On Nov. 23, Harvard and Yale played a football game. The game was delayed during halftime because up to 500 students had the temerity to stage a climate action protest. The response was interesting.

On the one hand, according to the Washington Post story, the senior defensive captain for Harvard was sympathetic: “When it comes to climate change, no one wins. Harvard and Yale can’t truly promote knowledge while at the same time supporting the companies engaged in misleading the public, smearing academics, and denying the truth.” Good for him.

On the other hand, a spectator was quoted in opposition, saying: “They’re all supposed to be intelligent people. It looks like a lot of common sense has missed their generation. It goes to show that this generation is all about themselves, and not a football game.”

Meanwhile, those of us who may be interested in football but who are perhaps more interested in the world we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren have noticed that the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere was higher in 2018 than in the previous three million years. Just last month 11,000 scientists from around the world signed an open letter warning of an imminent climate emergency, not just a climate change challenge or even a crisis. In the wake of the Paris Accords, the major oil companies as well as their governments are planning to extract and burn more fossil fuels than ever before over the next decade, and do so by a significant amount.

What can our small Island community, at the front lines of the slow-rolling and seemingly unstoppable menace of climate change, do in response to all this? We need to take action, and we have begun doing so.

The Island’s energy committees and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Climate Action Task Force are working to develop plans and roadmaps for adaptation to climate change as well as the transformation of our energy system to significantly lessen our contribution to the problem. To develop these strategic plans, a requisite first step is to establish goals – if you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do, and so you don’t need a plan.

The goals we have settled on are simple to state, and are not impossible to accomplish. We are sponsoring a nonbinding warrant article for the spring town meetings that expresses a resolution by our community to address, and not be complicit in, the fundamental causes of climate change. The first goal is to reduce our fossil fuel combustion by 50 per cent from a 2018 baseline by 2030, and by 100 per cent a decade later. The second is to strive to make the electricity we use 50 per cent renewable by 2030 (we are already at 20 per cent), and 100 per cent renewable by 2040.

Note that the goals are aspirational, not mandatory.

They are driven by the latest scientific findings; achieving them is required worldwide to keep warming to 1.5 oC. They are also consistent with statewide energy goals. Bills have been filed on Beacon Hill to extend the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 that mandate targets similar to what we are proposing, requiring 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035 and elimination of fossil fuels for heating and transportation by 2045 (House bill H.2836; Senate bill S.1958).

The strategy to achieve these goals is straightforward: we need to electrify both our transportation sector and our building heating, cooling, and hot water systems, and strive to make our electricity generation carbon-free. No major technology breakthroughs or economic sacrifices are needed for success. Transitioning to electric vehicles over a 20-year period is certainly within reach. EVs are becoming significantly more affordable from a purchase-price perspective, and operating and maintenance cost savings mean that life-cycle costs are already comparable to fossil-fuel cars. Pickup trucks will arrive in 2020 — even an all-electric F150 has been scheduled for 2021. And yes, heavy equipment can be electrified.

For our climate, electrification of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is already an economic no-brainer. For new homes, a recent study showed that both initial outlay and life-cycle costs are 50 per cent less for cold climate heat pump systems than for propane-fired equipment. For retrofits, the heat pump advantage drops to 35 per cent. Given that fossil-fuel HVAC systems have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years, we can certainly envision substantially meeting our 100 per cent renewable MV goals by 2040.

While national governments have, in the words of the UN Secretary General, “utterly failed” to meaningfully address climate change, more than 140 cities and towns in the U.S. and over 220 worldwide have adopted significant greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. At least nine U.S. states and 36 Fortune 500 level corporations have as well.

Returning to the football game, and wary of the perils of the mixed metaphor, I’d say in conclusion: we can do this, or we can kick the football down the road. It’s our choice.

Rob Hannemann lives in Chilmark.