Madagascar is Ground Zero for Climate Injustice

1 week ago

“Unprecedented” is a word that’s been thrown around a lot lately.

Unprecedented fires in the American West, Siberia, and the Amazon. Unprecedented flooding in the US and Europe. Last year’s Atlantic hurricane season featured an unprecedented number of named storms – several of which intensified so rapidly it was, you guessed it, unprecedented.

(We’re still waiting to see how 2021 shakes out; so far, we’re not off to a great start.)

But the humanitarian crisis unfolding right now in southern Madagascar defies even that frightening word. “Catastrophic” seems far more apt when tens of thousands are already starving and over a million more are on the brink of it.

All because the rains never came.

The reason why is familiar to those who’ve lost homes and loved ones to forest fires and air pollution, pets and hard-worked pastures to powerful hurricanes and flooding.

The climate crisis.

And the tragedies unfolding in Madagascar and elsewhere right now could serve as a preview of what’s in store in even more places around the world as our climate rapidly changes – unless we act now to stop it.

What’s Happening in Southern Madagascar?

Parts of southern Madagascar are experiencing a devastating, drought-driven food security crisis that has left thousands of families foraging for food, “living on raw red cactus fruits, wild leaves and locusts for months now.”

The country is in the throes of its worst drought in 40 years.

The United Nations reports that nearly 14,000 people are currently enduring “catastrophic conditions.” They are living under what is internationally recognized as an IPC Level 5 famine – a declaration made when “an area has at least 20% of households facing an extreme lack of food, at least 30% of children suffering from acute malnutrition, and two people for every 10,000 dying each day due to outright starvation or to the interaction of malnutrition and disease.”

And that number is expected to double by October.

All told, over 1.14 million people in the region are considered food insecure, and desperately need emergency food and nutrition assistance.
 


The unfolding catastrophe in Madagascar is unique, however, in one important way. According to the World Food Program, Madagascar “is the only place in the world today where ‘famine-like conditions’ have been driven by climate not conflict.”

That’s right. The climate crisis is putting millions of people at risk of starvation. Not tomorrow. Not a few years down the road. Today. Right now.

Time Magazine’s headline on the situation puts it as plainly as it gets: “Madagascar's Famine is the First in Modern History to be Solely Caused by Global Warming.”

And sadly, southern Madagascar is expected to grow even hotter and experience more frequent drought as our climate continues to warm.

Climate Change and Drought

The situation in Madagascar is an example of the climate crisis doing what it does best: amplifying an existing climate problem.

It’s true that southern Africa and Madagascar are historically dry. And that the region has experienced drought before. So, what’s different this time around?

The duration and severity of the current drought bear the dirty fingerprints of human-caused (and thus human-solvable) climate change.

Carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas is warming our planet and throwing natural systems out of balance – to often devastating effect. And while droughts can have different causes depending on the area of the world and other natural factors, scientists have started to link more intense droughts to climate change.

That’s because as more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the air, causing air temperatures to increase, more moisture evaporates from lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. Warmer temperatures also increase evaporation in soils, which affects plant life by parching the land and can reduce rainfall even more.

It’s a dangerous feedback loop: “Higher air temperatures not only encourage drought conditions to build but also intensify them. What might have otherwise been a mild or moderate drought in a cooler world will become, in a warmer world, more severe as a result of increased evaporation.” (via Yale Climate Connections)

Climate Injustice In Action

The crisis in southern Madagascar highlights the climate injustice playing out across the planet – all around the world, the people least responsible for the climate crisis are paying the highest price for inaction.

The average person in Madagascar emits just 0.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) per year. The average American? 15.7 MtCO2e. Every year.

One of the many sad truths of the climate crisis is this: Globally, those suffering the most from climate impacts like sweltering heat, never-ending drought, and ever-more powerful storms are overwhelmingly people of color in poorer nations that contribute little to the GHGs driving climate change.

Indeed, the majority of the 10 countries hit hardest by climate-fueled extreme weather from 1999-2018 are also on the list of the world’s least developed nations.

Does that seem fair to you?

It’s injustice, pure and simple. And it’s got to stop.

"This is unprecedented. These people have done nothing to contribute to climate change,” a representative of the UN World Food Programme told the BBC. “They don't burn fossil fuels… and yet they are bearing the brunt of climate change.”

But What Can I Do?

You can join the fight for environmental and climate justice for all, that’s what!

It starts with signing up now to receive emails from The Climate Reality Project.

Because it’s time to fight.

For a world where we all breathe clean air and drink safe water. For a future where people of color and poor families no longer suffer the worst of climate change while the wealthy look away. For good jobs and real opportunities for all.

No matter what we look like or where we come from.

Be the first to take real climate action when it matters the most. Sign up now.

climate changeclimate crisisdroughtMadagascarAfricarainfarmingagriculturestarvationfaminefoodFood Securityfood insecurity Content Components:  Not in the US? In the US? .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }   .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }     The Climate Reality ProjectDrought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowHow Feedback Loops Are Making the Climate Crisis WorseThe Climate Crisis is a Threat to National SecurityLead: Climate crisis-driven drought is putting millions of people at risk of starvation in Madagascar – and around the world. Not tomorrow. It’s happening right now.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/madagascar-ground-zero-climate-injustice?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Madagascar is Ground Zero for Climate InjusticeTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3Ck1LyB
ipacha

We Need to Pass the Clean Electricity Payment Program

1 week 2 days ago

Think of our moment this way.

You and your family are driving straight toward a cliff.

Do you lightly tap the brakes?

Or slam your foot as hard as possible?

In some ways, this is exactly the choice now facing Congress as members debate a staggeringly ambitious set of climate measures in the upcoming budget reconciliation package.

Take Action: Tell Congress: Go Big on Climate in 2021

In case members of Congress missed it – or just haven’t been home to their districts in a while – their constituents have been through one hell of a summer on the climate front.

From the lethal heatwaves baking the Northwest to Western wildfires choking the country with smoke to the trail of destruction and loss Ida left from New Orleans clear to New England, nearly one-in-three Americans lived through a climate disaster in just these past three months alone.

Just to underscore the stakes here, last month, the world’s top climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released a report exploring the consequences of global warming at 1.5, 2, 3 degrees Celsius and beyond. The bottom line is that unless we get serious about cutting emissions, the summer we all just went through stops looking like a disastrous exception by mid-century and more like the good old days.

Which all comes together to give Congress a simple choice: Do we slam on the brakes now, while we still have road ahead – or gently tap the pedal and act surprised when we go sailing off the edge?

The CEPP: Hitting the Brakes on Pollution

When it comes to big moves to cut carbon pollution and help stop warming, we can get extraordinary bang-for-emissions-reduction-buck with the Clean Electricity Payment Program (CEPP) now working through Congress.

To cut to the chase, if we can only do one thing to fight climate change in what is likely our last window for bold legislation in time to make a difference, it has to be passing the CEPP.

Put simply, we are in a race against time. The IPCC is crystal clear that unless we cut global emissions in half by 2030, we can expect global warming to exceed 1.5 degrees C, opening the door to a future where the results go from bad to downright biblical.

The US, as the world’s largest economy and one of the largest polluters, has a tremendous role to play in overall emissions. Not only by virtue of our actual emissions, but also by way of the signal our demonstrated commitment to cutting those emissions sends to other economies. To put it simply, if the US (finally) gets serious, other leading economies will too.

With the clock ticking, you aim for where you can make the biggest emissions cuts fastest. In the US, that’s the power sector, which alone is responsible for 25% of total emissions, according to 2019 data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s a huge slice of the overall pie, and – just to mix metaphors – the CEPP takes a huge bite, aiming to bring the overall sector to 80% renewable by 2030.

How the program does it is smart, using a combination of carrot and stick. The CEPP does this by requiring every US electricity generator to start accounting for their carbon emissions in 2023 and reduce them by 4% each year.

The government then pays generators who exceed this threshold $150 for every megawatt hour in total retail sales above that 4% baseline. Basically, the more renewables you use (and emissions you reduce), the more you can make.

On the flipside, the government charges generators who fall short of that 4% threshold $40 for every megawatt hour of sales below that number. In short, providing financial incentives for doing the right thing and penalties for polluting.

The other smart feature of this design is that it takes advantage of existing market trends making renewables cheaper and cheaper and even undercutting new coal, gas, or oil facilities in more and more parts of the world.

The CEPP Would Create Millions of Jobs

The benefits of the CEPP go beyond emissions reduction. A new report by the Analyst Group shows that the program would create 7.7 million new jobs by 2031 and add $1 trillion to the economy.

Critically, the report shows these jobs would be spread across US states and sectors, with new jobs created not just in construction, but also manufacturing and retail, providing multiple points of entry into a growing clean energy economy.

No surprise, this kind of initiative is incredibly popular with Americans all across the country. Recent polling found that the majority of voters in all US states and 429 of 435 Congressional districts support government action to achieve a 100% clean energy power sector by 2035.

That’s not just blue states. That’s red, blue, and every shade of purple in between. And that should tell Congress about what the American people – rather than lobbyists and interest groups – actually want.

Let’s Skip the Dumb Math

A quick note on the opposition to the program. Some members of Congress are suddenly getting very vocal about the cost of the CEPP, estimated in the ballpark of $150 billion.

To be clear, that is a lot of money. But let’s also remember the estimated $1 trillion in economic return the program would bring. And that as the US hasn’t invested in real climate action, we’ve experienced some 81 weather and climate disasters that together inflicted an incredible $630.2 billion in damages in just the past five years alone.

In a year when we’ve seen just one climate-fueled storm alone – Hurricane Ida – bring an estimated $95 billion in damage, not spending the program price to create millions of jobs and help avoid future catastrophe isn’t just bad policy, it’s flat out dumb.

There’s also a strong justice element here. Opposition to the CEPP price tag acts as if our current fossil fuel power sector comes with no cost. The truth is, along with changing our climate, fossil fuel pollution kills. Recent research found that pollutants from burning coal and gas contributed to 8.7 million deaths – or nearly one in five deaths – worldwide in 2018.

No surprise, these deaths and the myriad health consequences that do not quite reach mortality but still choke lungs and dreams and transform lives fall disproportionately on people of color in the US. Thanks to a world where not only power plants but also highways and other infrastructure overwhelmingly get built close to communities of color, Black and Latino Americans, for example, are exposed to 56 and 63% more fossil fuel pollutants than white Americans.

The CEPP doesn’t solve this deep injustice or the structural racism that created it overnight. But it does begin to drive a transition to a more just and equitable power sector while shifting the costs from individuals to the progressive tax code and cutting real pollution that’s killing Americans of color right here and now. And that’s a step more than worth taking.

This Is Our Moment

It’s worth repeating that passing the CEPP is the single most important thing we can do as a nation to slam on the brakes before we reach the climate cliff. Other measures – like key tax credits for clean energy and transportation and a commitment to ensuring at least 40% of climate action benefits go to disadvantaged communities – are still critical to cutting overall US emissions at least 50% by 2030. But the CEPP is the most critical step of all.

It’s also worth repeating that with an election year looming and political changes likely in the years ahead, this may be the last chance we get to pass big, bold climate measures that can transform our energy sector and economy in time to make a difference. Which is to say, this vote and this budget bill is for all the marbles.

We have a say in what happens, of course. Congress may not pass the bill on its own, with opposition from industry groups and fossil fuel advocates strong. If ever there was a time to stand up and speak up, to be brave and demand action from your leaders, this is that time.

Take action and tell your members of Congress: Go big on climate action in 2021. While we still have time.

clean electricityelectricityreformClean Electricity Payment ProgrambilllawcongressCEPPThe Climate Reality ProjectThe World Is On Fire. Do Something About ItModernizing the Grid: Regulating the FutureWhy We Need a National Climate BankLead: If the US is serious about stopping global warming, we have to pass the CEPP this fall.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/we-need-pass-clean-electricity-performance-program?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: We Need to Pass the Clean Electricity Payment ProgramTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3ltFVC9
ipacha

The World Is On Fire. Do Something About It

2 weeks 6 days ago

Our climate is changing. Inequality is growing. And we have to act now.

The recent IPCC report makes this case clearer now than ever: if we don’t come together as a global community to quickly achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, we are committing to a dangerous climate future with increases in extreme heat and droughts, shifting precipitation patterns, intense hurricanes and cyclones, and potentially irreversible changes to biodiversity and ecosystems all around the world.

We’re seeing it play out in real time – in the US, where Hurricane Ida devastated the Gulf Coast; in Madagascar, where a historic drought has left millions without enough to eat; in the Amazon, Siberia, Greece, and the western US, where devastating wildfires continue to destroy community after community; and of course, we saw it in the floods that killed hundreds across Europe earlier this summer.

The good news is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – if we work hard enough to achieve it. Because human-created climate change can be human-solved climate change – and we have the tool in our hands right now to do it.

To end this crisis and achieve a better, just, and more-sustainable future for the planet, we must come together and through grassroots advocacy, create the change we need to see. It starts now at Climate Reality’s upcoming virtual global training.

Bring your courage, commitment, and passion. Leave with the knowledge and tools to shape public opinion, inspire action in your community, and lead the global fight for solutions.

Read on to discover some of what the incredible group of renowned experts, scientists, Indigenous, youth, and BIPOC leaders, and long-time climate activists we’ve assembled for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Virtual Global Training will be discussing during the October event.

Public Health Impacts

For this training, our focus will be on one of the most profound impacts of the climate crisis today – because the simple truth is this: Climate change will continue to exacerbate existing threats to health and give rise to new ones.

According to the World Health Organization, “Climate change is impacting human lives and health in a variety of ways. It threatens the essential ingredients of good health – clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter – and has the potential to undermine decades of progress in global health.

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone. The direct damage costs to health is estimated to be between USD $2-4 billion per year by 2030.”

The climate crisis threatens to touch almost every aspect of our health, from the food we eat and the water we drink to diseases spreading faster and further than ever before.

Right now, a climate tragedy is unfolding in Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, as the country endures its worst drought in four decades. Time magazine’s headline on the crisis gets right to the quick, reading, “Climate, Not Conflict. Madagascar's Famine is the First in Modern History to be Solely Caused by Global Warming.”

The result: 1.14 million food insecure people – and tens of thousands already experiencing famine.

Rising global temperatures themselves also drive dire health outcomes. Beyond the tragic fatalities that can result directly, extreme weather events driven by rising temperatures and hotter-than-ever seas can damage infrastructure, jeopardizing access to lifesaving care for extended periods of time, and compromise water quality and food supplies.

