Anitra Paris: Climate action across Cascadia—an op-ed on electrification in a time of crisis

On August 29, Justin Trudeau visited a B.C. Hydro facility in Surrey to make a joint announcement with Premier John Horgan about electrification initiatives in the extraction, processing, and liquefaction of natural gas.
On August 29, Justin Trudeau visited a B.C. Hydro facility in Surrey to make a joint announcement with Premier John Horgan about electrification initiatives in the extraction, processing, and liquefaction of natural gas.JUSTIN TRUDEAU

In 2019, there has been a global uprising of youth concerned about climate change. Examples like Extinction Rebellion hosting die-ins, a nonviolent protest that brings attention to the unprecedented mass extinction with one million species facing extinction. And, Greta Thunberg raising her voice and leaving an impression on many of her peers.

Many may also be familiar with the IPCC report stating that there are 12 years left to act. Now one year later, there are 11 years to mobilize and make change. There is a unified voice calling urgently for change.

Most of the headlines from our neighbours to the south are disheartening, ranging from tragic mass shootings to the myriad of atrocious Trump stories. However, there are some positive newsworthy stories spattered throughout. Certain states are pulling ahead and leading the way in decarbonization and fighting the climate crisis. I have been repeatedly impressed with two states: Washington and California.

Washington 

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee has been paving the way and taking some serious climate action. The state is poised for carbon neutral electricity by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2025. In March 2019, it went as far as banning hydraulic fracking for natural gas exploration.

California 

California is another state that has been taking climate action in strides. It is host to many innovative renewable energy, clean tech and storage companies. For example, Tesla and its recently developed utility-scale storage solution Megapack. The City of Berkeley recently banned natural gas in new buildings, becoming the first city in North America to embrace this clear step toward building electrification.

B.C.’s successes in electrification?

In British Columbia, our electricity generation is relatively low-carbon. However, one-third of our energy consumption still relies on fossil fuels. We need to permeate our energy consumption with clean electricity and stop using fossil fuels for transportation, the built environment, and industrial processes. This idea was echoed in the province’s CleanBC plan, released in December 2018. MORE

Naom Chomsky: “The Task Ahead Is Enormous, and There Is Not Much Time”

Now in his 90th year, Noam Chomsky is still blessing us with his insights. Here he is on climate change, US empire, antisemitism, Venezuela, and much more.

Noam Chomsky speaks during a program titled “Why Iraq?” attended by an overflow crowd at Harvard University November 4, 2002 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. William B. Plowman / Getty

Harrison Samphir recently spoke with the renowned dissident and philosopher about climate change, Venezuela, Iran, antisemitism, US empire, and more. Their conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Estimates from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) suggest that, if emissions remain unchanged, by 2100 sea levels could rise by more than eight feet. This would irreversibly affect many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Do you think there’s a chance we may avoid this?

If anything like that happens, the calamity will be on a scale that is almost imponderable, most severe as you say for the poorest and most vulnerable, but awful enough for the rest of society as well. And it is not the most threatening current projection. We are approaching ominously close to the level of global warming 125,000 years ago when sea levels were 6–9 meters higher than today, and the rapid melting of Antarctic sea ice threatens to narrow the gap, possibly by nonlinear acceleration, some recent studies suggest.

Is there a chance to avoid such catastrophes? No doubt. There are well-worked out and sound proposals; economist Robert Pollin’s work on a Green New Deal is the best I know. But the task ahead is enormous, and there is not much time. The challenge would be great even if states were committed to overcoming it. Some are. But it is impossible to overlook the fact that the most powerful state in human history is under the leadership of what can only be accurately described as a gang of arch-criminals who are dedicated to racing to the cliff with abandon.

…I don’t think we can count on market forces. The time scale is all wrong. Much more drastic action is needed. Those most responsible for destroying the environment can be curbed by regulatory mechanisms that are in principle available, and should be under democratic control. It’s not just a matter of curbing major polluters. Major structural changes are necessary to deal with what is in fact an existential crisis: efficient mass transportation to mention only one example. Far more substantial efforts in decarbonization, to mention another. Here the market is sending all the wrong signals, lethally in this case. Venture capital can make more profit with new apps for iPhones than in long-term investment for decarbonization, which is starved for funds.

It is well to recall the warning of Joseph Stiglitz thirty years ago in a World Bank Research Publication, before he became chief economist of the World Bank (and a Nobel laureate): we should beware of “the religion” that markets know best. “Religion” is not a bad term for the obsession with market solutions in the neoliberal age. And like other fanatic religious beliefs, it has led to not a few disasters.

