I used to have to wait for inspiration to write about climate change. Now it is most difficult – between the dramatic weather effects and the gathering struggle to stop greenhouse gas emissions – to decide which topic to choose and to find the time to write about it all.
I planned to write about the pope’s visit, but then Hurricane Joaquin hit, dumping a record 24 inches of rain on parts of South Carolina. Flooding has so far killed 12 people and Gov. Nikki Haley was prompted to call it “a thousand-year level of rain.”
Irony is a constant in climate change reporting. This was the same Haley who in 2012 buried her wildlife department’s honest but grim report of the potential impacts of global warming on her state and who only last year joined the state’s electric companies in blasting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its new rules limiting power plant carbon dioxide emissions.
Hurricane Joaquin should have taught a lesson such climate change deniers would do well to learn: global warming and its extreme weather is increasingly affecting everyone, no matter their ideology.
However, the major media are loath to point out Haley’s “gotcha!” moment. One has to search the news pretty thoroughly to find mention of the link between Joaquin’s flooding, the climate change Haley rejects and carbon emissions.
Yet July was the warmest month and climate scientists are convinced that 2015 will be by far the hottest year since recording began, due in great part to the warming of the oceans.
“What’s important is not so much the land but the ocean data. The oceans have really picked up in the last 12 months or so,” Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, told the London’s Independent.
And it is from these warmer oceans that more water is evaporated into warmer air to form massive hurricanes of the sort that used to occur every thousand years, but now are expected to hit our coasts every 25 to 50 years.
The massive rains dumped onto already-risen oceans cause Katrina-Sandy-Joaquin-type flooding that destroys the homes and lives particularly of the most vulnerable: the poor who are least able to evacuate or have nowhere to evacuate.
Will Joaquin convince Haley to comply with the EPA or enforce the cutting of carbon emissions in other ways to prevent further catastrophe? Will the poor neighborhoods of Charleston and Columbia get insulation, solar panels, bikeways and reliable public transit funded by a carbon tax on gas, oil and coal?
According to Pope Francis, in order to create the moral society to which we must move, capable of effectively stopping the march of climate change, the answer should be yes. In his Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality, he calls on all of us, not just Catholics, to change our lifestyle from a consumer- and fossil fuel-based one to one that respects the interconnectedness of all creatures and eliminates the suffering caused by our world’s growing economic disparity.
Profit for corporations and technological progress must no longer be the sole criteria on which to base social and governmental decisions. Such a limited and short-sided approach destroys the environment on which we all rely, punishes the poor and spiritually robs the affluent.
Watching the pope in the United States, one climate activist observed that he is a man in a great hurry, a man who recognizes that climate change is hitting us now, and we have no time to lose. Though his written and spoken message is profound and necessary, it is possible that it is the urgency that he imparts that has impacted us most.
Though it is difficult in our very busy lives, we need to allow ourselves to feel that urgency and apply it. Taking a different course away from the Hurricane Joaquins and the massive western wildfires, the melting permafrost and the rising seas means acting now, in real time, to prevent the building of new carbon infrastructure like the Northeast Energy Direct and the Keystone XL pipelines.
It means supporting the growing divestment movement of all our public institutions from carbon-based stocks and bonds. It means putting the brakes on the TransPacific Partnership that would not only ship decent jobs overseas, but would destroy environmental protection around the globe to protect profit.
The pope alludes to the need for a new democracy propelling and enabling the climate and human justice movement. “…(P)ublic pressure has to be exerted in order to bring about decisive political action…Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.”
There is urgency but also hope here, to which all of us can adhere. There is a possibility for community beyond that which we have seen. Let’s take him up on it.
Marty Nathan, M.D., is a physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center and a member of Climate Action NOW. She lives in Northampton.
Welcome to Climate Action Now! If you happened upon this site from somewhere other than our weekly newsletter, then we’d like to tell you about our newsletter. It comes to your email just about weekly. People have been saying nice things about this newsletter, and we hope you get something out of it too! We’re always open to suggestions and events to list on the the calendar, so feel free to send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Divestment is gaining momentum!
Would you like to know what is happening in the divestment world here in Massachusetts, and other key divestment news?
Here is a new newsletter from the people who have been working hard to get our state of Massachusetts to divest the giant state workers’ pension fund.
Sign up for this newsletter HERE
You can view the complete first issue of the newsletter HERE
Here is a good one-pager info on Article 97. A tale of FERC, the MA constitution, and Kinder Morgan, from NE-PLAN.
Photo Credit: Rene Theberge
Community Forum on the Papal Encyclical
First Churches of Northampton
Interfaith Candlelight Vigil
In solidarity with the Yom Kippur Vigil in Washington D.C.
