Critics Say the Green New Deal Is Too Costly. Here’s the Cost of the Status Quo.

Taxpayers are spending billions subsidizing polluting industries.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) at a press conference introducing a resolution calling for a Green New Deal, February 7, 2019. Source: Senate Democrats


Cows. Source: Pexels

Beef and Dairy

There’s enough excess cheese in the US to wrap around the Capitol building. Source: Pixabay
An airport. Source: Pixabay

Air Travel

Airplanes are a significant source of carbon pollution. Source: Pixabay 

The coal gasification plant in Kemper, Missouri. Source: XTUV0010

Coal Power

Coal. Source: Pixabay

The 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC. Source: South Bend Voice

 

Youth lawsuit draws attention to climate crisis

 

Youth litigants at press release.
Children shouldn’t have to march in the streets or take their governments to court. But in times of crisis people have to do what they can to get the many available and emerging solutions implemented.(Photo: Robin Loznak)

Children and teens are at a disadvantage. They can’t vote and have little say in many plans and policies that will determine their futures. The political decisions made today will affect their lives profoundly.

Scientists worldwide have warned we only have a decade to get emissions down substantially or face the well-known consequences of rapidly accelerating global heating. The costly effects are already being felt — from contaminated air and water to increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events to melting permafrost and species extinction.

With no real say in the political process, children and youth are taking to the streets worldwide, demanding that those in power do more to address this very real crisis. The message appears to be getting through. Climate disruption and plans to deal with it became a key issue in the recent Canadian election.

But instead of doing everything possible to ensure these young people have a secure, healthy future, governments here and elsewhere continue to expand fossil fuel infrastructure, arguing — as they have for decades — that we can’t get off fossil fuels overnight. It’s kind of like an addict who really isn’t ready to quit.

A group of young people has decided marching isn’t enough. The 15 youth, ranging in age from seven to 19, and hailing from Vancouver Island to the Northwest Territories to Nova Scotia, are taking the federal government to court “to protect their charter and public trust rights from climate change harms,” claiming the federal government’s failure to take actions consistent with the scientific evidence violates their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and for failing to protect essential public trust resources.

Since climate change disproportionately affects youth, they’re also alleging that government’s conduct violates their right to equality under section 15 of the charter. The youth are supported by the David Suzuki Foundation, Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, and Our Children’s Trust and represented by law firms Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation.

They aren’t seeking money. Rather, they’ll ask for a Federal Court order requiring Canada’s government to prepare a plan to redress charter and public trust doctrine violations by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making a sufficient contribution to preventing, mitigating, and redressing dangerous climate change.

As 13-year-old Sáj Starcevich from Saskatchewan says, “The planet is dying. The animals are dying. We will all die if we don’t act. As an Indigenous vegan, I fight for Earth and her inhabitants. The youth have to step up because no one else has. We need you to join us to end this climate crisis.”

A gradual transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation would have been possible had we taken the climate crisis seriously even in the 1980s, when scientists including NASA’s James Hansen were sounding the alarm. But, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points out, we”ve now pumped so many greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere that we’ve locked in many inevitable consequences.

To prevent runaway impacts, we have to cut emissions immediately and protect and restore forests, wetlands and other natural systems, including oceans, that sequester carbon.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for a long time, while gases like methane remain for less time but have a greater effect on rising global temperatures. Everything we pump into the air now will remain for decades, causing the planet to continue heating for years. To prevent runaway impacts, we have to cut emissions immediately and protect and restore forests, wetlands and other natural systems, including oceans, that sequester carbon.

As adults, we’ve helped create this mess through rampant consumerism and lack of attention to the problems our pollution is causing. We owe it to the children to help clean it up, to push for the kinds of changes the scientific evidence calls for. We can’t leave it to the youth, because by the time they grow up, Earth could well have reached the tipping point for climate catastrophe.

Children shouldn’t have to march in the streets or take their own governments to court. But in times of crisis — which this surely is — people have to do what they can to get the many available and emerging solutions implemented.

Let’s listen to the kids and leave them a brighter future! SOURCE

Fossil Fuel Companies Knew How Hard Keeping to IPCC’s ‘Unprecedented’ 1.5C Limit Would Be — And Did Nothing

Benxi steel industry
Image: Andreas Habich/Wikimedia Commons CC BYSA 3.0

The scientists are clear: “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are needed if the humans are going to prevent the world warming by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

This news — emanating from the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) mammoth new special report —  comes as a surprise to almost no-one. Least of all the fossil fuel industry, which has known for decades that the carbon budget that keeps that goal within reach has been rapidly depleting thanks to its products.

So how did we get here, to a place where plotting a path to keep planetary warming within this highly desirable limit requires changes on a scale for which “there is no documented historic precedent”?

Exxon Knew, Shell Knew

Fossil fuel companies have known for decades that their products would lead us to this point.