It is hard even to find words to capture the scale of the crimes they are contemplating. A small but telling example is a 500-page environmental assessment produced by Trump’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calling for cancelling new automotive emissions standards. They have a sound argument. The study projects that by the end of the century temperatures will have risen 4 degrees Centigrade. Auto emissions don’t add that much, and since the game is pretty much over, why not have fun while we can — fiddling while the planet burns.

It’s hard to find the words to comment — and in fact it passed with little notice.

The attitudes of the leadership influence opinion in the Republican Party, whose members typically do not see global warming as a particularly serious problem. In fact it is ranked very low among crucial issues by the population in general (and the growing threat of nuclear war, the second existential issue, is not even listed in attitude surveys). MORE

 

6 Glimmers of Climate Optimism for the End of a Dark Year

It was a year of frightening reports on the future of our planet. But sustainability experts are still feeling optimistic about some of the strides we’ve made this year.


Photo: Victor Rodriguez/Unsplash

In 2018, we learned from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have around 30 years to fully decarbonize or risk widespread global devastation from warming and sea-level rise. We also learned that current emissions patterns are nowhere near in line with that goal. Even though the Trump administration tried to bury the U.S.’s own findings on climate, the 1,656-page National Climate Assessment backed up the IPCC report, and called for a doubling down on climate protection policies to prevent damage (which is already underway) to the environment and the country’s infrastructure.

The consensus among scientists, researchers, and sustainability experts following this years’ reports is that while stopping climate change will require an undoubtedly Herculean effort, the biggest hurdle is political, not technical. In other words, if all the innovations in sustainable technology and science were harnessed and directed at reducing emissions and environmental collapse, we might stand a chance at meeting the goals laid out in the reports.

Don’t get us wrong: It will take a heroic, global effort if we’re even going to come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius–the point after which, according to the reports, large swaths of the planet will become uninhabitable, and issues like mass starvation will become widespread. And the lack of leadership from the United States, under climate change denier Donald Trump, is making cohesive political action difficult.

But underneath all this, activists, scientists, and business leaders are working to advance progressive climate action, and despite everything, have hung onto a sense of optimism as we move into 2019. Here are some reasons why:

1. We Have the Potential to Radically Shift the Way We Eat

Image result for burger

On the heels of the IPCC report, the World Resources Institute released research tracking global meat consumption, and found that food production, especially animal agriculture, accounts for around a quarter of all emissions. It’s the single-largest driver of climate change. This makes a pretty compelling case for wide-scale adoption of vegetarianism and veganism, but far more importantly, should clue in food distributors, like restaurants and grocery stores, that they need to change their offerings. That’s already happening. This year, the plant-based Impossible Burger started appearing everywhere from airline menus to fast-food restaurants, and is preparing to launch in grocery storesJust, another startup, is growing real meat in bioreactors, which dramatically reduces emissions and the environmental footprint of meat production. It’s possible, now, to imagine a future where factory-farm-produced meat is replaced by plant-based versions, or meat grown in labs.

2. We Can Grow More Food Without Damaging the Environment

“Over the last century, we’ve relied heavily on fertilizer to meet the food demands of a growing population,” says Karsten Temme, CEO of the startup Pivot Bio. Fertilizer is most commonly made from synthetic nitrogen, which is easy to produce and distribute, but releases a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Synthetic nitrogen alone is responsible for around 5% of global warming. Next year, Temme’s startup will begin delivering a new, natural alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to farmers. Pivot Bio’s product consists of natural, nitrogen-producing microbes that adhere to plants’ roots, supporting plant growth while eradicating the need for environment-damaging synthetic versions. Especially as populations grow and land constricts due to climate change, well-fertilized crops will be necessary to meet food demands. MORE

This is HUGE! Europe’s leaders are about to decide whether to END carbon pollution completely

Image result for Climate change: Parliament’s blueprint for long-term CO2 cuts
Decarbonisation is also an opportunity for industry, say MEPs© AP Images/European Union-EP

This is HUGE — Europe’s leaders are about to decide whether to END carbon pollution completely! But dirty energy blockers like Poland are trying to derail the plan. Let’s show governments there’s massive public support for 100% clean energy to tackle the climate crisis — add your name now and share widely!

SIGN THE PETITION

If they do it, it would be a giant leap towards a safe climate for all. But dirty energy blockers, like Poland, are already trying to derail the plan — and it’s up to us to defend it.

We urgently need a massive show of public support from the whole world for the plan — so let’s build one, and we’ll deliver it to all the key governments before EU leaders meet in days. Add your name now to join the call for 100% clean energy to meet the climate emergency!

Europe: End climate pollution!

