We appreciate Tim Kelly’s letter on electrification and Oak Park’s climate impact [Electrification has a downside, Viewpoints, June 22], but as people lose their homes, livelihoods and sometimes lives to climate-fueled natural disasters, we can’t just point out the obstacles to climate solutions anymore. We have to find ways to overcome them.
Electrification isn’t just an idea. It’s a necessity if we are to protect our children from the most devastating climate impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we must reduce climate pollution by 50% within the next 8 years and reach net zero by 2050 to have an even chance of preventing the worst climate consequences. The IPCC and International Energy Agency have prioritized widespread electrification as critical to those benchmarks.
Why is electric better for the climate? Oak Park’s recent greenhouse-gas inventory found that buildings (including homes) make up 64% of Oak Park’s climate emissions, and 61% of that comes from gas heating and appliances.
Renewables make up an ever-increasing share of our electricity grid. ComEd is required to provide 25% renewables by 2026, and utilities and policymakers are rapidly mapping out the road to 100%. Even now, studies show that heat pumps have a lower climate impact than gas heating. Gas not only produces CO2 but also leaks methane, a potent greenhouse gas, all along the extraction and production process.
Then there are the health impacts: An Oxford analysis found that children living in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to have asthma symptoms than those in homes with electric stoves. The American Medical Association just passed a resolution recommending against gas stoves. For health alone, we should be scrambling to help families electrify their homes.
The first step is simply to join other cities in requiring new construction to be all-electric.
Transitioning existing appliances and heating is more difficult to achieve equitably and rapidly, so forward-looking communities like Oak Park must lead the way, looking to experts like Kelly and others on our Building Codes Commission to find solutions amid the obstacles. Together, we can achieve a fairer, cleaner, healthier community for all.
Oak Park Climate Action Network