Parts of Louisiana in the US, including all of New Orleans, saw this (again) just this week, as Hurricane Ida rapidly intensified into a Category 4 monster that brought dangerous 150 mph winds, feet of rain, and major storm surge that left over a million people without power.

Learn more about the climate crisis’ impact on public health with the resources below:

Global Climate Justice

No conversation about the climate crisis is complete without considering how it disproportionately affects some communities more than others.

Low-income households and Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities around the world are more likely than more-affluent and whiter communities to live in proximity to polluting industries like oil refineries and pipeline infrastructure, leading to greater exposure to pollution from burning fossil fuels and chemicals leaching into the water table. And because of discriminatory policies and poor city planning, these same communities are often hit first and worst by climate-exacerbated events like extreme drought, major floods, wildfires, and urban heat islands.

Elsewhere, drought is driving farmers to the brink – forcing some to leave their homes entirely in pursuit of the basics to sustain life: food, water, shelter.

All while many never even know it’s happening.

But you know better.

Every person in every community has a right to breathe clean air, live free from the threat of toxic pollution, access healthy food, and be part of the prosperous clean energy economy of tomorrow.

So how do we get there?

We prioritize justice in the transition to a clean energy economy. That means centering the communities bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change.

To start, countries that bear the greatest responsibility for the climate crisis – like many of the G20 nations responsible for around 80% of global warming emissions – must contribute their fair share not only to reducing their own emissions but to supporting mitigation and adaptation strategies in climate-vulnerable countries with knowledge, resources, and funding. This also requires wealthy nations to support communities in the transition away from fossil fuels to ensure that they are not left behind in the transition.

During the virtual global training, we will discuss the opportunity presented by the upcoming COP26 conference in Scotland to put real pressure on world leaders and demand progress in emissions reductions – and to insist that they happen the right way.

Grassroots Advocacy

The last few years have tested the strength of the climate movement.

A global pandemic — one made worse by climate change — has killed over 4 million people across the globe and left millions more unemployed and wondering where the money for the rent or the electric bill or the groceries is coming from.

Young people, with their futures on the line, are walking out of classrooms and into the streets, decrying the lack of action from their leaders.

There’s no doubt we are in the throes of an especially challenging moment. But we also have too much important work to do – in communities just like yours – to solve this crisis. And in the climate movement, grassroots action has always been the driving force for change.

That’s why we’re offering skill-building sessions in effective organizing and speaking with decision-makers. If our trained Leaders’ past successes are any indication, we’re onto something:

In the US, young, BIPOC activists, and their allies have campaigned and protested the expansion of fossil fuel pipelines, recently leading to the shutdown of several major pipelines. Our organizers have seen petrochemical plants be denied permits thanks to their work. In Japan, trained advocates worked to block the expansion of new coal fired power plants, leading to the cancellation of one of the largest plants and avoiding 12 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.

And that’s just the start.

We find ourselves in a unique moment of possibility, one where we have the chance to think big and act boldly. But it’s not going to happen on its own. The future of the planet, quite literally, rests on our shared success in communities big and small all around the world.

Climate Solutions

More and more, communities aren’t waiting for governments to lead on climate – they’re taking the planet’s fate in their own hands and taking action themselves. And in addition to advocating for the modern technological advancements that are bringing affordable renewable energy like wind and solar to more and more families every day, they are taking the lead on natural climate solutions, like reforestation and changes to agriculture.

Alongside a just transition to clean energy, natural climate solutions – practices that restore, enhance, or protect ecosystems that provide mitigation and or adaptation benefits – also have an important role to play. In Belize, as just one example, the restoration of degraded mangrove ecosystems is helping to sequester carbon while providing enhanced resilience to coastal storms.

And in the agriculture sector, practices that promote soil health – and in turn, carbon sequestration – are among the most promising natural climate solutions. Farmers are using a variety of techniques, including planting cover crops, minimizing soil disturbance through no-till farming, planting a diversity of crops, and managing nutrient inputs, to promote healthy soil bacteria and improve the ability of crops to keep carbon where it belongs – in the ground.

During the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Virtual Global Training, you’ll learn from Indigenous leaders whose communities have managed and stewarded natural areas successfully for thousands of years how we can together harness the incredible potential of natural climate solutions in our fight to halt rising temperatures.

What You Can Do Now

From October 16-24, make a difference and join the Climate Reality Leadership Corps by attending our online global training. Gain the tools, knowledge, and network to help stop global warming and build a more just world for all.

This free online training is led by former US Vice President Al Gore and features an all-star lineup of leading scientists, activists, content creators, and innovators, and comes at a critical moment for our planet. Together, the continuing pandemic, growing inequality, and the deepening climate crisis threaten not just our world today, but the future we hand to our children.

This is our moment to change that. We may not get another. It’s time to stand up and make good on our promises to each other, our communities, and our planet.

Be part of something big – register now and #LeadOnClimate at this vital hour.

climate changeclimate crisisclimate realityClimate Reality Leadership Corpstrainingvirtual trainingGlobal trainingpublic healthactivismadvocacygrassrootsclimate justiceThe Climate Reality ProjectThe Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to KnowWhy the US Needs a Clean Energy StandardThe IPCC Report Gives Congress and COP 26 an Existential Choice Lead: To end this crisis and achieve a better, just, and more-sustainable future for the planet, we must come together and through grassroots advocacy, create the change we need to see.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/world-fire-do-something-about-itEmail Subject: The World Is On Fire. Do Something About ItTwitter URL: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/world-fire-do-something-about-it
jmitchell

Modernizing the Grid: Regulating the Future

3 weeks 2 days ago

In our first look at the grid, we discussed the lines and the poles, and how they function much like an intricate system of interstates, highways, and local roads. Continuing with this grid series, and with the road analogy, we need to discuss the supreme courts, the department of transportation, police, and all the parties that make sure the roads are safe, accessible, and reliable.

This is going to involve some acronym soup, and a bit of creative license with the analogy; however, it is crucial to understanding why and how we need to modernize the grid.

It is very important to note that many, if not all, of these organizations are directly or indirectly influenced by politics. Whether it is the appointing of individuals to a position, or a regulator having to carry out a law passed by a federal or state legislature. This helps to explain the vastly different state outcomes on clean energy, and the compromises that are made on a federal level.

Supreme Courts and Department of Transportation

Starting with the highest law in the land, we have the supreme courts, both the US and state versions.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is much like SCOTUS, and state utility commissions or regulatory authorities are like state supreme courts. We will also look at a smaller organization that is akin to the department of transportation, but will be a crucial partner in the move to modernize the grid, the North American Reliability Council (NERC).

The grid is regulated at multiple levels by multiple organizations for a variety of concerns. This is a very high-level look at some of the most important players.

FERC

FERC is the federal entity that regulates transmission (the lines), the sale of wholesale electricity, and natural gas as it relates to interstate commerce. FERC also regulates all oil pipeline infrastructure and reviews natural gas pipelines so long as they cross state lines, which they almost always do.

If you want to build a pipeline, a transmission line, a hydro power facility, or change the way you buy or sell power across state lines, you must get approval from FERC before doing so. Like the US Supreme Court, FERC works on precedent to inform their decisions. FERC has five commissioners who are appointed by the sitting US president, and much like Supreme Court justices they must be approved by Congress.

In terms of grid modernization, FERC works in two ways.

It issues orders that buyers and sellers of wholesale electricity and gas must comply with, and they adjudicate those orders. One example is their recent order 2222. This order allows distributed resources, like solar panels on your rooftop, to aggregate and participate in wholesale markets.

Before this order, those distributed resources, often times overwhelming clean energy, were not allowed to make money in the wholesale markets. Upon issuing these orders, they give the market monitors (ISO/RTOs) and utilities time to figure out how they will comply with this order. The ISO/RTOs and utilities then file compliance plans with FERC, and FERC decides if they are sufficient.

FERC is the law of the land; however, they do not have jurisdiction over the sale of power within a state (State Utility Commissions), they do not monitor wholesale power markets (RTO/ISO), and they do not create reliability standards (NERC). Those are saved for other organizations.

NERC

NERC is the department of transportation. It sets the reliability and safety standards for the grid, so that power gets to from the generators to the users in a manner that is safe for each, and the entirety of the grid. From their own website:

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a not-for-profit international regulatory authority whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risks to the reliability and security of the grid. NERC develops and enforces Reliability Standards; annually assesses seasonal and long‐term reliability; monitors the bulk power system through system awareness; and educates, trains, and certifies industry personnel. NERC’s area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada, and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico. NERC is the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) for North America, subject to oversight by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC's jurisdiction includes users, owners, and operators of the bulk power system, which serves nearly 400 million people.”

Importantly, NERC is subject to oversight by FERC.

State Utility Commissions /State-Level Regulatory Authorities

Taking up the role of a state-level supreme court are state utility commissions.

These are sometimes called Public Utility Commissions (PUCs), but there are many acronyms and names for this entity across the states. These organizations vary in their missions, authority, the ways they are constructed, and their oversight from state to state, but they generally regulate electricity rates and services provided by a utility company within the state.

Utilities, public or private, must come to the PUC if they want to increase their rates or change the services they are providing. Rates are decided in highly contentious rate cases which involve lawyers from the utilities, the public staff (an organization which is paid for through tax dollars to argue on behalf of the public), developers, and environmental groups.

Ultimately, the PUC gets the final say on how much the utility can charge.

PUCs are key for gird modernization because they can prevent the utility from making imprudent investments in some areas (like building coal fired power plants) and incentivize them to place it in more prudent areas (like transmission-level build out or smart grid technologies).

However, this is not always so easy. Building smart grid technologies is vital, but it will come at an increase to rates. Rates going up disproportionally affect lower-income individuals because a greater proportion of their income must now be spent on electricity and gas bills.

That is the balance that must be struck by the PUCs. What is the acceptable amount of rate increase for grid modernization?

FBI

Including regional transmission organizations (RTO), independent system operators (ISO), and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) as the FBI is a bit of a stretch – but they do provided oversight onto large swaths of the US not covered by states alone. These organizations are not regulatory bodies but are a vital player to grid modernization.

RTO/ISO/ERCOT

RTOs and ISOs coordinate, control, and monitor multi-state electrical grids at the transmission level. They run the wholesale electricity markets and provide reliability planning. There was an initial distinction between the two types of organizations, thus the RTO/ISO names. But that distinction has faded, and they are now functionally the same. Not all the country lives within an RTO/ISO; if you do not live within one, then you get your power from a monopoly utility.

ERCOT is a special Texas only entity. They do all the work of an RTO/ISO, but only within Texas’ borders. ERCOT does not import or export power, and thus, is not subject to FERC. However, they do comply with NERC. The consequences of Texas being closed off will be discussed in later blog posts.

These organizations were created out of compliance with FERC order 2000, which sought to promote economic efficiency, reliability, and non-discriminatory practices all while decreasing government oversight. For that reason, these organizations are quasi-private.

For grid modernization, these organizations, in the name of economic efficiency, can put forth policies that encourage behaviors by market participants. For instance, ERCOT built out transmission lines in a policy called Certified Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ). These transmission lines were then filled with thousands of megawatts of wind power, making Texas one of the largest generators of wind energy in the world.

Conversely, in PJM (a Northeast RTO), they introduced a rule called the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), which made clean energy more expensive. PJM stated that this rule was to even out the playing field since clean energy was receiving subsidies at the state level. This was disputed by various groups at FERC and is now no longer an in-place policy.

State and Local Police

Finally, we get down to the local level. Your utility – that is, whoever you pay your bill to each month – is the police and protector of the grid.

Utilities are the entities that literally own the lines and poles – RTOs/ISOs do not, FERC and NERC do not, and PUCs do not. For that reason, they are the forefront of grid modernization. Whatever decisions come out of FERC, ISO/RTOs, NERC, or PUCS must ultimately be carried out, in real life, by the utilities

Utilities

Utilities provide services to individuals at the local level.  They may be privately owned or publicly owned. You may have hundreds of utilities in a state; you may only have a couple. They are a heavily regulated industry, as it is a natural monopoly. The cost of building your own grid is so high that no one could realistically afford it. So we allow utilities to exist as monopolies, but we regulate how much they can earn. The amount they can earn is set by PUCs during the aforementioned rate cases.

Utilities monitor and control the grid at the distribution level, and if they are not in an RTO/ISO, they also monitor and control the grid at the transmission level. In all cases, monitoring and controlling means making sure from generation and transmission to distribution that the power is safe and reliable. Safe and reliable not only to the end user, but also to the grid itself.

In keeping with the car analogy, a sudden rush of cars to any road, or a sudden exit of cars off the road, can cause physical damage to the grid. Cars speeding, or going too slow, can cause damage; too many cars or too few cars at any given time can cause damage.

The utility manages all these issues and more in real time. We take for granted the flipping of a switch and the light coming on. What’s going on behind the scenes of that switch are incredibly complex.

The grid is complicated and because of that there are a number of organizations who have oversight. These organizations sometimes work together to ensure that all Americans have reliable, safe electricity.

Increasingly, clean power is becoming more relevant in the safe category.

There are numerous grid modernization efforts currently happening. From efficiency boosting software to physical pieces of infrastructure, we need a grid that is smart, flexible, and able to handle all the clean power we can give it.

The final blog in this series will cover those solutions, and how we can help implement them.

Take action today and tell Congress we need to go big on climate solutions – like modernizing our grid and making major investments in clean, renewable energy. While we still can.

climate changeclimate crisisgridthe gridmodernizationFERCNERCstate utility commissionutilityClean Energyfossil fuels Content Components:  Not in the US? In the US? .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }   .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }     The Climate Reality ProjectModernizing the Grid: Lines and PolesHow Does Solar Power Work, Anyway?Inside DOE's plan to halve solar costs by 2030Lead: In the second of our three-blog grid series, we’re taking a look at how the grid is regulated – a key facet of modernizing it to support 100% clean energy.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/modernizing-grid-regulating-future?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Modernizing the Grid: Regulating the FutureTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3kli2fm
ipacha

Why We Need a National Climate Bank

3 weeks 6 days ago

If you’re like most people who don’t work in finance, the thought of banks may not exactly get the heart racing.

But in the fight to stop rising temperatures in the very short window we have left to avoid the kind of lasting and devastating changes scientists are screaming about, banks have a critical role to play. In particular, what’s known as green banks or climate banks are essential parts of making the society-wide just transition to clean energy we need go from lofty ideal to actual it’s-happening-now reality.

So as Congress starts working on the massive budget bill that represents our one last shot at major climate legislation in the US in time to make a difference, green banks and specifically a national climate bank has to be part of the package.

You might say we’re cooked without it.