Can you imagine how big a deal it would be if an entire continent announced a plan to abandon the filthy fossil fuels that are choking our skies with carbon? It could really happen — and soon!

Under the Paris climate deal, countries are required to develop new plans for rapidly reducing carbon emissions. The EU’s will be one of the first plans to be published — and experts say it will set the tone for other plans all over the world.

So let’s throw the whole weight of our magical movement behind this amazing idea. We’ll deliver our voices to all the governments ahead of the talks, and pressure blockers like Poland to back down. Join now, and let’s make this the end for dirty climate pollution!

Europe: End climate pollution!

The fight for our climate is a fight for humanity’s future. And our movement has risen time and time again to fight for the safe, sustainable future that is within our grasp. Now we must do it again — to end the era of fossil fuels for good.

Why Scientists Should Support the Youth Climate Strike

Climate Spring for future's photo.
MAY24

Their generation will be greatly impacted by the effects of climate change, so it is critical that their voices are heard

Why Scientists Should Support the Youth Climate Strike
Credit: Guy Smallman Getty Images

Over the past few months, young people around the world have been protesting inaction on climate change by leaving their classrooms and marching in the streets. On Friday, March 15, [was] the largest day of protest yet, with marches in over 1600 locations around the world.

We, the March for Science, an international community of scientists, science advocates, teachers, and parents, emphatically support the Global Youth Climate Strike.

We commit to doing whatever we can to lift up the voices of young people and encourage their leadership. Their generation will be greatly impacted by the effects of climate change. It is critical that their voices are heard.

They are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address the climate crisis. They are striking because marginalized communities across the world—especially communities of color, disabled communities, and low-income communities— are already disproportionately impacted by climate change. They are striking because their futures are at stake.

Their actions are backed by the best available science which shows that we need to rapidly decarbonize our economy and deeply transform society in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. They are treating the issue of climate change with the urgency that science and justice demand. MORE

Children push ahead with historic lawsuit to force Trump administration to tackle climate change

Judge already ruled there could be constitutional right to a safe environment

Image result for youth-lrd climate change
Thousands of youth strikers gather in Parliament Square in central London to protest the government’s lack of action on climate change.   Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A group of children are suing the US government for failing to protect them against climate change, in a case which could force the authorities to rapidly decarbonise the American economy.

The unprecedented lawsuit accuses successive administrations of knowing the science of climate change but not taking enough action to protect US citizens from the damage it causes.

The case, first filed in 2015, was initially dismissed by most legal observers as hopeless, but in 2016 a federal judge, Ann Aiken, stunned the government by refusing its attempt to end the case.

Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at UCLA, said this was a major development as no court had ever previously upheld the idea the government had a duty to provide its citizens a stable and safe environment.  “[But] I think that Judge Aiken actually does a very good job of saying it’s not radical to ask the government to protect the health, and the lives and the property of this current generation of kids.” MORE

RELATED:

Can they save us? Meet the climate kids fighting to fix the planet

 

Environmental justice and the Green New Deal

Hundreds gather in San Francisco with the youth led Sunrise Movement. Photo: Peg Hunter/Flickr
There are a number of ecosocialist responses to the Green New Deal, converging for the most part around the recognition that though it is not the Green New Deal most of us would prefer, it is the opportunity to move the paralysis of the climate change movement very far in the right — left — direction that our times so desperately need.

This is a series of essays in six voices, from longtime activists who participate in the North American ecosocialist network System Change Not Climate Change. Each was challenged to make their point in 500 words or less. It was intended as a constructive contribution to the wonderful storm of discussion that the Green New Deal has opened up. Read the full series here.

The Green New Deal, like some sort of eco-superhero, has arrived at the eleventh hour. Naomi Klein writes hopefully of it as a plan to address global warming that at long last matches the scale of the crisis. Klein (co-author of the Green New Deal-esque “Leap Manifesto“) has reason for optimism — a Green New Deal is not a single policy intervention, but a systemic approach to transform our economy and energy system and build sustainable, democratically-empowered communities.

The point of the concept is in its name — “green” and “New Deal.” It marries the need for decarbonization to a reimagining of a just and fair society embodied in slogans like “climate justice” and “just transition.” The Green New Deal concept has arisen from many quarters, including decades of work by environmental justice groups, the Green Party (which insists on defunding the military in order to fund life), and, more recently, the Sunrise Movement as well as rebellious politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who have brought visibility to the concept.

Both decarbonization and justice are crucial. Since climate change is engendered by a ruling class that exists via a class that is ruled, decarbonization won’t happen without creation of a just and equitable economics and society. MORE