Back in 1982, Exxon published this graph, which shows a probable temperature rise of 1.5°C some time between 2030 and 2040:


Source: Graph from an internal 1982 Exxon briefing document

Today’s report confirms how scarily accurate that prediction is likely to be — it says that on current trends, the world is expected to wam by 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052. It also shows that the world has already currently warmed by about 1°C since pre-industrial levels thanks to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Exxon wasn’t the only fossil fuel company to commit resources to understanding this problem in the early days. An internal document from 1988 shows Shell also knew back that fossil fuel emissions were likely to lead to 1.5°C to 3.5°C of warming. On current trends, they’d be right — under current policies, the world is expected to warm by about 3.1°C to 3.7°C.


Source: Clipping from a 1988 internal Shell document entitled, ‘The Greenhouse Effect’

‘Unprecedented Changes’

The IPCC’s special report is the result of a huge collaboration between 91 authors and 114 co-authors, with 42,000 comments on drafts of the document, Climate Home reports.

The report says that if the world is going to keep to 1.5°C of warming without ‘overshooting’ — passing the limit then using technology to bring warming back down — then “rapid and far -reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure” are needed.

“These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options”, the scientists say.

…But the IPCC says the benefits of delivering that more ambitious target are big, and worth pursuing.

But the IPCC report has confirmed an inconvenient truth for the industry: that if temperature rises are going to be held to safe level, there is little space for fossil fuels.

The report says that if warming is going to be limited to 1.5°C, with limited or no overshoot, renewables will need to provide 70 to 85 percent of electricity in 2050.  MORE

 

Vast subsidies keeping the fossil fuel industry afloat should be put to better use

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(MENAFN – The Conversation) Capitalism has often been identified as the underlying cause of theclimate crisis . A leading voice on the subject is Naomi Klein, one of the climate movements most influential thinkers, whose seminal book onclimate changewas subtitled Capitalism vs. the Climate. She is one of many voices identifying capitalism as the cause of climate change.

Often central within the capitalism versus the climate framing is the idea that the heart of capitalist ideology – free market fundamentalism – has fuelled the climate crisis. But this line of argument often glosses over the fact that energy markets are not free from government intervention. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is deeply and increasingly reliant on government support to survive.

Ina forthcoming book chapter , I detail case studies from the world’s worst climate polluting countries. I show that the fossil fuel industry depends on an egregious amount of government support, which makes the public foot the bill for a harmful – and increasingly uncompetitive – industry.

Polluters market

In my chapter, I show that governments the world over favour fossil fuel interests throughpublic financing ,financial subsidies , andbailouts . In addition, the fossil fuel industry is helped bycorrupt governance systems . Together this forms what I call a system of fossil fuel welfare and protectionism.

To hide this reality, the fossil fuel industry has invested ina massive public relationsscheme (read: propaganda campaign) to paint itself as the defender of the free market. In the US, the fossil fuel industry has even,quite successfully , duped Evangelicals into associating the fossil fuel industry with free markets, and free markets with God’s will. Thus, attacks on the fossil fuel industry become attacks on God’s will. But if God’s will was really aligned with the free market, then the fossil fuel industry would be doing the devil’s work.

Take South Africa, for example, the biggest carbon polluter on the African continent. It used to be home to the world’sfastest growing renewable energy sector , but government intervention to protect polluting coal interests set back these advances. Under President Cyril Ramaphosa the government is now taking steps to allowsmall amountsof new renewable energy into the market. But government actions continue to slowthe immense potentialSouth Africa has for a low-cost, renewable energy revolution.

Arecent studyreported that South Africa subsidises coal by R56,6 billion per year – propping up a polluting industry with taxpayer money. South Africa continues to subsidise coal despite studies showing that renewable energy was helpingto prevent energy blackouts , wassaving South Africa billions on energyand that a renewable energy future is the country’slowest costenergy pathway.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) study showed that the US, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas emitter, givesten times more to fossil fuel subsidies than it does to education . Without such subsidies half of future oil production in the USwould be unprofitable .

As for coal, even the Wall Street Journal admits that US coalsimply can’t compete on a level playing field , and is losing out despite its major subsidies.Studies revealthat without regulation to shield them from market forces, about half of the coal plants in the US would be going bankrupt.

The fossil fuel industry is increasingly relying on the heavy hand of the government to protect fossil fuels from competition. Subsidies and protective policies shield fossil fuels from the reality that renewable energy has become the cheapest energy sourceworldwide.

MORE

Shine On: Solar power is eclipsing coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy with rapid growth and cost reductions

Image result for solar

A heatwave across Europe was a reminder of the dangers of climate breakdown, but also of the enormous opportunities for tapping into the clean renewable energy that can replace the fossil fuels that drive global warming.

Ever since 2013, the installation of new renewable energy capacity has outstripped all other major energy generating sources combined, coal, oil, gas and nuclear. There are impressive figures for all renewables but the growth and fall in costs of solar power has stunned even seasoned industry observers.