TAKE ACTION: TELL CONGRESS – GO BIG ON CLIMATE

GREEN BANKS WORK

Across the US, in states of all sizes and political stripes, green banks are already making a difference. These institutions are helping:

  • Create thousands of jobs.
  • Inject millions of dollars of private investment into local economies.
  • Improve public health by reducing pollution.
  • And of course, prevent millions of tons of planet-warming emissions.

Now, seeing their success at the subnational level, members of Congress and President Biden want to establish a national green bank.

According to experts, doing so would help the US meet its goal of reducing overall emissions by at least 50% by 2030 below 2005 levels. Crucially, this would also increase underserved communities’ access to clean energy, energy efficient housing, and other environmental improvements.

So, how do they work?

WHAT IS A GREEN BANK?

A green bank is a financial institution that uses limited public funding to attract private investment in clean energy, energy-efficient housing, and other green projects. By providing financing opportunities, they make green projects more affordable and accessible to consumers, ultimately increasing their uptake.

Now, you might be asking yourself: what exactly might that look like out in the world?

Well, consider this: For people in disadvantaged communities, one of the main obstacles to installing rooftop solar or undertaking energy efficiency retrofits is the high upfront costs of these projects.

Moreover, by turning to a green bank, they can receive a loan that covers 100% of the cost of the project at a low enough interest rate that their investment would lower their costs of electricity, even including the cost of repayment of the loan. This is a win for borrowers, for the green bank, and of course, for the planet.

As we describe in our e-book Where We’re Going and How We Get There Together, one of green banks’ primary objectives is to “demonstrate viability to more traditional private sector debt and equity markets.”

In other words, a common objective for green banks is showing regular banks that clean energy projects, building energy-efficiency retrofits, and other low-carbon investments can provide significant returns.

In terms of their structure, green banks can be:

As far as funding, the initial money green banks use to invest and grow usually comes from governments, but in some instances may also come from philanthropy.

A (VERY) BRIEF HISTORY OF US GREEN BANKS

Established by the Connecticut General Assembly in July 2011, the Connecticut Green Bank was the first of its kind in the US. As  describes, it was formed as a part of the governor and legislature’s joint energy strategy to, “achieve cleaner, less expensive, and more reliable sources of energy while creating jobs and supporting local economic development.”

Fast forward to today and there are 21 green banks in states including New York, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Florida. According to the Coalition for Green Capital, government officials, local leaders, and market actors in 22 more states are currently exploring or taking steps to form a green bank!

Source: The Coalition for Green Capital

THE IMPACT OF US GREEN BANKS

The rise of US green banks may be relatively recent, but their impact is already noteworthy.

Since 2011, they’ve used $1.9 billion of their funds to catalyze $7.0 billion in total clean energy investment. Of that $7 billion mobilized over the past decade, $1.69 billion came in 2020.

For all the finance gurus out there, US green banks’ mobilization ratio (overall investment/green bank investment) was 3.7 to 1 in 2020. Which means that for every dollar invested throughout the year, $3.70 of overall investment went to fund the US clean energy economy.

Source: The Coalition for Green Capital

Diving into two examples of green bank’s individual impact, let’s start with Connecticut Green Bank.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was one of Connecticut Green Bank’s most successful years yet. It managed to leverage $36.7 million in public funds to help bring over $312 million in total investment in the state.

As Bryan Garcia, president and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank recently explained, “$300 million of investment means people are being put to work. They’re deploying solar projects, they’re deploying energy efficiency, they’re deploying fuel cells. The more investment that happens, the more jobs are created.”

Among many, two of Connecticut Green Bank’s projects in 2020 included providing $7.7 million to finance building energy conservation retrofits in low-income communities, and helping finance over 1,000 electric vehicle chargers throughout the state.

In terms of climate, the projects Connecticut Green Bank completed in fiscal year 2020 will help reduce nearly 1.5 million tons of CO2 over their lifetime. That’s like preventing the combustion of 150.4 million gallons of gasoline!

2020 was also a big year for Florida’s Solar & Energy Loan Fund (SELF), an independent non-profit green bank. It saw its lending activity increase by 84% and surpassed $5 million annually for the first time.

SELF grew by 393% over the last three years and completed 2,000 green home improvement projects totaling $18 million — crucially, with 74% of the lending activity in underserved markets. What’s more, its default rate was below 2%.

Connecticut Green Bank and SELF are just two examples, but around the US, the story is much the same: green banks are ramping up their work, and in the process, bringing big climate impact and economic development to the table.

WHERE DOES THE CREATION OF A NATIONAL CLIMATE BANK STAND?

Congressional bills proposing the creation of a national climate bank have come about several times over the past decade. In February 2021, for example, Representative Debbie Dingell and Senators Ed Markey and Chris Van Hollen introduced the Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator Act.

According to the Coalition for Green Capital, the $100 billion in initial funding their bill proposed would generate $884 billion in total investment over 10 years. This would be a substantial contribution to the estimated $2.5 trillion the US needs to be on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

What’s more, a green bank funded with $100 billion would create millions of jobs — most of them roles that could be filled right away by Americans with various skillsets.

Since the Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator Act was introduced, President Biden has endorsed the creation of a green bank with $27 billion in initial funding as part of his American Jobs Plan infrastructure proposal. However, it was not ultimately included in the bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Nonetheless, members of Congress and advocacy groups are still working to make a national green bank a reality via standalone legislation and the forthcoming budget reconciliation package.

Amid legislative twists and turns, however, one thing remains clear: that now is the time to create a national climate bank. Because the idea’s right moment in Congress has come. Because two-in-three voters favor it. And above all, because the climate crisis demands tried and tested solutions like it.

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR OUR PLANET

With ideas like a national climate bank on the rise, a sustainable future is in sight. But we cannot take it for granted. Now more than ever, at this time of immense opportunity, the climate movement needs us.

Tell Congress to go big on climate this fall with a bold budget bill that creates a national climate bank and accelerates the just transition to clean energy we need to prevent catastrophic changes. Time is running out and the coming election year mean this is our one last chance to go big as a nation in time to make a difference.

Climate bankgreen bankfinanceinvestmentThe Climate Reality Project8 Key Takeaways from IEA's "Net Zero by 2050" reportEnvironmental Justice Leaders Are Finally Shaping White House Climate PolicyWhat Are Clean Electricity Standards?Lead: Over a dozen states already reap the emissions-cutting, job-creating benefits of green banks. Now, lawmakers see massive potential for one at the national scale. facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-we-need-national-climate-bank?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Why We Need a National Climate BankTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3zkWDcv
ipacha

Why the US Needs a Clean Energy Standard

4 weeks ago

If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the headlines on climate this summer – or if you’re one of the millions who’ve been sweating through one heatwave after another in the hottest July on record – you know we’re in a race against time.

The bottom line is this: Cut global greenhouse gas emissions basically in half by 2030 or we’ll see global warming rise above 1.5 and even 2 degrees, pushing us past a series of tipping points unleashing devastating and irreversible changes across the Earth.

There’s no mystery to how we do this. Stop burning fossil fuels. Fast.

TAKE ACTION: TELL CONGRESS – GO BIG ON CLIMATE ACTION

How we do that while transitioning to clean energy alternatives like wind and solar fast enough to keep the lights on and the planet fed is where things get a little less clear cut. There is no one silver bullet when it comes to solving climate change.

After all, this entails fundamentally transforming the global economy and replacing not just thousands of coal plants and millions of internal combustion-engine cars, but hundreds of millions of gas-fired homes and ovens amongst other emitters, with cleaner electric alternatives. All fast enough to halve emissions by the end of this decade and get us to a real net-zero by mid-century.

So while proposed and real initiatives like the Civilian Climate Corps and reducing food waste are really great on their own, they’re not going to get us to the system change and massive emissions cuts we need to see by 2030.

Going from Silver Bullet to Silver Buckshot Solutions

The good news here is that the list of policy steps that can – or at least get us a good chunk of the way there – is actually pretty short and simple. That is, there might not be a single silver bullet that alone will solve climate change, but there is a silver buckshot that we can use.

Top of that list: a clean energy standard (CES) that gets the US power sector to 80% renewables by 2030.

With Congress now working on a budget bill that is in effect our last chance to go big on climate legislation in time to make a difference, a clean energy standard has to be top of the priority list.

In fact, you might say we’re cooked without it.

Using Carrots, Not Sticks

A CES wouldn’t be the federal government’s first attempt at transformative energy policy, with the most recent being the Clean Power Plan the Obama Administration introduced back in 2015.

The thinking behind the plan was actually pretty simple: Give each state its own target for reducing emissions based on current levels and realistic capabilities – and then let them decide how to reach it.

One of the challenges this approach faced was the mandate part, with numerous states taking issue and suing the Obama Administration’s EPA to block the plan, before the Trump Administration ultimately rolled it back in 2019.

A CES essentially takes the opposite approach. Rather than penalizing polluting behavior by states, a CES would give utilities financial incentives to switch to clean energy sources at the scale and pace necessary to hit the 80% renewable by 2030 target. Carrot, not stick.

The genius of this structure is that it rewards utilities for making what is already the smart, and lowest cost choice by switching to renewables in a world where solar and wind are now beating fossil fuels on cost in more and more parts of the world. To put it another way, it gives utilities a way to financially have their cake and eat it too.

The advantages don’t stop there. As Climate Reality Energy Policy Adviser Jack Andreasen notes, “ The policy, at its base, provides a financial incentive for utilities to buy or build clean energy. The most important facet of the CES, is that the cost of the policy is paid through the tax base, not customer rates. This avoids regressive rate hikes on energy bills and favors the mostly progressive tax code. We need a progressive, nation-wide, clean energy policy. The CES is that policy.”

Sending a Signal

The importance of Congress passing a CES in the coming budget deal go beyond our borders.

As the world’s largest economy – and one of its top polluters – the US plays a critical role in shaping energy policy and climate action across the planet. And that’s not just our American egos talking. After all, US emissions have had a huge part in causing climate change. Cut those significantly and the door to the kind of future we actually want to live in opens a little wider.

So when President Biden announced a new commitment to cutting emissions at least 50% by 2030 in May, it marked the return of the US as a leader in the global climate fight – and was a not-so-subtle challenge to other nations to up their game. The announcement also helped open the door to the possibility of nations reaching a stronger Paris Agreement at the UN’s COP 26 climate conference in November, one capable of actually meeting the accord’s target of holding warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade.

But as the line goes, talk – especially from the White House – is cheap. The world needs to see that Congress can back up the president’s commitment if other economies – particularly developing countries – are going to have the confidence to increase their own commitment to reducing emissions.

Just as important, Congress passing a CES sends a clear signal to the international business community that the US economy is electrifying, incentivizing continued research and development in clean technology and other practical solutions. The result is something of a virtuous cycle that creates the public-private partnership to accelerate a just energy transition in time to prevent climate catastrophe.

Key Takeaways
  • We have less than a decade to halve global emissions if we want to prevent global warming from unleashing catastrophic and irreversible changes across the Earth.
  • One of the most critical steps the US can take in this fight is pass a clean energy standard that brings the US power sector to 80% renewables by 2030.
  • Congress has to include and pass a clean energy standard as part of the budget bill coming up for a vote this fall.
  • The budget bill may be our last chance to pass bold climate legislation in the US in time to make a difference.
Now It’s Up to Us

The ball – and the future of the planet – is now in Congress’ court. With an election year looming and political changes on the horizon, the budget deal in the House and Senate represent our last chance for the kind of bold climate legislation big enough to jumpstart rapid energy transition and cut emissions quickly enough.

That’s it. Chances are, we won’t get another.

Which means it’s up to us to make sure Congress seizes this moment. Do your part by telling your members of Congress to go big on climate this fall. While we still have the opportunity. While we still can.

energy standardscongressadvocacy. policyThe Climate Reality ProjectModernizing the Grid: Regulating the FutureThe IPCC Report Gives Congress and COP 26 an Existential Choice Make 2021 a Turning Point for the PlanetLead: If we’re serious about stopping rising temperatures, Congress has to pass a clean energy standard this fall.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-us-needs-clean-energy-standard?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Why the US Needs a Clean Energy StandardTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3zmZsd8
ipacha

Shenandoah Green: Finding Community, One Tree at a Time

4 weeks 2 days ago

Trees have the tremendous ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help mitigate human-caused climate change. They help regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, and provide numerous community benefits.

That’s why tree planting and forest restoration have grown in popularity in recent years as ways to offset carbon emissions and fight the climate crisis.

Research has shown that, globally, forests alone have the potential to remove the emissions of about 155 million cars from the atmosphere – and reforesting previously forested lands has the potential to eliminate the emissions of nearly 65 million passenger cars alone.

In Staunton, Virginia, the non-partisan, grass-roots environmental organization Shenandoah Green has made greening the city its mission.

The group became involved with tree planting in the city when it was asked in January 2020 by the former mayor of Staunton, Carolyn Dull, to spearhead the Staunton Legacy Tree Project (SLTP). Her initial idea was to plant 2,746 trees in the City of Staunton – one for every child in the school district – by Earth Day 2020.

If that goal seemed untenable from the outset, it was made all the more difficult when the COVID-19 pandemic brought life everywhere to a standstill in March 2020. 

“Like so many other organizations, Shenandoah Green’s activities screeched to a stop before we began to find creative ways to move forward,” said Georgi Tomisato (left) of Shenandoah Green. “By April, the tree project seemed doomed to a COVID death, as the mayor found herself dealing with the fallout of a global pandemic. Shenandoah Green then stepped in and presented a timetable of necessary steps to begin planting in the fall of 2020.”

It was at this same time that the group applied for and received one of Climate Reality’s Climate Justice for All grants, to help fund its tree planting work.

Shenandoah Green sought to plant 125 young trees at a wholesale price of $80 each for a total of $10,000 (the grant amount). In the end, they were able to acquire 141 trees because a few chosen tree varieties, such as Magnolia Ann, dogwood, and serviceberry, were smaller and cost less than the planned-for six-to-10-foot saplings.

Bartlett Tree Experts also donated 1,000 seedlings to the project.

The group held its kick-off celebration at Staunton High School on November 06, 2020, and heard from the youth of Staunton on how important climate action is to them and their hope that the trees being planted will make a difference. They planted 10 trees at high school and seven at Bessie Weller Elementary School.

Indeed, the partnership with the school district was so successful that the Staunton City School’s director of strategic planning and partnerships is now on Shenandoah Green’s leadership team.

The organization then trained its focus on parts of the community that have been disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis – like lower-income households and families of color.

