Pump It Up

More people need heat pumps. One group is doing what it can to make the technology more accessible.

Pump It Up
Photograph by Carlos Jaramillo / Instagram

LISTENING: to my crybaby cat meow at the door
FEELING: anxious about an upcoming reporting trip
SEEING: my fresh manicure

Winter is coming.

In New York, that means radiators are rattling again. Many apartments rely on gas to keep residents warm in the coldest months, but what if I could rely on a single device to keep me toasty in the winter and cool in the summer? What if that device wasn't so hard on our planet?

This device exists, of course. The technology is called heat pumps. I wrote about them in a story for Bloomberg Green that published Wednesday. My piece isn't about the magic of heat pumps — the way they move heat around to efficiently regulate temperatures. No, my article is about a community-led effort to bring more heat pumps to people who need them. It's about the potential when people come together, not for profit, but for possibility.

Welcome to Possibilities, a creative climate newsletter on the possibilities that lie where crisis meets community. I’m Yessenia Funes, and boy, do I wish New York had a program like this.

Over in Washington state, a coalition of groups by the name of Kicking Gas is bringing subsidized heat pumps into income-eligible households. The program relies on a creative financing model. Households that need financial assistance to purchase a heat pump can take out low-interest microloans through the program's associated cooperative bank. The money cycling through can eventually allow for even more programs like this.

The cooperative members ultimately decide where the money goes. Next time, the group may be helping to pay for solar panels or induction stoves. Heat pumps are only the beginning.

Though the coming winter is a perfect time to talk about low-carbon heating options, let's not forget how deadly summer can be. Indeed, October marked another record-breaking month for heat records in 2023. Access to cooling technologies can be life-saving during extreme heat events. So can access to warmth when the cold rolls around.

I was inspired by what Kicking Gas is doing. Could it be a model for other coalitions trying to save lives during periods of extreme weather? I hope so. Not everyone can afford to purchase a heat pump on their own. Government subsidies only go so far. We all deserve access to these low-carbon technologies. We all deserve to be a part of the just transition. 🌀

Rest in Power

While we can't say for certain that climate change led to these specific weather events (we need attribution studies for that), we do know that the Earth's rising temperatures are already creating more disasters like these.

Over 40 people have been killed in Kenya and Somalia after heavy rains over the weekend.

In western Europe, at least 12 people have died from record-breaking rains brought on by Storm Ciarán.

In Arizona's Maricopa County, officials continue to update the death toll from the extreme heat this summer. The latest number sits at 569.

Let's not forget the 10,000+ Palestininans the Israeli military has killed in this heartbreaking war.

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