A Reinvigorated Battle Cry for the Climate by Jessie Bond

August 13, 2015

For years, conversations around global warming have been volleying back and forth between dire predictions and outright denial. Most of the discussion has centered on scientific data and the economic impact of dealing with climate change. But the plea to protect our planet from the worst effects of rising temperatures has not fully resonated because most people have been overlooking an important human motivator: our own morality.

Until now. In May, Pope Francis took a stand and brought the climate change conversation to a new global level. In a 184-page encyclical, the Pope delivered a powerful critique on modern life. He addressed not only the fact that humans have contributed to the degradation of our planet but that we have a moral responsibility to our own and other species. He called for a sweeping “cultural revolution,” and among the many pages offered some guidance for every government, community, and individual. This call to action sparked a renewed energy to confront climate change and the enormous ecological, economic, and social imbalances that are root causes of the crisis.

Many cities across the globe are heeding this call and beginning to roll out plans to combat climate change at the local level. In fact, in the wake of the Pope’s statement, the Portland City Council and Multnomah County Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the joint 2015 Climate Action Plan. This continues a 20-year legacy: Portland was the first city in the United States to create a plan for cutting carbon in 1993. Total carbon emissions in the U.S. have risen since the 1990s, but Portland’s emissions have actually declined by 14%, while its population has increased by almost a third.

The updated joint city-county plan is intended to strengthen the local effort to reduce carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. This is the level experts feel is needed worldwide to prevent devastating climate disruption from global warming.

Issues of equity and justice, which have largely been missing from the global climate conversation as Pope Francis points out, are finally getting serious consideration. The city-county plan, which was developed with the help of an equity working group, reflects this. Along with minimizing fossil fuel use, the plan focuses on ensuring that all city and county residents benefit from climate action.

At the Sierra Club we know that ensuring a livable climate for everyone is the biggest challenge of our age. The Oregon Chapter is working to educate the public, mobilize communities, and support the growing and thriving climate movement, and there are many ways you can get involved:

  • Find out what the joint city-county action plan means for Portland and Multnomah County at our Third Thursday event: Our Climate, Our Future: the Portland/Multnomah County Climate Action Plan at 6:30 p.m. at the Sierra Club office.
  • Hear what local faith leaders have to say about the moral implications of the climate crisis and how to build powerful coalitions at our Third Thursday event: Acting on Faith: The Moral Imperative of the Climate Crisis at 6:30 p.m. at the Sierra Club office.
  • Support our Protect State Forests campaign. We are fighting to preserve the Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests, which, as part of the Pacific Northwest temperate forest range, store much of the carbon on the planet.
  • Find out about our new You CAN Corvallis training for youth climate activists to push the Corvallis City Council to pass a climate action plan with significant greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Leaders like Pope Francis remind us that we can better build resilient communities only when everyone is included. It’s the shared human responsibility as Carl Sagan wrote, “to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot.” Taking a moral stand in being good and decent to others and to our world is what is going to help us and other species survive.


Some things to know about the Clean Power Plan

August 5, 2015

Its here!

Yesterday President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy revealed the Clean Power Plan. As McCarthy put it, it was “an incredibly wicked cool moment.” But what does it mean?

In short, the plan aims to reduce carbon pollution nation wide by 32% by 2030 by putting limits on how much carbon can be put into the atmosphere by power plants. This is the first time such limits have ever been set, truly a “wicked cool moment.” But I’m sure you want more than the short of it.

To help answer the question I’ve compiled information from a few great articles and sources (all at the bottom) from the internet for you. If you have others you like feel free to post in the comments or tweet at us, @ORsierraclub:

The Plan will cut carbon pollution that is fueling Climate Change:McCarthyvideostill

Power Plants are the largest emitters of carbon pollution in the United States. They total about one third of all the emissions we generate. When fully implemented in 2030 the Clean Power Plan will reduce our carbon pollution by 870 million tons. That’s 166 million cars or 70% of our passenger vehicles off the road.

It will protect6a00d83451b96069e201a3fd38a3db970b our health:

By 2030, each year there will be 3600 fewer premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks, 1700 heart attacks, and 300,000 missed days of school and work. That’s because when we limit carbon emissions we are also limiting 318,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 282,000 tons of nitrogen dioxide. Both gases contribute to soot and smog that make people sick.

 

It will help protect low income communities and communities of color:

The impacts of burning dirty fuels are disproportionately felt by low income communities and communities of color. Van Jones put it best in his CNN piece about the Plan: “The clean power plan will massively help minorities and low-income Americans. After all, one in six black kids and one in nine Latino children has asthma. Seventy-eight percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a dirty, polluting coal plant. African-Americans are also more likely to live in coastal areas and die during heat waves.” You should read his entire blog linked in the notes.

It will save us money on our utility bills:

When you total up the health and climate related benefits of the Clean Power Plan we’re looking at upwards of $45 billion of savings when fully implemented. That’s a lot of money that could be going to a lot of other great causes and issues. Bottom line, by 2030 the average American household can expect save around $7 a month on their utility bills. That’s not chump change.

It puts our state in the driver’s seat:

The Clean Power Plan sets carbon pollution standards for power plants across the country, but sets individual state goals based on each state’s current energy mix and what unique opportunities exist in each state. To make is easy the EPA has even created a model rule that states can adopt that guarantees their compliance with the Plan. If they don’t like that plan they can cut carbon pollution anyway they want as long as they meet the goals. This mean big opportunities to be leaders for states like Oregon.