“Of the 141 trees, Shenandoah Green planted 33 saplings at Habitat for Humanity Homes in the West End. We have now partnered with Habitat and will continue to plant trees on their properties even after we have reached our goal of 2,746 trees,” Tomisato continued. “We also planted 13 trees at Renewing Homes, three trees at Valley Supportive Housing, and 13 trees at the Valley Mission Homeless Shelter, which services single men, women, and families. The residents at the shelter help water and care for the trees. Every time I drive by the shelter, I am impressed at how well the trees are doing even in the drought that Virginia is experiencing this summer.”

Eight trees were planted at Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and six at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, including one at Fairview Cemetery, a historic Black cemetery. Two trees were also planted at the historic Pannell Inn Site, which is listed in the Green Book, and two more at Booker T. Washington Community Center, located in Staunton’s West End.

Another 10 trees were planted at Montgomery Hall Park. The park was originally built as an African American city park because Black people were not allowed in the original Gypsy Hill city park. Today, Montgomery Hall Park is on the Virginia Landmarks Register of Historic Places because of its significant ties to the African American community in Staunton and statewide.

The last 35 trees were planted in the west end of Staunton – an area where “the tree canopy shrinks because asphalt dominates, and houses rub elbows,” according to Tomisato.

“There are no words to explain the gratitude we saw in people who barely get by paycheck-to-paycheck and then received a beautiful sapling six-to-10 feet tall,” Tomisato explained. “While one tree enriches one household, the collective planting of many trees in the West End will help fight climate change, flooding, and [improve] air quality.”

The organization overcame numerous obstacles – from skeptical citizens and finding enough volunteers to COVID itself – in working toward its goal, planting its 2,000th tree on Arbor Day 2021. Many in Shenandoah Green also walked away with a renewed sense of urgency for the planet and empathy for their neighbors.

“Being poor should not be a reason for not counting. The people for whom we planted trees had so many wonderful stories to tell. One couple was legally blind and were so happy we planted a dogwood for them. They kept exclaiming how they now have the Virginia state tree growing in their yard,” Tomisato said.

“Others were happy that someone cared about them. Some older people who can’t get around much anymore were happy to have the opportunity to talk with someone. Many of us on the task force saw poverty we did not know existed in our neighborhoods. How could we have missed it? These are the people that are most impacted by natural disasters, pandemics, opioids, or any number of things that people with money can avoid or from which they can recover more readily. People are people, and we are all connected. We should care what happens to all of us and we should care what happens to the earth we share.

Want to learn more about the exciting campaigns, training programs, educational content, and climate advocacy happening at The Climate Reality Project? Sign up for our email list and be the first to know the latest climate science as well as when powerful opportunities to stand up for a better, more sustainable tomorrow arise!

*/ climateclimate changeclimate crisisShenandoah ValleyStauntonVirginiaShenandoah GreengrantClimate Justice For Allclimate justiceenvironmental justiceTreesplantingreforestation Content Components:  Not in the US? In the US? .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }   .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }     The Climate Reality ProjectThe IPCC Report Gives Congress and COP 26 an Existential Choice The Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to KnowLead: “We should care what happens to all of us and we should care what happens to the earth we share.”facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/shenandoah-green-finding-community-one-tree-time?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Shenandoah Green: Finding Community, One Tree at a TimeTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3AZLgqI
ipacha

Modernizing the Grid: Lines and Poles

1 month 1 week ago

When people speak of the “grid,” they often do so with hand-waving generality. As if the grid is a single entity across a single region. This is far from the truth, with grid infrastructure varying greatly depending on local and regional location.

For instance, the Texas grid is completely closed off from the rest of the US, which caused issues during a major winter storm earlier this year. They could not import any power due to their isolation.

What we’re saying is: The “grid” is far more complicated than a collection of lines and poles.

In a three-blog series, we will go over several pieces of the grid: the lines and poles, generation and load, the grid operators, and finally the clean energy solutions that will change the grid as we know it.

Grid infrastructure is an often-neglected piece of climate policy. However, the modernization of the grid, and the investment necessary to do that, is key to a future powered by clean energy.

But let’s start with those all-important lines and the poles.

The American grid is actually three grids: the western interconnect, the eastern interconnect, and Texas.

Within these larger interconnects is a mosaic pattern of transmission lines, distribution lines, and feeders. Some are above ground, like the gigantic transmission lines you can see parallel to many interstate highways, and some are below ground, buried for cost savings and protection from weather events like wildfires.

One of the most intuitive ways to understand the grid is through the analogy of our road system. We will use that to cover the details and importance of the lines and poles.

Basic Structure of the Electric System

Cars on the Road

Fundamentally, the grid, and the electrons that flow through it, are like cars on various roadways.

All electricity starts at a generation source. This could be a solar array, a wind farm, or a coal-fired power plant (hopefully not though), etc. Once the electrons are generated, they go through a device called a transformer, which “steps-up” the voltage.

“Stepping up” is an accurate moniker, as it means the voltage is increased. Stepping up is done to prevent losses during the movement of the electron from generation to powering your home, business, or anything else that needs electricity. Transformers are often found in substations. Substations are areas that house the transformers that step up or step-down voltages.

They can be found at multiple levels of the grid, but we will focus on distribution level and transmission level substations. For the purpose of this blog, and the roadways analogy, you can think of substations like the on or off ramps to the grid.

After being generated, and then stepped up through a transformer, the electrons (cars) can take one of these on-ramps (substations) to one of two routes: the transmission lines (think interstate) or the distribution lines (highways/local roads).

Interstates

First, we have the interstates. These are transmission lines that can carry high-voltage electricity across large distances. The high voltage allows for less electricity to be lost during the transportation. This is akin to the higher speed limits allowed on interstates.

Often transmission lines are called HVDC, high voltage direct current. This means electricity at a high voltage (100+ kilovolts (kV)) flows one way (direct current), as opposed to high-voltage alternating current (HVAC). HVDC is preferred over the longest distances and is often referred to as the “backbone” of our grid.

Once the electricity has traveled to the location where it will be used, it leaves the transmission lines through a transformer, where it is stepped down. Think of this action as taking an off ramp. The stepping down is necessary because the distribution power lines cannot handle (aka, are not rated for) the higher voltage. In the analogy, you take the exit ramp onto a smaller highway or local road, where you drive at a slower speed limit.

The aggregation of end use is often called “load.” Load will be important in later blogs as you have load centers (cities or industrial electricity users) that greatly influence how the grid is run and constructed.

Highways or Local Roads

Now, the electricity is flowing through a distribution line. Distribution happens at the local level. These are the lines and poles you see in your community.

Note that some electricity comes to the distribution lines from the transmission lines and some electricity is generated directly onto the distribution lines. Injecting directly onto the distribution lines often comes from smaller generation, like smaller solar farms, rooftop solar, or battery storage.

Keeping with the road analogy, on a two-lane highway, some cars got there by exiting the interstate (transmission), and some may have pulled onto it from a local road or even their own driveway (feeders).

Driveways

Finally, the electricity flowing through the distribution lines gets to its end use. This could be a business, an EV charging station, or your home. This is done through feeder lines, which are part of the distribution grid.

The electricity is stepped down through a transformer from a larger distribution line (highway or local road) to a smaller distribution line called a feeder, which in the analogy is your driveway. This brings the voltage to a useable rate for your home or business.

You can see these transformers out on the poles down your street or elsewhere in your community, and they usually take the form of grey cylinders on the tops of power lines.

To give perspective on voltage changes through this process, electricity is generated anywhere from 11 to 25 kV (kilovolts) then stepped up via transformer to 500 kV for transportation through an HVDC line, and then stepped down all the way back to 120 kV to use in your home.

We didn’t talk much about the poles themselves, but that’s because they are straightforward.

You either have poles in above ground or below ground wires. The decision between these is often made for safety, resiliency, or cost, or a combination of all three.

It’s important to note that the maintenance of the lines and poles is a major cost to utilities. Trimming trees and clearing bushes – often called “vegetation management” – is expensive. By some estimates, utilities spend $6-8 billion dollars a year on it. Burying lines means more upfront cost, but then you save on the back end with decreased vegetation management. 

The grid is complex, and the next blog in this series will focus on the most maligned and talked about piece of the it: generation.

We’ll cover renewables, fossil fuels, and the differences between the power they produce; and discuss what it all means for the grid and how it is needs to be modernized to handle a truly clean-powered future.

The lines and poles are boring but important. Generation is where the fun starts!

Take action today and tell Congress we need to go big on climate solutions – like modernizing our grid and making major investments in clean, renewable energy. While we still can.

climateclimate changeclimate crisisinfrastructurelinespolesgridelectricityrenewable energyfossil fuelsclimate realitythe gridThe Climate Reality ProjectThe IPCC Report Gives Congress and COP 26 an Existential Choice Biodiversity and the Climate CrisisDrought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowLead: In the first of our three-part series on the grid and why and how it needs modernized to meet our emissions reductions goals, we get straight to the basics – what is the grid and how does it work.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/modernizing-grid-lines-and-poles?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Modernizing the Grid: Lines and PolesTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3k1VpfG
ipacha

The IPCC Report Gives Congress and COP 26 an Existential Choice

1 month 1 week ago

The alarm bells really couldn’t be any louder or clearer.

We are living through the last years still left to prevent a future of permanent and catastrophic climate change. The planet’s future – humanity’s future - is in our hands.

That’s the inescapable conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” report, which was released on Monday, August 9.

Take Action: Tell Congress We Need Bold Action on Climate Now

The report -the consensus of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists from literally all around the world – details the latest and best available information on what we know about climate change.

No surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to what’s been happening in Germany, India, or the US West this summer – or just looked out their window – the news isn’t good.

“Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2000 years,” the report notes with a finding of “high confidence.” (Which, coming from the extraordinarily cautious international scientific community, is essentially the same as saying the sun rises tomorrow.)

In other words, our world is warming faster than any point in recorded history. Over the following the pages, the report details the many and far-reaching consequences – more drought, seas rising, greater extremes in temperatures, and on and on – already baked in and what we can expect in future years unless the world acts quickly to aggressively cut emissions and ultimately reach net zero by 2050.

The timing of the report matters. Greatly.

The same day the IPCC  released the report, Senate Democrats in Congress released a budget resolution that could open the door to the kind of bold and non-negotiatiable measures – like a clean energy standard and tax incentives for clean energy and transit – we need if the world’s largest economy is going to have any shot at meaningfully cutting emissions.

Plus in November, representatives of nearly 200 countries will meet in Glasgow for the UN’s COP 26 climate conference to potentially hammer out a stronger version of the Paris Agreement, the international community’s framework for global cooperation on climate action.

In this moment, the report amounts to an existential choice for policymakers and the rest of us. Act now in the last years we have left and we have a shot at actually holding warming to 1.5 degrees and averting the worst of climate change.

Fail, and well, we could see seas rise beyond 1 to 2meters, oceans warm four to eight times what we’ve seen in recent decades, and even more extreme heatwaves, droughts, and hurricanes become ordinary affairs.

So how do we get there? Five key takeaways from the report.

1. There’s No Doubt: It’s Us

It’s as clear a declaration as you’ll get and the clearest we’ve seen in a document of this scope and importance:

“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.

Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.”

Unequivocal. Humans are causing the climate to change and with it, changing every aspect of the Earth. Just to prove it, scientists modeled global temperature with and without our greenhouse gas emissions. Taking out fossil fuel emissions and considering natural variability factors like sun cycles and volcano eruptions, temperatures stayed flat or even fell slightly.

Bear in mind that the IPCC is a notoriously cautious body. Any statement like this has to get sign-off from representatives of countries that are heavily – if not utterly – reliant on fossil fuels. If the IPCC says without a doubt that it’s us, it’s us.

2. Lasting Change Is Locked In

“Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.”

Even in our best-case scenario of holding warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (more on that below), seas could rise up to half meter or more this century. The Arctic will be largely ice-free at least once in September by 2050. Changes to the global water cycle will likely intensify, with rainfall likely increasing for regions like the equatorial Pacific and monsoon regions and drying out in regions in South America, the US West, and Europe. The frequency of once-every-10-year droughts will likely double.

The list goes on and on and on. And again, that’s our best-case scenario.

3. The More We Pollute, the Worse It Gets

“This Report reaffirms with high confidence the AR5 finding that there is a near-linear relationship between cumulative anthropogenic CO2 emissions and the global warming they cause. Each 1000 GtCO2 of cumulative CO2 emissions is assessed to likely cause a 0.27°C to 0.63°C increase in global surface temperature with a best estimate of 0.45°C.”

In a nutshell, scientists can confidently trace the relationship between how much greenhouse gas pollution we dump into the atmosphere and how much the planet warms.

Every fraction of a degree of warming matters. The report notes that many changes we’re already seeing right now – hotter heatwaves, stronger storms, longer droughts – become even more intense and destructive in direct proportion to increasing temperatures. There’s a big difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees – and even more as temperatures get hotter.

Concerningly, Earth’s natural carbon sinks – think forests and oceans – also begin to max out their ability to absorb carbon and slow warming. What this means is that the systems that for years have played a huge part in putting the brakes on warming are less and less able to absorb the same proportion of greenhouse gases as temperatures continue to rise.

4. How Much Warming We See Is Entirely Up to Us

The report maps out five futures of warming, based on very low and going to negative), low, intermediate, high, and very high levels of emissions in the 21st century.

All emissions scenarios see likely 1.5 to 1.6 temperature rise in the near term (between now and 2040). The pronounced difference comes in the mid-term (2041–2060) and long-term (2081–2020)

In a very low emissions scenario (which involves rapid cuts from levels today and reaching net zero and even negative emissions by mid-century), scientists estimate temperature rise likely reaching 1.6 degrees in the mid-term and falling back to 1.4 in the long-term.

In a low emissions scenario where emissions fall but much more slowly, those numbers are 1.7 and 1.8. High emissions take that to 2.1 and a staggering 3.6 degrees, respectively. As mentioned above, that’s the difference between the possibility of humanity thriving and merely surviving.

5. Our Future Depends on Reaching Net Zero Fast

Buried in the report is cause for real hope. We know what to do.

“From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions.”

Quickly cutting emissions and reaching net zero by mid-century “would have rapid and sustained effects to limit human-caused climate change, compared with scenarios with high or very high GHG emissions.”

In other words, if we act fast and act boldly, we can still limit global warming, with profound consequences for the planet and the future we give our children.

Time to Get to Work

Scientists get a bad rap in some parts for speaking in a language the feels as foreign to the rest of us as cuneiform is to your average Twitter user. But at its heart and in its own way, the IPCC’s report is a love letter to the Earth, filled equally with mourning for what we have done and hope for what we might still do to save so much.