Sept. 23 at 8:15pm
First Churches of Northampton
Sept. 24 at 7 PM
Amherst: Unitarian Universalist Society
Northampton: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church
Longmeadow: St. Mary’s Church
Update on Sep 19 2015:
This Fair Price for Carbon Resolution (find full text at the bottom) just passed the Mass Democratic Convention unanimously. Now we need to act on it. Take a copy to your state senator and representative!
DATE: September 21, 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Dave Roitman
“Fair carbon pricing resolution passes Massachusetts Democratic Convention: Equitable plan to stop climate change, promote public health.”
Springfield, MA. On Saturday, September 19 the Massachusetts Democratic Convention’s annual convention of over a thousand delegates passed by voice vote without dissent a resolution encouraging Massachusetts state legislators to pass laws instituting a fair price on carbon fuels. The resolution, presented by environmentalists representing a statewide coalition promoting a carbon fee with rebate to residents, is in line with the 2013 Massachusetts Democratic Platform.
The adoption of the “Fair Carbon Pricing Resolution comes on the eve of the visit to this country by Pope Francis, whose message is one of reducing carbon emissions to save the planet and protecting and standing with the poor.
Coal, oil, and natural gas when burned create carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, as well as other pollutants that create and exacerbate illnesses such as asthma and emphysema. The public health effects are disproportionately visited upon poor communities in cities and rural industrial areas.
According to public health officials, environmentalists and economists, the low price of these fuels does not reflect the climate or health damage that these carbon fuels wreak. Increasing their price by placing a fee on them as they enter Massachusetts both “holds fossil fuel companies accountable for their emissions” and, by raising the price of the fuels as that fee is passed on to consumers, reduces “our reliance on imported dirty fuels” promoting transition to conservation and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
However, unlike price-raising by fossil fuel companies, the bills supported by the resolution — State Sen. Michael Barrett’s (D-Lexington) “Act Combating Climate Change” and State Sen. Marc Pacheco’s (D-Taunton) “Act to Protect Our Environment and Reduce the Carbon Footprint of the Commonwealth” – designate the fee levied on the fuels be returned in full or in great part to the people of Massachusetts. Those who spend the least on energy – including all those making less than $70,000 per year – would receive more dollars per year than they spend on the fee. Thus “the plan to reduce carbon pollution protect(s) the health and quality of life of poor and vulnerable populations, both from suffering an unfair burden from fossil fuel pollution, and from bearing the cost of the transition to a just and stable future.”
The Resolution promotes fair carbon pricing, which has been implemented successfully in the province of British Columbia, Canada, as consistent with the Democratic Party’s commitment “to create a safe and sustainable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations, here in Massachusetts and around the world.” Its adoption would “write the next chapter of bold Massachusetts policy leadership” by demonstrating that such legislation can promote health, successfully fight global warming, while maintaining a robust economy.
FAIR CARBON PRICING RESOLUTION
For consideration by MA Democratic Party
September 12, 2015
WHEREAS, we must ensure that the cost of fossil fuels reflects the damage these fuels inflict on
our air, our water, our health, and the future stability of our climate, and we must hold fossil fuel
companies accountable for their emissions;
WHEREAS, it is necessary that we reduce our reliance on imported dirty fuels such as oil and
gas, and build a strong, independent economy that runs on clean, renewable sources of energy
produced here in Massachusetts;
WHEREAS, any plan to reduce carbon pollution must protect the health and quality of life of
poor and vulnerable populations, both from suffering an unfair burden from fossil fuel pollution,
and from bearing the cost of the transition to a just and stable future;
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth must honor the legal commitment made in the Global Warming
Solutions Act to reduce our emissions in proportion to what the best scientific evidence indicates
is necessary to avoid catastrophic global warming;
WHEREAS, the Massachusetts Democratic Party must honor the commitment in its 2013
Platform to “put a price on carbon” and thus write the next chapter of bold Massachusetts policy
leadership, and demonstrate to the country and to the world that pollution pricing can be good
policy and good politics;
AND WHEREAS the Massachusetts Democratic Party is committed to create a safe and
sustainable future for our children, our grandchildren, and all future generations, here in
Massachusetts and around the world:
THEREFORE, the Massachusetts Democratic Party calls on the State of Massachusetts to put a
price on global warming pollution, either through new regulations under the Global Warming
Solutions Act or through new legislation such as the legislation proposed by State Sen. Michael
Barrett (D-Lexington) “An Act Combating Climate Change” and State Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-
Taunton) in drafting and submitting “An Act to Protect Our Environment and Reduce the Carbon
Footprint of the Commonwealth.” We call upon our State Senators and Representatives, and our
Governor, to make fair carbon pricing the law of our state.