We’ve got a good start to build from in Oregon:

Its Oregon’s time shine. We are already doing some things to move the energy sector to a fossil fuel free future and are on our way to meeting our goals in the Clean Power Plan, but there is a great deal more that needs to be done.

Renewable energy production in Oregon has grown 159% since 2008 and Oregon has a renewable portfolio standard that require utilities to generate 25% of their electricity with renewable sources by 2025. Our only coal fired power plant is already scheduled to go offline. Many Oregon cities and counties have climate plans of their own. Our Low Carbon Fuel Standard will reduce carbon pollution from our transportation sector.

More to do:beyond-coal-campaign-sierra-club-logo-large

Did you know that Oregon already has goals to reduce our carbon pollution 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Unfortunately those are just goals and aren’t enforceable in any sector. We could challenge the nation and lead by making these goals rules rather than aspirations. Leading this way will spur clean energy and efficiency development and create a center for innovation here in Oregon and the economic benefits that come with it.

Utilities are also looking to replace their coal fired energy production with natural gas fired power plants instead of clean renewable energy. We must move away from fossil fuels, not toward them. Gas is not clean and added are the impacts of fracking and methane releases from wells. Natural gas is not a long term solution. We need our utilities to be planning for a fossil fuel free future.

Multinational corporations are also hoping that Oregon and the Pacific Northwest will be a tap for dirty fuels on the global market. We need our elected officials and state agencies to stand up and say “no way.”  We have to decide if we want to talk about climate leadership or really show what that leadership looks like. We can’t talk about reducing our own carbon pollution while allowing big oil, gas, and coal to ship their dirty fuels around the globe for others to burn.

It is equally important that as we begin to comply with the Clean Power Plan and take further climate action that our changes are not burdens to low income communities or communities of color. These communities disproportionately  are impacted by the negative consequences of our current energy system, both from climate change and pollution. Our Climate Action Plan should serve as a means to lessen those impacts on those most in need of relief, not add to them. In addition the benefits of clean energy should be shared equally and not go to further these inequalities and benefit some more than others.

I fully applaud the President and Administrator McCarthy for their leadership and for producing the Clean Power Plan. I also call on our elected officials to not rest here, to continue to lead and push for further carbon reductions and an end to the fossil fuel era. I also call on you to make sure elected officials are accountable for their actions or lack of action when it comes to climate. As the President said yesterday in his announcement “If we don’t do it nobody will.”

Notes:

EPA Blog post: Six things every American Should Know about the Clean Power Plan

Oregonian: Oregon Already on a path to meet Obama’s new clean power goals

CNN: Busted: Three Myths About Obama’s Climate Plan by Van Jones

EPA: Clean Power Plan State Specific Fact Sheets

Whitehouse: What the Clean Power Plan Means for America

Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Statement on the Clean Power Plan

 


Applaud the Clean Power Plan: Release

August 3, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
August 3, 2015
Contact:  Andy Maggi (503) 238-0442 x301

Oregon Sierra Club Statement on Release of the Clean Power Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The EPA and the Obama Administration released the final version of the landmark Clean Power Plan. The plan will give States the opportunity to craft their own plan to reduce carbon emissions based on their existing energy portfolio.

As the U.S. moves towards cleaner energy with the Clean Power Plan, Oregon can continue to lead on clean energy and climate change by pursuing  Coal to Clean legislation and supporting a ban on coal exports.

In response, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter Executive Director Andy Maggi released the following statement:

“The Clean Power Plan is the most significant single action any President has ever taken to tackle the most serious threat to the health of our families: the climate crisis.

“Today marks the end of an era for dirty power plants that have spewed dangerous pollution into our air without limits for too long.  It signifies a new era of growth for affordable and safe clean energy sources that don’t fuel climate disruption and sicken our communities.  Today is a victory for every American who wants clean air to breathe, and for the millions of activists and concerned citizens who organized to make sure this day would finally come.

“As we celebrate this national milestone, here in Oregon we see more opportunities for our state to regain its position as a nationwide climate leader. State lawmakers  recently adjourned after failing to pass key Coal to Clean legislation, which would have reduced our reliance on dirty, out-of-state coal plants, as well as other environmental bills. Combined with  tightening bans on coal exports coming through Oregon and state carbon pricing, this legislation would have been a step forward for Oregon  towards cleaner energy and a more sustainable future. We hope the Clean Power Plan will give our leaders the confidence to continue reducing our use of coal and develop the renewable energy that Oregonians want.”


In Oregon, Student Governments Call for a Future Beyond Coal

June 1, 2010

It began in January, when Portland General Electric (PGE) made a big announcement: the major Oregon utility, partial owner and sole operator of the Boardman Coal Plant, proposed a possible timeline for phasing out reliance on Boardman.  That was the good news: after months of work on the part of climate activists, PGE had finally acknowledged the risks of associated with their coal-fired coal plant.  The bad news?  The soonest transition date proposed by PGE fell woefully short of what’s needed to protect Oregon’s environment, our economy, and ratepayers being subjected to the risks of coal dependency.  Under PGE’s proposed “2020 Plan,” the Boardman Plant would remain open for a minimum of ten more years.

Media outlets in the Northwest were a-flurry with the news that PGE wanted to decommission its coal plant.  Laudatory news articles and editorials poured in, the vast majority framing the issue as one of the PGE responding to public concerns by doing the right thing for the environment.  Unfortunately, few stories in the mainstream media probed deeply into the validity of claims PGE made to justify their preferred timetable.  Most news sources accepted PGE’s arguments at face value, never asking the essential question of whether a private utility that answers to Wall Street investors should be trusted to essentially regulate itself.  Read the rest of this entry »


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