It’s also as clear a cry to policymakers as the community could make. The stakes couldn’t be plainer or higher. And with both Congress and the international community as a whole facing critical decision points, this could be the year that we choose to avert catastrophe. The year we remember what really, really matters and stop making excuses. The year we finally recognize we are out of time for next times and get to work to protect this one precious place we call home. Because it’s worth fighting for.

Take action today and tell Congress we need to go big on climate solutions. While we still can.

IPCCc02crisisemergencypollutionThe Climate Reality ProjectMake 2021 a Turning Point for the PlanetHow Indigenous Knowledge Can Help Us Combat Climate Change Inside DOE's plan to halve solar costs by 2030Lead: The world’s climate scientists are sending Congress and world leaders a clear message: <em>We are on the brink of catastrophe. What happens next is up to us.</em>facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/ipcc-report-gives-congress-and-cop-26-existential-choice?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: The IPCC Report Gives Congress and COP 26 an Existential Choice Twitter URL: https://bit.ly/3s86kbt
ipacha

Make 2021 a Turning Point for the Planet

1 month 2 weeks ago

Make a difference for the planet this October and join the Climate Reality Leadership Corps by attending our free virtual global training. You’ll gain the tools, knowledge, and network to help stop global warming and build a more just world for all.

Over the course of multiple days, a combination of live broadcasts, on-demand programming, and small-group sessions will explore four key themes: the public health impacts of the climate crisis, global climate justice, grassroots advocacy, and climate solutions.

REGISTER NOW >>

The training, led by Climate Reality’s founder and chairman, former US Vice President Al Gore, and featuring an all-star lineup of leading scientists, activists, and innovators is your chance to not only learn what the climate crisis means for you, but to build the skills and network to create real change for the planet.

At the training, you’ll:

  • Learn to become an effective leader, equipped with the skills to inspire audiences and shape opinion through public speaking, political advocacy, community organizing, and digital media.
  • Hear from diverse voices about successful climate solutions from around the world – from community-based initiatives to international approaches.
  • Discover how the climate movement is prioritizing equity and justice in action.
  • Connect with other Climate Reality Leaders and become part of the global network of over 36,000 advocates.

Interactive sessions will take place from October 16-24, including four required two-hour broadcast sessions on October 16, 17, 23, and 24. You will be able to choose from two broadcast schedules. On-demand sessions will be available from October 18-24.

Attendees who complete the training requirements become Climate Reality Leaders, joining our network of over 36,000 activists in more than 160 countries around the world.

This is our moment. Click here to join us and learn how you can help make 2021 a turning point for the planet.

climate changeclimate crisisAl Goretrainingclimate realityClimate Reality Leadership Corpsglobalvirtualonlineclimate reality leaderThe Climate Reality ProjectBiodiversity and the Climate CrisisThe Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to KnowDrought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowLead: Our climate is changing. Inequality is growing. It’s clear: we must act now.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/global-training-2021-virtual-climateEmail Subject: Make 2021 a Turning Point for the PlanetTwitter URL: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/global-training-2021-virtual-climate
jmitchell

How Indigenous Knowledge Can Help Us Combat Climate Change

1 month 2 weeks ago

In mainstream Western culture, Indigenous peoples are often seen as stewards and custodians of the environment. With an estimated worldwide population of 370 million across 70 countries, each group possesses different histories, cultures, and traditions. So, with such an incredibly diverse makeup, where does this association come from?

In part, this association comes from the knowledge that many Indigenous communities have developed through centuries of interaction with their surrounding environments. And that knowledge can be a hugely beneficial when it comes to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Indigenous Perspective of Nature

With our national parks and nature reserves, many countries have reinforced the concept of a pristine “wilderness” that is nature untouched by and separate from humans. This anthropocentric, or human-centered, view of the environment has been dominant in the West in particular for the past few centuries and led to the incredible exploitation and depletion of natural resources from wood to water.

Which begs the question: How do we protect something we don’t see ourselves as a part of?

Numerous Indigenous peoples have a completely different perspective of nature, seeing the natural elements around them as kin and as living conscious beings.

For instance, the Dulabed and Malanbarra Yidinji peoples, who reside in Australia, refer to the river nearby the community as “him” rather than “it.” Because the river gives life to the people, plants, and animals that live beside him, community members believe that the river system has rights and humans are obliged to treat him with honor and respect.

Similar beliefs are held by various Indigenous peoples across the globe.

Though differences in beliefs exist, Native Americans generally view the environment as inseparable from human development and wellbeing. Where European settlers considered to be “wilderness”, the Native Americans saw a community teeming with living beings, of which humans are just one part. This worldview explains why much of Native American cultures and identities are based on the land and environment.

Ecosystem Management Done Right

Mutual respect and caring for the Earth’s natural systems naturally lends itself to sustainable resource and land management practices we typically associate with Indigenous peoples. Although they only make up 5% of the world population, Indigenous peoples protect 80% of global biodiversity.

But preserving biodiversity isn’t the only place Indigenous populations can help the world.

Take, for example, the increasingly frequent and severe wildfires in California that make headlines every summer. Climate change is a major factor, but so is poor forest management. That’s because the state of California (and the rest of the United States) had largely banned one of the most effective forest management practices: low-intensity fires.

Without these regular, controlled burns that Native Americans have prescribed to forests for centuries, forests grow thick with vegetation and dry out in the summer as the climate warms. This creates kindling for wildfires to spread out of control, which unsurprisingly, also disproportionately affect Indigenous communities.

In recent years, California seems to have come around on prescribed burns. The state government has even been working with Native tribes to use this traditional practice to help mitigate fires. That’s good news and all, but we can’t forget that when the government imposed these bans and stripped Native tribes of their land, they lost a large part of their culture.

We have to keep in mind that to recognize and utilize Indigenous land and resource management practices means that we have to grapple with the history of harm the government inflicted on these communities. This can start with supporting land return and Indigenous sovereignty over their lands.

The Need for Indigenous Voices in Climate Change Discussions

More and more, the climate movement is recognizing that Indigenous knowledge on climate change mitigation and adaptation can benefit the world. Even the IPCC said so.

Despite the valuable knowledge they possess, Indigenous communities, who are also some of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, have largely been left out of formal discussions on these topics.

The role Indigenous peoples play in preventing deforestation and land degradation has long been ignored. Case in point: the discussions for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. One key target of the framework calls to double protected areas to 30% globally. While this sounds like a good thing, how do these policies actually affect Indigenous and local communities?

Studies have also shown that deforestation rates are lower in forests that Indigenous peoples manage and control than in protected areas where strict conservation is enforced. In fact, protected areas can be harmful to Indigenous communities, as they’ve historically pushed Indigenous peoples off of their land. The same land that they depend on for their food, livelihoods, and cultural identities.

While Indigenous rights have been increasingly recognized at the international level, they’re not always respected on the national level. To successfully combat climate change and achieve climate justice, Indigenous peoples must be part of the conversation and the action at all levels of the government.

To stay connected to the movement for climate solutions, sign up for our email activist list.

climate realityindigenousindigenous peoplesindigenous knowledgetraditional knowledgeclimate changeThe Climate Reality ProjectIndigenous Climate Justice in CanadaIndigenous Climate Justice in Canada3 Native American Tribes Leading the Way on Clean EnergyLead: Indigenous communities have a wealth of knowledge that can make climate change mitigation and adaptation more effective. We just have to listen.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-indigenous-knowledge-can-help-us-combat-climate-change?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: How Indigenous Knowledge Can Help Us Combat Climate Change Twitter URL: https://bit.ly/3jlsWB7
ipacha

Inside DOE's plan to halve solar costs by 2030

1 month 2 weeks ago

Back in March, the US Department of Energy (DOE) made a quietly momentous set of announcements about the future of clean energy in the US.

First, that DOE aims to cut the cost of solar energy by 60% within the next 10 years. And second, that it’ll spend nearly $128 million over that time to lower costs, improve performance, and accelerate the deployment of solar energy technologies.

In between those figures and the 10-year time frame, it might be easy to lose one core fact: this is actually a really, really big deal. Not just for the US solar industry, but for the global transition to clean energy and – by extension – the global climate fight.

WHY SOLAR?

First things first, why is DOE betting so heavily on solar?

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm explained it best: “In many parts of the country, solar is already cheaper than coal and other fossil fuels, and with more innovation we can cut the cost again by more than half within the decade.”  

She’s right. The cost of solar has fallen drastically year after year, and as it has, its scalability has steadily grown. That’s both in the form of solar photovoltaic (PV) – i.e. solar panels – and concentrated solar power (CSP), which uses mirrors to concentrate the sun’s heat to power steam turbines that then create electricity.

This investment, Secretary of Energy Granholm elaborated, “will help us add even more affordable clean energy to the grid, jobs to communities across the country, and will put us on the fast track toward President Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035.”

In short, DOE is throwing the agency’s very significant weight behind solar because it can help us massively reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as the climate crisis demands and significantly cut electricity costs around the country.

THE GOAL IN CONTEXT

Looking to cut the price of solar in half is an ambitious goal, but it’s not a first. In fact, we’ve seen it happen repeatedly just over the past decade.

Inspired by President Kennedy's 1962 "Moon Shot" speech, back in 2011, DOE launched the first Sunshot Initiative: a challenge to “reduce the total costs of solar energy by 75 percent, making large scale solar competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.”

And like the Moon Shot itself, the Sunshot Initiative ended up being a remarkable success. The per-kWh cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic power fell from $0.28 in 2010 to $0.06 by 2017!

Source: US Department of Energy

Ultimately, this decrease in cost has helped solar to compete against other energy sources. In the US, for example, solar’s share of total US electrical generation grew from just 0.1% in 2010 to over 3% today. What’s more, solar is the fastest-growing generation source in the country, making up 43% of all new electric capacity added to the grid in 2020.

Looking ahead, as the Sunshot Initiative continues, DOE aims to cut the per-kWh cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic power from $0.06 as it stands today, to $0.03 by 2030.

SO, WHAT’S THE $128 MILLION IN FUNDING FOR?

As DOE described in a statement, the funds are being allocated to the following endeavors:

  • $40 million for perovskite R&D: Perovskites are a family of emerging solar materials with potential to make highly efficient thin-film solar cells with very low production costs. DOE is awarding $40 million to 22 projects that will advance perovskite PV device and manufacturing research and development—as well as performance through the formation of a new $14 million testing center to provide neutral, independent validation of the performance of new perovskite devices. 
  • $3 million Perovskite Startup Prize: This new prize competition will speed entrepreneurs’ path to commercializing perovskite technologies by providing seed capital for their newly formed companies.
  • $20 million for CdTe thin films: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will set up a consortium to advance cheaper CdTe thin-film solar technologies, which were developed in the United States and make up 20% of the modules installed in this country. This consortium will advance low-cost manufacturing techniques and domestic research capabilities to increase opportunities for U.S. workers and entrepreneurs to capture a larger portion of the $60 billion global solar manufacturing sector.  

Together, these investments present fantastic promise for the future of solar!

JOIN THE MOVEMENT FOR SOLUTIONS

This summer, historic floods, heatwaves, and wildfires have made two things clear: that the climate crisis is here and now, and that as long as we keep burning fossil fuels, these impacts are only going to get worse.

But as developments like this DOE goal remind us, the power to change course and build a clean energy future is within reach.

If you’re ready to help, join the Our Climate Moment campaign and activists in Climate Reality chapters across the US working to pressure Congress to seize this historic opportunity. Chances are, there’s a chapter in your community.

Alternatively, join our activist email list today. We’ll keep you posted on the latest developments in climate policy and what you can do to help solve the climate crisis!

solarelectricityDOEfossil fuelscostThe Climate Reality ProjectRenewable energy leapfrogging: the better way forward.Jonathan Scott Answers Climate Reality’s Solar Energy Questions6 Interactive Tools to Better Understand the Climate CrisisLead: Solar energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in most of the world. Now, the US Department of Energy wants to push the envelope even further.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/inside-does-plan-halve-solar-costs-2030?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Inside DOE's plan to halve solar costs by 2030Twitter URL: https://bit.ly/2VwGdhW
ipacha

Biodiversity and the Climate Crisis

1 month 3 weeks ago

The climate crisis touches everything. But in truth, there isn’t just one climate crisis — there are many overlapping crises, all driven by our reliance on fossil fuels.

The climate crisis is a justice crisis. It’s a migration crisis. It’s an economic crisis. And it’s a biodiversity crisis.

That’s because with nearly 8 billion people now sharing our planet, what humans do has an impact on every living creature on Earth. As the world warms, extreme weather events become more common and climate impacts are felt in every corner of the globe, the biodiversity crisis accelerates too.

Here’s what to know.

The sixth great extinction?

There’s no way to sugarcoat this: human behavior is driving other species to extinction at a staggering rate, in what scientists are saying may be the sixth great extinction. While other mass extinctions were the result of natural phenomena like asteroids (RIP to the dinosaurs) or volcanoes, this is the first to be attributed to a specific living creature — us.

According to a recent UN report, biodiversity is decreasing on Earth potentially hundreds of times faster than the average rate over the past 10 million years. And, of those sufficiently studied, more than 25% of living species on Earth today are either facing extinction now or at risk of facing extinction in the near future. That’s one-in-four species that make up our world.

Put another way: diversity in natural life on Earth is decreasing. Fast. And that’s a big problem for all of us.

As National Geographic explained: “These species are all tied to intricate webs of life serving purposes beyond their mere existence. The ecosystem services provided by diverse species are crucial to the survival of life within their spheres of influence, especially our own survival.”

So yes, it’s a crisis. And to solve it, we need to look at what’s driving it.

It’s the humans

The loss of biodiversity we’re seeing worldwide is the result of plenty of intersecting factors. But at its core, it comes down to one thing: us. Human development is destroying habitats, reducing access to resources like food and water, and changing behaviors of natural life worldwide.

With more than 1 million species facing the threat of extinction overall, agriculture is far from the only issue. The EU has identified five key drivers of the crisis: changes in land use (like deforestation), direct exploitation such as hunting and over-fishing, pollution, invasive species, and climate change.

According to the UN Environmental Programme, our global food system is the number one culprit. Of the 28,000 species most at risk of extinction, agricultural development is the top identified threat facing 86% of them.

And it’s important to note that this is a recent development. For much of history, humans have been able to maintain agricultural practices that worked in harmony with nature. Over time, that’s shifted significantly for most of the world’s population — but not for many Indigenous communities.