Dave Roitman & Adele Franks: Our times demand more, not less, solar generation
Hampshire Daily Gazette Op-ed By DAVE ROITMAN and ADELE FRANKS
September 10, 2015
Net metering gives solar panel users — municipalities, businesses, residents and community solar participants — full credit for electricity generated during sunny times if it is more than they actually use then, and applies that credit to the electricity they use from the electric grid at night and during winter months when there is less sun.
Net metering provides an incentive to install solar panels, since it offsets the considerable cost of erecting them by reimbursing customers for electricity they provide to the grid.
When net metering was new, because investor-owned electric utility companies feared it would reduce their profits, the net metering policy included a cap on how much electricity from large solar arrays could be reimbursed.
Now that the net metering cap has been reached in many Massachusetts utility territories, (including our National Grid region), numerous solar projects in limbo, such as Northampton’s plans for multi-megawatt solar array on our closed landfill. Without the benefit of net metering, such projects are financially infeasible.
The American Legislative Exchange Council has been spearheading a nationwide campaign to limit the growth of solar power generation. We can guess the motive is to maintain the high profitability of fossil fuel-dependent electric utilities that fund them. Their campaign promotes the view that net metering programs “burden” non-solar customers by “subsidizing” solar arrays.
This campaign has successfully removed solar incentives in some other states, and is now being promoted by Massachusetts electric utility companies and their allies to slow solar development here.
Investor-owned electric utilities need to make a profit for their shareholders, so it is understandable why they want ratepayers to believe that net metering is unfair. This notion fosters a political climate that preserves their current business model as long as possible. But — and it’s a big but — this business model only looks at solar energy costs.
What if we were to also consider the benefits? Solar’s benefits include:
• A reduced need for costly new electricity generating facilities.
• A reduced need for utilities to purchase more electricity from fossil fuel-fired power plants at times of peak demand.
• Reduced carbon and methane emissions that contribute to climate disruption.
• Reduced air pollution that worsens asthma, heart and lung disease.
• Freedom from volatility in the price of fuel (sunlight is always free).
• Creation of new jobs at many times the rate of the economy in general.
Taking these benefits into account, solar’s benefits outweigh its costs. A recent national review of studies conducted to date concluded that solar customers are actually subsidizing non-solar customers and utility companies themselves, and that continued development of solar will likely lead to reduced electric rates overall (http://environmentamerica.org/reports/amc/shining-rewards).
In a recent Gazette article, Rep. Peter Kocot cited the Massachusetts legislature’s Net Metering and Solar Task Force finding that “each dollar invested in solar now, would bring in a return of $2.77,” a huge positive for the Commonwealth’s residents.
Our state legislature is considering several bills dealing with solar energy net metering. Under state Sen. Benjamin Downing and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg’s leadership, the Senate approved important measures to increase solar energy production across the state.
It is incumbent upon the House of Representatives to do the same without delay.
We call on state Rep. Thomas A. Golden Jr. and House Speaker Robert DeLeo to rapidly move forward legislation that would lift the cap on net metering without restrictions so that the Massachusetts solar industry can continue to grow, and the global warming emissions reduction required by state law can be achieved. We need all the clean renewable energy we can get, as quickly as possible — because climate catastrophe has begun.
Worldwide, this July was the hottest month on record, and the first seven months of 2015 were the hottest January-to-July span ever recorded. These sobering facts make it all the more important that we all work together — as fast and as well as we can — to transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy.
That is why we should care about eliminating the cap on net metering for solar power generation and let our elected officials know we expect them to do that without delay.
Dave Roitman and Adele Franks both live in Florence. They are members of the steering committee of Climate Action NOW.
Thursday, September 10th
Greenfield Community College Dining Commons from 6-10 PM
Stand Together Against the Proposed Northfield Compressor Station
Please join us at the Northfield Thursday vigil on Gulf Road. We will be leaving directly from there to the hearing in Greenfield.
For all the details, see this page: http://justiceandpeace.net/PioneerValleyCares/events/
URGENT CALL TO ACTION!
Time is of the essence here – Gov Baker wants to open our public lands.
Now, we’ve gotten word that Governor Baker’s administration is pressuring the Department of Conservation and Recreation, as well as the Department of Fish and Game to open the gates to our public lands, giving Kinder Morgan’s surveyors free range.
Join us in calling on Governor Baker and his administration to stand strong, keep these lands protected, and deny access to Kinder Morgan.
We need everyone to call, tweet and email state administration officials with your objections to pipeline survey permission on Massachusetts Public Lands. For instructions go here.
photo credit: Rene Theberge