Friday, November 18, 2016

Galvanized in Desperate Times

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let’s start with the good news.  It appears that the world has been shaken out of complacency about climate change.

In fact, home and abroad, people seem to be galvanized by the threat of climate denial taking hold of the US government.  Here is a list:

1. China reaffirms its commitment to action:   "We have to wait and see whether the new U.S. government will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but no matter what happens in the new government of the United States, I think China will continue our action and will continue participating in the global multilateral process."

2. Former French President Sarkozy calls for a carbon tax against the US if it pulls out of the Paris Agreement.

3. Former Irish President Mary Robinson says “It would be a tragedy for the United States and the people of the United States if the U.S. becomes a kind of rogue country, the only country in the world that is somehow not going to go ahead with the Paris Agreement."

4. A petition seeking to bar fossil fuel companies from taking part in UN negotiations on climate is delivered and accepted by the US at Marrakech.

5. Over 360 businesses urge Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement, including DuPont, Gap Inc., General Mills, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Hilton, HP Inc., Kellogg Company, Levi Strauss & Co., L'Oreal USA, NIKE, Mars Incorporated, Schneider Electric, Starbucks, VF Corporation, and Unilever, as well as multi-billion dollar investors and small businesses.

6. "[A] bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders sent Donald Trump’s transition team a briefing book urging the president-elect to consider climate change as a grave threat to national security."

7. “Canada, China, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom (and the United States of America) pledged to increase the share of electric vehicles in their government fleets and calling for other governments to join them.

8. California and New York both affirm committment to work to cut emissions.

9. Climate advocacy groups get a huge bump in donations and volunteers.

10. France commits to shutting ALL coal plants by 2023.

11. Delegates to the Marrakech COP 22 from over 190 countries make a Proclamation that the “momentum [to act on climate] is irreversible,” signaling a refusal to back down or pull out.

12. Even Saudi Arabia was among the 190+ nations that affirmed its commitments to diversify away from fossil fuels.

Add to that, the GOP and Trump appear to be recognizing that their campaign promises may be tough to keep.  Here is one example:  “A government spending program is not likely to solve the fundamental problem of growth,” McConnell said. “…I support the effort to help these coal counties wherever we can but that isn’t going to replace whatever was there when we had a vibrant coal industry.”

On top of that, Obama and Kerry have vowed to do all they can in the remaining days to protect future generations.  It appears their goal is to commit the US to every good decision they can.  While it can all be undone January 21, these decisions force the GOP to assertively destroy our climate, against the political will of a majority of Americans.  This will force them to have to ACT to destroy rather than allowing them to destroy by default.  Here are some examples:

1. Obama rescinds Arctic offshore drilling proposal, taking Arctic drilling of any kind off the table for five years.

2. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announces a settlement with an energy company, dismissing their lease for oil in Montana.

3. US commits to ongoing assorted agreements at COP22 in Marrakech.

The political good news is lengthy.  And there is more.  We are in the midst of the third year in a row without accelerating global emissions. Cities are ahead of schedule on cutting emissions.  Coal is dying even without the Clean Power Plan.   We are seeing a clean energy market boom.

With all of this good news, it is easy to be reassured.


Those Paris Agreements that everyone is valiantly reaffirming?  They get us to about 3C warming, instead of the 4C we are currently headed toward.    The world has agreed we must stay under 2C and folks like James Hansen have said we must stay under 1.5C.  We are currently at about 1.1C, with 1.5C locked in, even without further emissions.

That clean energy market boom?  It is fantastic to building the renewables we need.  But without a grid, we don’t have the necessary storage built up to complement the intermittency of the renewables.  Moreover, we aren’t adding renewables fast enough to outpace NUCLEAR closures in many places, never mind replace coal, oil and gas.  Quite simply, our current boom is not fast enough to avoid cruising past 2C warming.

Cities are ahead of schedule?  While cities represent 75% of the world’s emissions, their cuts are just slightly ahead of the commitments of the Paris Agreements, which aren't vigorous enough.

We have stopped accelerating emissions for almost three years.  That doesn’t mean we aren’t accumulating more carbon in the atmosphere.  That means we are not increasing the rate at which we accumulate more carbon in the atmosphere.

And politics?  The world may be woken out of complacency, but the US contributes about 16%   of the world’s emissions and it is about to be led by a political party that has declared climate change a hoax and fossil fuels the savior of the American people.  To see the dreadful list of plans of destruction on their platform go to here. Trump’s appointments so far are made of deniers.  He has reaffirmed his intention to pull out of the Paris Agreement and he intends to gut the Clean Power Plan.  His Supreme Court appointments, if they survive a split Senate, will destroy judicial attempts at action.

In fact, things are dire.

It appears the world may finally recognize that.

Wouldn't it be ironic if we finally united in action now?  It is an irony I could live with.  We all could.

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