Indigenous peoples represent less than 5% of the world’s population. But today they defend about 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. It’s a remarkable statistic that shows how much work the rest of the world has to do to confront this crisis.

That’s why as we think about this crisis, we have to pay attention to the root causes. Because while humanity may be the problem, not everyone is contributing equally – and not everyone will be affected equally.

The climate crisis

As we said earlier, the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis aren’t really separate at all. They’re really one big, combined crisis.

A 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found that climate change is “direct driver” of biodiversity loss — and not only is it accelerating, but it’s making the other causes of biodiversity loss worse. Ultimately, the report warns that the climate crisis is expected to become an increasingly important direct driver of the biodiversity crisis.

In other words: the two issues are linked. And we have to act.

Two years later, in a landmark report on the connection between biodiversity and the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and IPBES laid it out even more clearly: the two challenges must be addressed jointly. There is no other way to solve them.

The report represented a major turning point — previously, scientists working in biodiversity were often siloed off from climate scientists, and in some instances the solutions to the two crises were thought to be in conflict with one another. But no more.

As the co-chair of the report’s steering committee put it: “Climate change and biodiversity loss are threatening human well-being as well as society. They’re closely interwoven and share common drivers through human activity. They’re reinforcing each other.”

How we solve it

So yes, the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis are deeply linked, with human behavior driving both at shocking rates.

But while that may seem scary, it’s reason for optimism too: because climate change and biodiversity are so interrelated, the solutions to one just might be the solutions to the other too.

The committee co-chair put it simply: “Maintaining biodiversity and its functions relies on phasing out emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Sound familiar? That’s because a just transition off of fossil fuels is the single most important thing we can do to solve the climate crisis too. And other solutions to biodiversity follow the same pattern.

Reimagining our agricultural systems to focus on sustainability? That helps solve both the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis. Protecting natural habitats and wild areas? That helps solve both the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis too. Global efforts to conserve land and sea? You guessed it: that helps solve both the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis.

The bottom line

It’s scary to be facing issues of such magnitude as the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis. And it’s easy to feel hopeless.

But inaction isn’t an option. There are solutions at our disposal — and luckily enough, in many instances, the same actions will help solve the climate crisis and protect our biodiversity. It's just a matter of people and governments worldwide listening to the science and taking bold, transformative action. Because the time is now.

Ready to get involved? Join your local Climate Reality chapter or international branch, and be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

Biodiversityclimate crisissixth extinctionclimate changeLead: Scientists believe we’re entering a sixth great extinction. But the solutions to the climate crisis may just solve this biodiversity crisis too.
cgould

That Smoke You’re Breathing? That’s Climate Change

2 months ago

The metaphor might be too on the nose.

Smoke billowing up from the hundreds of thousands of burning acres in Oregon and across the US West travels thousands of miles to choke New York City. Climate change blanketing, choking the country. It’s in the air we breathe. In the water we drink.

It’s everywhere. Now.

For decades, many Americans have indulged in the fantasy that climate change was something that happens somewhere else. To someone else. Which has meant a rude shock for millions waking to the fact that it’s happening here. To us. And it will not seem to end.

We’re becoming used to seeing descriptions of extreme weather and other climate disasters as “the new normal.” And sure, it’s a great and dynamic phrase that captures in an abstract way how profoundly our world has shifted. And yet, if we’re honest, most of us expected things to return to the old normal.

In my own experience, living through a climate event like Superstorm Sandy, there’s the initial shock of the disaster and the all-adrenaline response of rising to what the moment demands. But behind that, there was also a quiet expectation that somehow, eventually, balance and order as we’ve known them would be restored. In the mind’s eye, there was already forming a Then photo of peak disaster alongside an imagined Now photo of a year later, with life largely as it had been the day before the hurricane hit. Sandy flooded half of Manhattan in 2012, but when the waters receded, the city mustered its legendary gritty resolve and rebuilt like it never happened.

Only this summer, things don’t go back to the old normal. And it’s deeply, profoundly unsettling. In a ground-disappearing-under-your-feet way

There is a privilege element to this response, of course. It’s one of the core cruelties of climate change that the poor and communities of color not only get hit hardest when extreme weather and other disasters strike, they so often are the first forgotten in recovery. Somehow they’re expected to get back on their feet despite countless bureaucratic obstacles and other challenges that White and wealthier families rarely face. All without the ample supports and subsidies the luckier ones enjoy.

For people of a certain generation and cast, climate change has been something to be bemoaned with shared nods and shrugs alongside the latest political scandal while waiting for the brunch order to appear. (The young have thankfully skipped this malaise, not having the luxury.) But when the check appears, the thought disappears.

Now, with Nature effectively doing a full-court press from wildfires to heatwaves to smoky air we cannot escape, something is happening. Life is simply changing with no end horizon in sight. And all this before even looking at the horrific floods drowning Germany and Belgium. Or the heatwaves baking India. And on and on.

Now, we all have a story to tell. Mine is about living part of the year up in the high mountains of Colorado in a town where air conditioning was never even a thought. Where you could, for many years, count on what felt like a 10-20 degree temperature drop and respite from the oven that is Denver in July.

Now, for many weeks at a time, the mountains sizzle along with the city and the rush is on to adapt places never intended for anything like this heat.

It’s as if Nature has finally engineered a way to force us past our short-termism and adaptability that is, in many other circumstances a boon.

For years, we’ve known climate change was coming, but there is always a gap between knowing and understanding, at least at the same unthought, instinctive way we understand that if we step off the top of a building, bad things will happen. Now, that gap finally seems to be shrinking.

It’s an open question whether it’s shrinking enough, of course. As the saying goes, all politics is local and for years, most Americans have enjoyed the luxury of seeing climate change as not a local issue. As not their problem. (It’s hard to imagine that millions in Bangladesh, Kiribati, and other nations suffering from the life-altering impacts of rising seas and stronger storms caused largely by rich nations’ emissions aren’t looking at the US and thinking, “Welcome to the club.”).

Naturally, the investment class has been playing a make-believe game called “Buy property where you’ll be safe.” But if there is any one lesson from a summer with the placid, temperate, and ordinarily sodden Pacific Northwest ablaze and trying to remember when the last rain came, it’s that nowhere is safe.

Which is to say, now it’s all of our problem. Seemingly every day. It’s there in the air - and we’re choking on it.

In some sense, the timing couldn’t be more apt. As the nation gasps, sweats, and more, Congress – and really, just 50 senators – have the chance to decide if and how aggressively the federal government acts in the limited time we have remaining.

Nature has a sense of humor, perhaps. Politics may be local, but climate change is and is not. The emissions of another state become the soot filling our lungs, just as ours become the angry seas swallowing their coastlines. The great leveling perhaps. Arriving, perhaps, just in time to spur the Senate while we still have time.

This is our moment to act. Sign up for our email activist list and we’ll keep you posted on how you can push Congress to pass bold climate legislation to stop global warming and rebuild America with clean energy and green jobs.

climate changeclimate crisisclimate realitywildfiresheatheatwavesamericainfrastructureclimate justiceenvironmental justicepolicyclimate policyno climate no dealPeter ConroyDrought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowWhat We Want: A Fair, Representative DemocracyThe Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to KnowLead: Will 2021 be the year America finally wakes up to the reality – no, really – of the climate crisis?facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/smoke-breathing-climate-change-congressEmail Subject: That Smoke You’re Breathing? That’s Climate ChangeTwitter URL: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/smoke-breathing-climate-change-congress
jmitchell

Is Climate Change Creating More-Dangerous Heatwaves? (Quiz)

2 months ago

This summer, truly extraordinary heatwaves have been baking communities around the world – even in some typically more-temperate places, like the US Pacific Northwest. The record-shattering nature of these events has owned the headlines and caused a lot of media head-scratching. We’ve seen this question come up a lot:

True or false? Heatwaves are connected to climate change.

That question was likely pretty easy for an environmentalist like you. The truth is, we’re going to see a lot more heatwaves – and they’re going to keep getting hotter and potentially last longer – so long as the world keeps burning fossil fuels. It’s that simple.

Extreme heat is one of the most dangerous impacts of the climate crisis – and it's why we need urgent climate action now.

We’ve seen the results of inaction, of ignoring this problem and hoping someone else solves it. We're well past that now. This is our moment to act – and that includes all of us.

>> The Climate Crisis In 2021: 5 Key Facts To Know <<

We need more allies in the fight for our planet, and that means spreading knowledge further and wider. That’s why we put together a short quiz to test your knowledge of the climate crisis and extreme weather – and for you to share with your friends and family to help spread the word.

Take the quiz now.

 

climate changeclimate crisisheatglobal warmingheat wavesheatwavesQuizThe Climate Reality ProjectClimate Change and Heatwaves: Are They Connected?Drought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowThe Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to KnowLead: Take the quiz now to test your knowledge and spread awareness about climate change, its devastating impacts, and the steps we need to take to solve this global crisis.Email Subject: Is Climate Change Creating More-Dangerous Heatwaves? (Quiz)Twitter URL: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/climate-change-creating-more-dangerous-heatwaves-quiz
jmitchell

The Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to Know

2 months 1 week ago

The climate crisis is not waiting for us.

It will continue to exacerbate existing threats to our well-being – from stronger hurricanes and rising seas to longer droughts putting our food and water at risk – and give rise to new ones.

The impacts of the climate crisis are far-reaching, but solutions exist that can help us improve quality of life around the world right now and work toward a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

But with all that said, we know it can also be seem overwhelming. And thanks to fossil fuel interests and deniers spreading all kinds of myths, many people don’t know the truth of what’s happening to our planet or what we can do.

We’re here to help.

Below, are five key facts about the climate crisis in 2021 to get you up to speed on what’s almost certainly the greatest threat humanity has ever faced – and how together we can defeat it.

Climate change is a human-caused crisis.

This is not up for debate, despite what your uncle may say at holiday dinner. More than 97 percent of climate scientists around the world agree: climate change is happening and it is caused by human activity.

Our climate is changing largely as a result of increased levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) – chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2) – produced by our burning of fossil fuels for electricity, industry, and transportation.

How do we know?

Well, we know that burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas releases vast amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. And we know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and that GHGs trap heat from the sun in our atmosphere.

We also know that the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, we know that there's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point in the past 800,000 years.

“The concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is currently at nearly 412 parts per million (ppm) and rising. This represents a 47 percent increase since the beginning of the Industrial Age, when the concentration was near 280 ppm, and an 11 percent increase since 2000, when it was near 370 ppm,” according to NASA.

Credit: NOAA

In other words, the evidence of a strong correlation between human behavior (the burning of fossil fuels) and the higher temperatures we’re seeing today is irrefutable.

Have an uncle (and isn't it almost always an uncle?) shouting about variable solar output or volcanic eruptions, and need more proof? Well, unsurprising for such a dirty form of energy, the CO2 we burn leaves fingerprints. Isotopic ones. 

"Fossil fuels are the only source of carbon consistent with the isotopic fingerprint of the carbon present in today’s atmosphere," NOAA states. "That analysis indicates it must be coming from terrestrial plant matter, and it must be very, very old. These and other lines of evidence leave no doubt that fossil fuels are the primary source of the carbon dioxide building up in Earth’s atmosphere."

So that's that. Since the Industrial Revolution, burning fossil fuels has emitted hundreds of billions of tons of heat-trapping CO2 into the atmosphere, where it stays for centuries.

“There is no plausible explanation for why such high levels of carbon dioxide would not cause the planet to warm,” NASA also explains.

AKA, more and more CO2 (and other GHGs) means more and more heat.

This added carbon and extra heat are more than the Earth’s finely balanced systems can handle. At least without changing our climate and making storms more violent, oceans hotter and more acidic, and on and on.

Temperatures are expected to go up by how much?

That depends.

Since 1880, the average global temperature on Earth has increased by a little more than 1 degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) with two-thirds of that warming occurring since 1975, a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20 degrees Celsius per decade.

On its face, one or two degrees might not seem like a lot. But consider this:

And of course, just a single degree determines whether you have water at all – because at 0 degrees Celsius, it turns to ice.

That’s why 1.5 degrees Celsius has become the danger line for global warming to many experts.

“Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would reduce the number of people frequently exposed to extreme heatwaves by about 420 million, with about 65 million fewer people exposed to exceptional heatwaves,” according to NASA.

Even the half-degree difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius of average global warming, the stretch and target goals of the Paris Agreement, respectively, is shocking:

  • In a 2-degree Celsius warmer world, about 61 million more people in Earth’s urban areas will be exposed to severe drought than at 1.5 degrees of warming.
  • By limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (versus 2), between 184 and 270 million fewer people would be exposed to increases in water scarcity in 2050.
  • Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could prevent 1.5 to 2.5 million square kilometers (579,000 to 965,000 square miles) of frozen permafrost from thawing – itself a major source of carbon and methane.
  • Around 10.4 million fewer people would be exposed to sea level rise risks like increased coastal flooding, beach erosion, and salinization of drinking water in a 1.5 degrees-of-warming scenario, as opposed to at 2 degrees Celsius of global warming.
  • While coral reefs may still decline by 70-90% with 1.5 degrees of warming, they’d all but disappear entirely at 2 degrees.

And if we keep burning fossil fuels without making any real efforts to cut emissions, we could see surface temperatures on Earth warm by more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of this century. Put as plainly as possible, this would transform the planet in ways that undermine its capacity to support a large and thriving human population.

That’s why it’s crucial to remember that the climate crisis doesn’t start when we hit 1.5 degrees of warming, it’s already here – and we need to act.

Impacts of the climate crisis are being felt now – and could get much worse.

We know that some people view the climate crisis as a down-the-road problem; something we can deal with later because it’s not really a big deal right now.

Tell that to the millions who labored under the “heat dome” that settled over the US’ Pacific Northwest in late June, the Central American farmers no longer able to make ends meet, or those who lost everything in last year’s Australian wildfires

Or perhaps anyone who has weathered successive Category 4 hurricanes in recent years.

So, where do we go from here? Nowhere great, that’s for sure.

Unless we break our dependence on fossil fuels, temperatures will keep going up, up, up. And that means tropical storms will continue to get stronger, wildfires will burn more and more acres, heat waves will become ever-hotter and more frequent, and farmers will experience crop loss more often – increasing the risk of instability, migration, and national security concerns around the world.

These impacts are not felt equally.

Any conversation about the climate crisis is incomplete without considering how it disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color.

This oppression is often achieved systemically, through policies and practices that effectively place low-income and communities of color in close proximity to polluting facilities like power stations, plastics plants, and methane gas pipelines or to infrastructure like major highways.