Since its invention in 1954 in the United States, the photovoltaic (PV) cell has offered access to the sun’s energy for free. But it is only in the last decade that the cost of manufacturing solar panels has plummeted dramatically, making them not only affordable but sometimes even the cheapest form of electricity, outcompeting fossil fuels. The City of Los Angeles is negotiating a 25 year power purchase agreement that would deliver solar PV generated electricity at 2¢/kWh and battery storage at 1.3¢/kWh. In the response, the leading authority on renewable energy, Prof of civil and environmental engineering, Mark Z Jacobson, commented, “Goodnight natural gas, goodnight coal, goodnight nuclear.” According to Forbes magazine, this is half the cost of electricity generated from a new natural gas plant, often touted as the efficient, acceptable face of fossil fuels. MORE

Lessons for a rapid transition

  1. Governments play a vital part in stimulating industries that advance zero carbon technologies with tax incentives and other forms of financial support to encourage early uptake.
  2. Bringing down costs is vital for the widespread adoption of any technology, and once scaled up the fall in costs can be dramatic.
  3. Solar power offers unique opportunities to poorer energy consumers in the global South, with its high levels of sunshine and often patchy energy networks.

Is Planting Trees The New Carbon Fighting Technology?

One has to wonder why it has taken so long to discover that tree-planting done on a massive global scale is likely to become one of the most effective tools in the carbon-fighting toolbox. A new study just out in Science journal claims that reforestation is “our most effective climate change solution to date.” This is mind-boggling. We are spending precious time and billions on technologies to suck carbon dioxide out the air we breathe. And trees can do this—for nothing. The following article by Stephen Leahy was first published in National Geographic. (Editor’s intro)

Planting Lots of Trees

An area the size of the United States could be restored as forests with the potential of erasing nearly 100 years of carbon emissions, according to the first ever study to determine how many trees the Earth could support.

Published [recently] in Science, “The global tree restoration potential” report found that there is enough suitable land to increase the world’s forest cover by one-third without affecting existing cities or agriculture. However, the amount of suitable land area diminishes as global temperatures rise. Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the area available for forest restoration could be reduced by a fifth by 2050 because it would be too warm for some tropical forests.

“Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today,” said Tom Crowther, a researcher at ETH Zürich, and senior author of the study.

Not a substitute for phasing out fossils

That does not alter the vital importance of protecting existing forests and phasing out fossil fuels since new forests would take decades to mature, Crowther said in a statement.

“If we act now, this could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by up to 25 percent, to levels last seen almost a century ago,” he says.

It could take more than a hundred years to add enough mature forest to get sufficient levels of carbon reduction. Meanwhile 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels are being added to the atmosphere every year, said Glen Peters, research director at Norway’s Center for International Climate Research. MORE

Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees

Forests are one of the world’s most significant sources of food, new medicines and oxygen. Scientist and author Diana Beresford-Kroeger explores our profound biological and spiritual connection with trees, and meets people who are taking the lead to replant, restore and protect the last of the planet’s great ancient forests. WATCH THE VIDEO  (52:07)

Varshini Prakash of the Sunrise Movement on Climate Justice, the Green New Deal, and Revolution

“We didn’t ask to have the responsibility of protecting human civilization on our shoulders. But we’re stepping up to the plate.”

Varshini Prakash
Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash addresses The Road to the Green New Deal Tour final event at Howard University on May 13, 2019. (AP Photo / Cliff Owen)

It was on a Sunday in March 2014 when I first heard Varshini Prakash fire up a crowd. Several hundred young people were crammed into a quadrangle on the Georgetown University campus, ready to march to the White House—where nearly 400 of them would be arrested protesting the Keystone XL and other tar-sands pipelines. A junior at UMass-Amherst at the time, organizing the (successful) fossil-fuel divestment campaign, Prakash, bullhorn in hand, had an emphatic message for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

“We don’t want half-baked solutions!” she declared with attention-getting intensity. “We can’t gamble with false promises! We won’t settle for an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy when what this looming crisis demands is a none-of-the-above approach to fossil fuels!”

By the fall of 2015, Prakash and a small group of experienced young climate-justice activists had reached the conclusion, correctly, that what they and most of the climate movement were doing wasn’t enough. They realized, as she told me when we sat down for a conversation at a Boston coffee shop in May, “We need a new movement in America for young people.”

What Prakash and her 11 co-founders went on to build is now known to the world as the Sunrise Movement. Last November, with a media-savvy, hundreds-strong sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill, they famously launched the fight for the game-changing Green New Deal—and reshaped the landscape of the 2020 election campaign. Thanks to their resilience and steely resolve, a carefully considered organizing strategy focused on electoral politics, some fortuitous timing, and the help of—among many other people—a rock-star rookie congresswoman named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, they have injected an unprecedented urgency and seriousness into the climate debate in this country. MORE