debate on climate change legislation, Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester won passage of an amendment that would require state officials to develop a baseline figure for the carbon sequestered in the state’s forests, goals for increasing that amount, and recommendations to conserve and enhance what the amendment called “natural and working lands.”

Some environmentalists are wary of the sequestration goals, concerned they could be used to block solar farms if they require trees to be knocked down.

Judging from the debate at Trinity Episcopal, the concerns may be valid. Even after Olson’s report on the benefits of chopping the trees down and replacing them with solar panels, church leaders were reluctant to move forward. Some members of the congregation wanted to keep the trees, which look nice and give off oxygen during photosynthesis. Why not put solar panels on the church roof and keep the trees, they asked.

“It’s not about the money,” said Bonnie Hickey, assistant treasurer at Trinity. “Keep the trees. Save the trees and the animals. We’ve cut down enough trees.”

Olson said the struggle at Trinity Episcopal is a foreshadowing of what’s to come. “I think there’s going to be increasing demand for wind and solar, and I think there’s going to be some forest cut. And that’s going to be a painful, painful decision,” he said.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

The House, after more than a year of inaction, approved legislation giving the Cannabis Control Commission regulatory authority over the host community agreements marijuana firms must sign with municipalities. (State House News)

The immigrant driver’s license bill is voted out of committee, but it still has a long way to go. (CommonWealth)

The Health Policy Commission sides with Gov. Charlie Baker on the need for a shift in spending to support primary and behavioral health care. (State House News)

Sen. Diane DiZoglio’s bill to ban nondisclosure agreements is buried in a study committee. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston has been unable to eradicate homelessness in part because an endless stream of people keep making their way to the capital city to take advantage of its treatment programs. (WBUR)

Emails shed light on how the cost of a police union contract in Methuen spiraled out of control. (Eagle-Tribune)

A man trying to escape a pit bull attack in Adams is accidentally killed by a crossbow-wielding man trying to shoot the dogs. (Berkshire Eagle)

The president of Boston police patrol officers’ union blasted the schools and Boston Teachers Union for supporting events this week sponsored by Black Lives Matter, saying the movement endangers officers. The BTU defended its role in the activities. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Senate acquitted President Trump in his impeachment trial with a vote that fell entirely along party lines but for the “guilty” vote of Republican Mitt Romney. (Washington Post)

Romney discusses why he decided President Trump was guilty. (The Atlantic) A Salt Lake Tribune editorial calls Romney a “profile in courage.” Howie Carr has a decidedly different take on our former governor. (Boston Herald)

US Rep. Seth Moulton walked out of the State of the Union speech, calling the president a “draft dodger.” (MassLive)

George Conway tries to get inside the head of devoted Trump backers. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

A super PAC with ties to Gov. Charlie Baker mailed out campaign literature on behalf of the Democratic primary winner in the race for a House seat from Melrose. (CommonWealth)

US Rep. Richard  Neal and his rival, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, trade charges over their fundraising efforts. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Pete Buttigieg is looking for a Iowa bounce to help him in next week’s New Hampshire primary. (Boston Globe)

IMMIGRATION

The Trump administration suspends trusted traveler programs in New York after the state passed its sanctuary Green Light Law. (Fox News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Amazon’s plan to build a distribution center in North Andover cleared a hurdle Wednesday when the town’s Conservation Commission voted 5-1 to issue an order of conditions for the project. (Eagle-Tribune)

EDUCATION

The firm that supplies the test used to determine admissions to Boston’s three exam schools said it will no longer provide the test to the district because it has been used in ways that may lower admission rates for black and Hispanic students (CommonWealth)

The state receivership of the Holyoke schools gets panned at a hearing to select a new superintendent. Since receivership started, educators say, 600 veteran teachers have left. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

ARTS/CULTURE

The Massachusetts Air and Space Museum will open later this month at Capetown Plaza on Route 132 in Hyannis. (Cape Cod Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Residents fighting the construction of a natural gas compressor station on the banks of the Fore River in Weymouth say they are finally sitting down with regulators to voice their concerns, including that crews working to excavate contaminated fill at the site are allowing hazardous materials to spread. (Patriot Ledger)

The cash-strapped assachusetts Clean Energy Center seems poised to change its focus from creating green tech and jobs to fighting climate change. (Boston Globe) The Clean Energy Center came up during debate on a climate change bill in the Senate, with Republicans pushing to substitute the Baker administration-controlled center for the independent commission pushed by the bill’s sponsors. (CommonWealth)

BlueWave Solar is getting ready to build a solar farm in Beverly, and is promising savings on energy bills for residents. (Salem News)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

Boston’s first pot store — in Dorchester — is nearing its final approvals and should open in March. (WBUR)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

After hearing arguments, a three-judge panel for the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals took under advisement the Mashpee Wampanoag’s appeal of a lower court decision that the Interior Department was not authorized to take the tribe’s land into trust. (Cape Cod Times)

Benjamin LaGuer, who was serving a life sentence for a 1983 rape, was released on medical parole from a state prison facility in Gardner based on his diagnosis of terminal liver cancer. (The Telegram)

Fall River police are facing a civil rights lawsuit involving the 2016 death of a Scott Macomber, who was shot by a stun gun as officers subdued him in a Mount Hope Avenue apartment. The department has faced several suits and claims around excessive force–some with the same officers. (Herald News)

MEDIA

The Boston Globe appears to be raising its print subscription prices, in some cases fairly dramatically, to as much as $1,295 a year. (Boston Business Journal)