Living close to pollution – often the same emissions driving the climate crisis! – people in these communities are exposed to a variety of harmful pollutants at a higher rate than White and higher-wealth communities. This leads to far greater rates of serious health problems in communities of color, from cancer to lung conditions to heart attacks, as well as a higher prevalence and severity of asthma, lower birth weights, and greater incidence of high blood pressure.

Black Americans breathe 56 percent more pollution than they produce, and Latinos breathe 63 percent more – while Whites breathe 17 percent less – for example.

As a movement, we have a moral obligation to act to dismantle the structures subjecting people of color and low-wealth families disproportionately to environmental health hazards.

Spotlight On: Environmental Racism. Watch now:


We can solve this crisis – we just need the will to act.

It’s true that even if we completely stopped emitting carbon pollution today, we’d continue to experience climate change impacts for a considerable time to come. The pollution that has caused our current crisis stays in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of years; climate change is not a phenomenon that can be stopped in its tracks immediately.

But it’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent the worst of it. And it certainly could get much worse.

Good thing we have the practical, clean-energy solutions and policy plans to do it!

And with supportive federal leadership, we have the chance to think big and act boldly. To confront the climate crisis threatening our future. To get workers and families devastated by the pandemic back on their feet. To finally face the racial injustice destroying dreams and lives across the country.

Together, we can hold federal officials to their word to take bold climate action, work in coalition with fellow environmental advocacy groups to advance our collective goals, and make sure all of our voices are head in demanding a cleaner, greener future.

So, what do we want (no, demand!) and how do we get there? We demand:

(For more on the “how” part, click the links above; unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the many facets of the climate crisis.)

Join Us

Ready to take the next step?

Learn more about the exciting campaigns, training programs, educational content, and climate advocacy happening at The Climate Reality Project by signing up for our email list. Be the first to know the latest climate science as well as when powerful opportunities to stand up for a better, more sustainable tomorrow arise!

Sign up today:

*/ temperaturesciencedatawarmingimpacts Content Components:  Not in the US? In the US? .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }   .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }     The Climate Reality ProjectDrought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowWalkable Cities Can Benefit the Environment, the Economy, and Your Health6 Interactive Tools to Better Understand the Climate CrisisLead: Some people view the climate crisis as a down-the-road problem; something we can wait to deal with later. It’s not.facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/climate-crisis-2021-5-key-facts-know?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: The Climate Crisis in 2021: 5 Key Facts to KnowTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3xIfZaA
ipacha

Why Climate Reality Is Saying, “No Climate, No Deal”

2 months 1 week ago

What if we told you that just 50 people effectively have the power to decide if the world’s largest economy grabs its one last chance to make a real difference on climate change?

That is, 50 US senators will essentially decide if the nation acts quickly and boldly enough to actually help hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, averting  “progressively serious, centuries' long and, in some cases, irreversible consequences" for our climate and our planet.

Just 50 people. Just one chance. We don’t get another.

Sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly where we are in July 2021.

It all comes down to (deep breath) President Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Running Down the Clock

If by now you’re so tired of reading about Congressional negotiations on infrastructure and the American Jobs Plan your eyes are drooping even now, that means:

A.) You’re like 99.9% of Americans.

B.) The other side is winning.

Back in March, the president announced the American Jobs Plan, a big, bold plan to rebuild America from the pandemic and fight climate change with clean energy and green jobs, all while bringing real opportunity to disadvantaged communities suffering from systemic racism and institutional neglect.

The ambition and scale of the plan was simply breathtaking. Notably for the US, it reflected the kind of big-picture thinking you would hope that in a rational world government would do to recognize existential threats like climate change and rising inequality staring us in the face and put together a thoughtful plan to tackle them.

Critically, the American Jobs Plan – true to its name – proposed to do this by putting people to work in good-paying jobs building new renewable energy facilities, creating electric vehicle infrastructure, developing resilient roads and buildings ready for the reality of a world with a lot more extreme weather.

So what do the friends of fossil fuels in Congress – who want nothing of this whole economic and energy transformation – do?  

They run down the clock with stuttering negotiations that seem mostly intended to strip any climate provisions out and shrink the president and House and Senate majority’s limited window to pass anything before the 2022 midterms.

Plus, as the headlines become less about transformative legislation that will – it really bears repeating – create millions of jobs and tackle both climate change and systemic inequality on a massive scale and more and more about Congressional process, people tune out. Eyes glaze over. And our window to do something big, something that could help energize climate action on a global scale gets smaller by the day.

Americans Really, Really Like the American Jobs Plan

But here’s the thing: Outside of the all the political theater going on, poll after poll show the majority of Americans support the plan. Numbers like seven out of 10 Americans, depending on the poll and methodology. Which means voters going across standard party line ideologies, which in this day and age, you basically never see.

And no wonder, because sure, Americans of different ideologies disagree on a lot, but most recognize that the government doing things like investing in clean energy technology to power the economy without destroying the planet, replacing 100% of lead pipes across the country so no American family has to deal with poisoned water, and investing in disadvantaged communities, those are really good things.

And that’s before we get to the millions and millions of good jobs these efforts would create if enacted.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Doesn’t Tackle the Main Issue

So after weeks and weeks of negotiations, last month, the president and Congressional leaders announced an agreement on what was eventually named the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, with $579 billion in new funding for roads, resilience, and some other parts of the American Jobs Plan.

But it’s not the American Jobs Plan.

More importantly, the framework doesn’t actually set out to do the one big thing we need to do to stop global warming: Transition away from fossil fuels.

That means there’s no provision in there for a clean electricity standard and no tax credits for renewables. The key provisions we need to rapidly jumpstart energy transition on a national scale.

There’s also none of the Justice 40 provisions to make this transition a just one by investing real dollars in disadvantaged communities.

So yeah, no deal.

No Climate, No Deal

Before we get to the state of play, it’s worth leaving DC for a minute and stepping back to look at the big picture.

The Pacific Northwest and British Columbia just emerged from an extraordinary heatwave that smashed all kinds of heat records and killed hundreds. To add insult to injury, right after sweltering through a new all-time Canadian heat record of 121 degrees Fahrenheit, residents of Lytton, British Columbia had to flee wildfires that consumed 90% of the town. Scientists agree that these temperatures would have been impossible without climate change.

All that too, before what scientists have termed “potentially the worst drought in 1,200 years” baking the West. And the fact that 2020 virtually tied the record for the hottest year on record.

The message from Nature couldn’t get any louder or clearer. We need to act now.

Trouble is, the halls of Congress have excellent soundproofing. Maybe the best on the planet.

So in a sane world, legislators would be watching what’s happening in the West and scrambling on the kind of big-picture legislation we need to leave fossil fuels behind and prevent this kind of devastation from becoming daily news. But instead, the part of Congress that gets its science from energy lobbyists rather than actual scientists is effectively shrugging its shoulders.

Nature’s clock is ticking. But so is ours. Our window to pass such a major climate bill is literally getting shorter by the day. With the midterms looming, if it doesn’t happen this fall, it doesn’t happen.

So where does that leave us?

The bottom line is this: Either senators on both sides of the aisle agree to significantly up the climate components of the bipartisan bill or we pass a big climate bill separately with 50 votes.

Or to put it another way: No climate, no deal.

If this sounds like hardball, that’s because it is. If you remember the first “Star Wars” movie where the rebels are looking at the plan of the Death Star and seeing they have one shot, well, that’s where we are. We don’t have time for niceties or next times.

The crisis is accelerating. It’s all-in or nothing. Or as David Roberts ably puts it, “There is no moderate position on climate change.” Every year we put off acting as a nation, reaching the target of halving emissions by 2030 – the first step to preventing permanent and catastrophic changes in the climate system – gets much harder and much more expensive.

This is our moment to think big and act boldly. Chances are, we won’t get another. So yeah, no climate, no deal.

Here’s the thing: You have a say in what comes next. We’re gearing up for a big push on Congress to go big on climate. Sign up for our email list and we’ll connect you with ways to get involved and make a difference at this critical time

legislaturebillWashingtonhamiltonpolicyThe Climate Reality ProjectDrought and the Western United States: What You Need to Know6 Interactive Tools to Better Understand the Climate CrisisWalkable Cities Can Benefit the Environment, the Economy, and Your HealthLead: We have one shot to pass the big, bold climate bill we need. One. Time for the climate movement to pull a Hamilton. facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-climate-reality-saying-no-climate-no-deal?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Why Climate Reality Is Saying, “No Climate, No Deal”Twitter URL: https://bit.ly/3wDXYZV
ipacha

Drought and the Western United States: What You Need to Know

2 months 1 week ago

The western United States has been in the news a great deal recently.

A “heat dome” parked over parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and northern California in late June, bringing truly record-shattering temperatures to the region. This historic heat wave in the Pacific Northwest came just two weeks after numerous temperature records fell in Montana, Colorado, Utah, California (again), and other parts of the intermountain west thanks to another run of 100-degree-plus temperatures.

And just this past weekend (July 9-11, 2021), 31 million people in California, Arizona, Nevada, and more were under heat advisories or warnings as temperatures soared.

Heat waves and higher-than-ever temperatures like these have become a disturbing new norm in this part of the world.

In June of 2019, Las Vegas in Nevada had to set up shelters and temporary cooling stations after excessive heat warnings were issued by the National Weather Service. By August, the state had broken a record for most consecutive days over 105 degrees.

In the area near Phoenix, Arizona, deaths from heat-related causes are growing. In 2016, 154 people lost their lives to excessively hot weather; in 2020, at least 494 deaths were linked to high heat.

At the same time, parts of the western US are seeing less precipitation than they used to – in some cases, a lot less. And when the rain does come, more and more often it’s falling hard and heavy – and running off the sunbaked soil, sometimes overwhelming stormwater systems and eroding land along the way, all while the ground remains dry.

Unsurprisingly, this combination of factors has left nearly all of the region in an official state of drought.

And when we say “nearly all,” that’s no exaggeration: 90% of the American West is now in varying states of drought. In about half of the region, according to the United States Drought Monitor, drought conditions are so bad they are considered either “severe” and even “exceptional.”

The US Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.

What is Happening?

While droughts can have different causes depending on the area of the world and other natural factors, most scientists have started to link more intense droughts to the climate crisis.

As more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the air, more heat energy from the sun gets trapped in the atmosphere and air temperatures increase – leading to more moisture evaporating from the land and nearby bodies of water. All the while, this same warming is fundamentally altering the water cycle all around the world. The result: shifting precipitation patterns that have made rainfall either increasingly abundant or in desperately short supply, relative to longtime averages, in many areas.

Warm weather is also arriving earlier and earlier and lasting longer. It goes to figure that snowpacks in the US’ western mountains are melting earlier too, leaving less water available during the heat of the summer. 

“Areas that might have normally gone a few weeks without rain may now go a few months without a drop. In the mountains, more precipitation falls as rain rather than snow, decreasing snowpack,” the New York Times reports. “Even a decent snowpack melts faster now, making it harder to manage water supplies. And soils and vegetation lose more moisture as temperatures rise.”

Less Water, More Problems

It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so let’s start with this one:

Credit: Rebecca L. Pittman – Getty Images

This is one of the fingers of Lake Oroville, the second largest reservoir in California. We trust you can tell where the water is supposed to be?

Now, consider this (from the Associated Press):

Each year Lake Oroville helps water a quarter of the nation’s crops, sustain endangered salmon beneath its massive earthen dam, and anchor the tourism economy of a Northern California county that must rebuild seemingly every year after unrelenting wildfires.

But the mighty lake — a linchpin in a system of aqueducts and reservoirs in the arid US West that makes California possible — is shrinking with surprising speed amid a severe drought, with state officials predicting it will reach a record low later this summer.

(Emphasis ours.)

Indeed, water levels at this vital reservoir are expected to get so low that in June 2021, it was announced that a hydroelectric plant powered by water from the lake would be forced to shut down for the first time ever – right at the height of the summertime, when demand on the electrical grid is particularly high because of home and business air conditioning.

When operating at full capacity, the Edward Hyatt Power Plant can power up to 800,000 homes. But dwindling water supplies mean that come August, it won’t be powering any.

Elsewhere, the water in Lake Mead, the vast reservoir on Nevada’s border with Arizona, sits at just 35 percent of what the lake can hold. That has a lot to do with the diminishing river that feeds it – the Colorado River, which more than 40 million Americans depend on for drinking water, irrigation, and much more.

To fully grasp the impact our changing climate might have on a river like the Colorado, you should start at its literal source. Much of the water flowing down the river originates as snow high up in the Rocky Mountains.

But as previously mentioned, the high-elevation snowmelt that constitutes the headwaters of the Colorado is shrinking. With spring seasons arriving earlier and earlier, and with highly variable annual precipitation, mountain snows simply cannot keep up with the rising demand for water downstream – especially when the spring and early summer rains never show up to play their part.

Impacts

Climate crisis-exacerbated drought is putting a drastic strain on water resources across the US west – with major consequences for people living in communities throughout the region. It’s climate change doing what it always does: making an already bad situation much, much worse.

Water is, of course, the key factor in all agriculture. So the success of family gardens, the livelihoods of farmers, and the availability of fresh, affordable food everywhere is directly threatened when our climate changes and water becomes desperately scarce in any particular region.

There are also other consequences of drought that you might not immediately think of – like the increased risk of wildfires.

The climate crisis creates the perfect conditions for extreme wildfire seasons in the American West and many other regions around the globe. The reasons why are pretty simple science, and they’re going to sound familiar: Warm weather is arriving earlier and lasting longer. Snowpacks are disappearing earlier. Precipitation patterns are changing.

The result? Parched land and withered plant life.

All these dead and dried-out plants then act as tinder, igniting when the heat soars, as it has so acutely in recent months, and lightning strikes – and it’s striking more often as our climate changes. Plus, with less predictable rains, and seemingly more unpredictable wildfire behavior, once fires begin, they are getting harder and harder to stop.

And of course, we haven’t even mentioned drinking water.

“The people who manage the West's complex water systems are realizing that with climate change, they can no longer rely on the past to predict the future,” according to NPR.

“That's creating a fundamental threat to the way Western water systems operate, because they were built around the idea that the climate would remain constant. Historical climate data such as river flows and rainfall totals told engineers how big to build reservoirs and canals. The data also told them how much water was available to divide up among cities and farms.”

Key Takeaways

  • Longer-lasting heat waves and higher-than-ever temperatures have become a disturbing new normal in the Western United States.
  • These temperatures – alongside changes in precipitation patterns, earlier-than-ever snowpack melt, enhanced evaporation, and other climate impacts – have plunged nearly all of the region into a state of drought, which is so bad in some places it’s considered “extreme” and even “exceptional.”
  • Some of the most important reservoirs in the western US currently sit at less than 40% of their capacity.
  • Drought is linked to crop loss on farms, wildfires, and problems accessing drinking water, threatening the lives and livelihoods of people throughout the West.
  • The water systems of much of the American West were built on the assumption of a consistent climate and predictable rainfall and snowpack melt, and they’re struggling to deal with substantial declines in both across the region.
What You Can Do

Drought has serious consequences for people’s lives and livelihoods, affecting everything from agriculture and drinking water supplies to transportation and health. And warming temperatures are likely to continue creating drier conditions for the next several decades in some parts of the world, including (perhaps especially) the American West.

But we can flip the script on the back half of the century – and create a better future for generations to come.

If we raise our voices together now for an infrastructure bill with climate and justice at its core, we can work toward 100 percent clean, renewable electricity by 2035 for the whole country. A zero-carbon, electrified transportation future. Pollution-free, efficient, and green communities. And so much more.

Join a Climate Reality chapter today and do just that as part of Our Climate Moment. The campaign is mobilizing activists like you across the United States to make Congress and the Biden Administration act quickly on targeted climate policy solutions.

Now’s the time to think big and act boldly to confront the climate crisis threatening our future. This is Our Climate Moment – and we can’t afford to waste it.

climate changeclimate crisiswestamericaWestern USAmerican westcaliforniaOregonWashingtonMontanaColoradoArizonaUtahNevadaIdahoNew MexicodroughtrainprecipitationsnowpackriversLake MeadLake Orovillereservoirstormsheatheatwaveheat domehotdrinking waterThe Climate Reality ProjectGlobal Wildfires by the Numbers2020: A Continued Tale of Rapidly Strengthening Atlantic HurricanesHow The Climate Crisis is Changing Our RiversLead: The American West is enduring a historic drought – and unless we take urgent climate action now, states from California and Oregon to Montana, Arizona, and Colorado could face a future where water becomes more and more scarce. facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/drought-and-western-united-states-what-you-need-know?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Drought and the Western United States: What You Need to KnowTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/36vMX22
ipacha

Walkable Cities Can Benefit the Environment, the Economy, and Your Health

2 months 2 weeks ago

Imagine this: working, eating, learning, shopping, and relaxing all without ever having to sit behind a wheel of a car.

For those living in many American cities, a walkable neighborhood like this seems out of reach. However, for city dwellers residing in Europe or Asia, strolling from place to place is a way of life. Why is that the case?

The term “walkability” means exactly what it sounds like: how easy it is to travel around a neighborhood on your own two feet. Walk Score, a website that rates and ranks the walkability of cities, reports that 141 cities in the United States have an average score of 48 out of 100. On the other side of the world, 95% of Chinese cities achieved a Walk Score of 60 points or above.

This disparity is mainly because many American metro areas were built with car travel in mind. But experts agree: highly walkable neighborhoods are better for the environment, the economy, and our health.

You Can’t Spell “Carbon” Without “Car”

With nearly 290 million cars on the road in the US, it’s no surprise that the transportation sector is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

 

Image source: Environmental Protection Agency

Fifty-eight percent of those emissions come from light-duty vehicles, like the passenger cars millions of Americans depend on to shop for groceries and commute to work.

Despite having about the same number of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, a Chicagoan can walk to an average of five of those places within five minutes, while a Houston resident will find 0.5 dining options on the same walk. Unsurprisingly related, average gasoline consumption per capita is about 200 gallons higher in Houston compared to Chicago.

Building amenities within walking or biking distance of residential areas can decrease the amount and length of car trips that are needed, therefore decreasing the amount of carbon emissions and other pollutants that come out of a car’s tailpipe.

Good for Business

Investing in walkable cities shouldn’t be a hard sell, considering the value it adds to local economies. Walkable cities are attractive, and it shows.

A study found that each additional Walk Score point was associated with an increase of between $500 and $3,000 in home values (but that doesn’t mean it can’t be affordable, more on that later). At the same time, a majority of millennials, who are expected to make up half of the American workforce by 2025, have expressed a desire to live in a place where they don’t have to own a car. Businesses keen on attracting these young professionals understand that and are moving from sprawling suburbs to condensed cities, bringing along improved productivity and economic development.

Making My Way Downtown, Walking Fast

According to the AAA, it costs the average American over $9,500 a year, or 13% of average household expenditures, to own a car. This is a much higher percentage compared to Europeans. And it gets worse for lower-income Americans, who spend between 17% and 29% of their income on cars.

Comparatively, moving from point A to point B is much cheaper on foot. An unlimited annual pass on New York’s MTA buses and subways and Chicago’s CTA buses and trains cost $1,524 and $1,260, respectively.

Plus, not only is it healthier for your wallet, it’s healthier for you too.

Walkable neighborhoods allow for more physical activity to be incorporated into residents’ daily lives. Studies have shown that rates of obesity and diabetes are lower in more walkable neighborhoods. In a separate study, people in New York County, the most compact city in the study, walked 80 minutes more each month and weighed an average of six pounds less than people living in Geauga County.

Six pounds may not seem like much, but that weight is not equally distributed, affecting some more than others and increasing the entire town’s risk of obesity-related diseases.

Living in a pedestrian-friendly area also improves your mental health.

Cities with easy access to public transportation and cultural and leisure activities promote happiness. Making neighborhoods more walkable isn’t just about making it easier for individuals to get around. It’s also about creating community and combatting loneliness. Walking around town more frequently increases opportunities to interact with neighbors and facilitates civic engagement.

How We Can Walk the Walk with Infrastructure

Public Transit

To make cities less car-oriented, we must replace the private car with alternative forms of transportation. That’s right: public transit. Public transit is cheaper and safer for the individual, while also providing economic opportunities by creating jobs and connecting people to work and businesses.

For buses and trains to be considered a viable choice for most people, they need to be safe, clean, reliable, and accessible. But adequate and inexpensive public transportation isn’t just going to build itself. We need massive buy-in and investment from local, state, and federal governments. While we’re at it, we should make sure that new public transit projects are as environmentally friendly as possible.

Zoning Laws and Affordable Housing

Traditionally, American cities were developed under single-use zoning codes. Homes, grocery stores, and offices were separated by blocks or even neighborhoods, making it harder for people to walk from one type of “use zone” to another. Advocating to prioritize mixed-used development is the key to preventing suburban sprawl.

Changing zoning laws can also help with making a more-walkable city more affordable too.

One example is inclusionary zoning laws that require a percentage of all new housing developments to meet affordability criteria. However, having an inclusionary-zoning ordinance in place is not enough to stop low-income residents from being priced out of their homes as cities attract wealthier people. We need federal dollars to be invested in affordable housing and provide public subsidies, like rental assistance, grants to state and local governments, and tax credits.

Biking Infrastructure

Bike lanes that are protected and connected can play a huge role in improving livability. Biking provides all the benefits of walking (cheap, clean, and calorie-burning) while also satisfying the need for speed. The low end of the average cycling speed is 10 miles per hour compared to the average walking speed of three miles an hour, which means that biking can get you to your destination more than three times faster.

The main barriers to cycling are perceived biker safety and connectivity issues. The first problem can be solved by putting more cyclists on the road and establishing a clear right of way for cyclists. Connectivity issues can be fixed by building bike-friendly resources that are focused around destinations like public transit, schools, and workplaces. Municipalities within one region should also work together to ensure that bike lanes connect between communities.

Pedestrian Safety

To achieve increased walkability, pedestrians must feel compelled to walk downtown. This means shifting focus away from cars by replacing multilane streets with bike lanes and walkways.

Keeping the pedestrian out of danger should also be a priority. That includes building well-lit and tree-lined sidewalks and safe pedestrian crossings. Implementing traffic calming measures can also improve pedestrian safety. Building on-street, diagonal parking can create positive friction to slow down traffic, while simultaneously acting as a buffer between the sidewalk and the road. Other measures include narrowing roads, converting one-way streets into two-way streets, and building roundabouts and traffic circles.

What You Can Do

Improving walkability in cities is a powerful way to reduce emissions, while improving the quality of life for residents. It’s undeniable that if we want American metro areas to pull this walkability thing off, we need to pass a strong infrastructure plan. Investing in public transit, affordable housing, and other infrastructure means investing in the American economy, the health of the American people, and the environment.

The current bipartisan infrastructure framework just isn’t enough to achieve an American future in climate resiliency and racial justice. We need bold climate action to be part of any infrastructure bill.

If you’re ready to help, join the Our Climate Moment campaign and activists in Climate Reality chapters across the country to continue the fight for climate legislation and organize for the changes we so desperately need.

climate realitycitieswalkabilitypublic transportationinfrastructureeconomyHealthaffordable housingurban developmentThe Climate Reality ProjectWhat We Want: Zero-Carbon TransportationWhat the American Jobs Plan Means for West VirginiaWhat We Want: Green CommunitiesLead: Cars dominate American streets and our way of life, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. All we need is a little investment in improving the walkability of our cities. facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/walkable-cities-can-benefit-environment-economy-and-your-health?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: Walkable Cities Can Benefit the Environment, the Economy, and Your HealthTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3yHJpG5
ipacha

6 Interactive Tools to Better Understand the Climate Crisis

2 months 3 weeks ago

The climate crisis is capital B big and getting your head around all the causes, effects, and solutions can be a real challenge. Even for those who’ve spent years engaging with the issue.

Fortunately there are many interactive tools available online to help us connect seemingly unrelated dots, visualize the abstract, and even foresee the future as science today predicts it.

These online experiences can paint a clearer picture of our changing climate and the solutions at hand. So here are a few we’ve found helpful!

EN-ROADS

First up in our list is En-ROADS, a simulation that gives you the chance to design your own policy scenarios to limit carbon emissions, and thus, future global warming. You can try your own experiments and assumptions and get feedback on the likely impacts in real time.

Created by Climate Interactive in collaboration with MIT, En-ROADS has been used by everyone from individuals to small community groups, to US Congress and the UN secretary-general’s office.
 

Business leaders all over the world are taking sustainable corporate action, and using the #EnROADS simulator (co-developed w/ @MITSloanSusty) to understand what climate solutions are high leverage. Learn more: https://t.co/L2uP9uXGAD pic.twitter.com/vo18juwObS

— Climate Interactive (@climateinteract) April 1, 2021


FOSSIL FUEL INTERACTIVE

The world extracts a stunning amount of coal, oil, and gas every day. Now, thanks to the Guardian’s Fossil Fuel Interactive, you can get an idea of just how much.

Additionally, the tool shares thought-provoking insights like the amount of fossil fuels that’s been extracted during your lifetime, and at what age you might see the world reach different climate thresholds.

CLIMATE TIME MACHINE

NASA’s Climate Time Machine provides a satellite look at our emissions and the rise in temperatures they’ve caused. Additionally, it provides a sobering look at some potential impacts of global warming.

See below, for example, a capture of the simulator’s interactive global temperature and sea level maps.

(Source: NASA)

YALE CLIMATE OPINION MAPS 2020

Public opinion plays an immense role in the climate crisis and how we act to confront this threat and avoid the worst – or not.

That’s what makes visualizations from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication both so fascinating and so important. Check out the Explore Climate Change in the American Mind tool, for example, to see the diversity of Americans’ views on climate change.

NEW YORK TIMES: CLIMATE CHANGE RISKS BY COUNTRY

Ever wanted to see know the climate crisis is impacting your country? What’s more, depicted in state-of-the-art 3D graphs?

If so, The New York Times has got you covered. Enter your country and scroll through the story to learn what challenges you and the world face — today, and as well as in coming decades.
 

In Opinion

Every U.S. county has its own climate risk. Enter yours to find out how climate change is likely to affect your community. https://t.co/4KjRoB2z9P

— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 20, 2020


EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY CALCULATOR

Global Footprint Network’s Footprint Calculator is a must-try exercise for anyone who wants to know their unique role in the climate crisis and in the greater sustainability challenge the world faces today.

Specifically, the tool calculates how many planets humanity would need if everybody lived the same lifestyle as you. The number surprised us, and it might surprise you, too.

IT’S TIME FOR ACTION

These tools make clearer than ever what we already knew: that our climate is in crisis, and the time to work toward a healthy sustainable future is now.

If you’re ready to take action, join our activist email list today! We’ll keep you posted on the latest developments in climate policy and what you can do to help solve the climate crisis.

toolsdigitalpicturesgraphschartslist Content Components:  Not in the US? In the US? .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }   .ngp-form { width: 100% !important; margin: 0 auto; overflow: hidden; display: block; } .form-wrapper-everyaction p{ max-width: 900px; width: 95%; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.5em; margin: 0px auto 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .form-wrapper-everyaction a{ color:#0000ff; text-decoration:underline; } .ngp-form label { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } .at-title { display: none; } .at-markup.HeaderHtml { display: none; } legend.at-legend { display: none; } label.at-text{ color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-check.SmsSubscribeMobilePhone { margin-top: 20px; } input.at-submit.btn-at.btn-at-primary { width: 95%; color: #fff; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 20px; text-transform: uppercase; background-color: #000; } .at-markup.SmsLegalDisclaimer.at-legal { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .ngp-form span.text { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } span.at-checkbox-title { font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 14px; margin-bottom: 10px !important; display: block; text-transform:uppercase; } .ngp-form p { font-size: 12px; color: #333333; line-height: 1.5em; margin-bottom: 15px; font-family: 'Merriweather', serif; } .at textarea { max-width: 100%; resize: vertical; height: 150px; } /*CUSTOM FIELD*/ /*Contact Us Primary*/ label.at-select.CustomFormFieldQuestion_2649406423609171.multi-select { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; } label.at-area.CustomFormFieldQuestion_5324604673045499_MappedParagraphQuestion_8337956061043365 { color: #333333; font-family: BrandonGrotesque-Black; font-size: 16px; text-transform: uppercase; }     The Climate Reality ProjectNot Just Sea Level Rise: How the Climate Crisis is Changing Our OceansWhat Are Clean Electricity Standards?8 Key Takeaways from IEA's "Net Zero by 2050" reportLead: Wrapping one’s head around a planet-sized problem is no small task. Fortunately, these online experiences can help!facebook link: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/6-interactive-tools-better-understand-climate-crisis?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=generalEmail Subject: 6 Interactive Tools to Better Understand the Climate CrisisTwitter URL: https://bit.ly/3w9yLGl
ipacha
Checked
1 hour 23 minutes ago
Subscribe to Climate Reality Project feed

Climate Reality Project