Will business listen to what our children are saying about the climate emergency?

Op-Ed by Efren Carrillo and Ellie Clohen published in North Bay Business Journal

Last month, millions of young people in the North Bay and all over the world participated in events that are part of a massive youth-led grassroots movement calling attention to the urgent need to decarbonize our economies now, not decades from now. The message young people delivered was aimed at climate deniers and governments that put profit over health in their refusal to recognize climate change as an emergency that threatens us all.

Will we as a society heed the clarion call of our young people?

Climate change poses grave and immediate threats, especially to children, the elderly, and people living in low-income communities. In response, the Pope and more than 70 of the nation’s leading health and medical organizations declared a climate crisis. We are running out of time to prevent irreversible consequences. Our only hope for a vibrant, healthy, and equitable future is to enact aggressive policies now.

The actions we must take are clear. As United Nations scientists reported, we must slash greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 while making significant progress toward removing upwards of one trillion tons of warming pollutants we have already put in the atmosphere. This will require rapid and far-reaching transformations in nearly every aspect of life: energy, industry, buildings, transport, land use and cities.

California is a leader in addressing climate change. Through landmark legislation in 2018, the state committed to reducing global warming emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and achieving 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045. Local governments throughout the state are enacting policies to support these more aggressive goals.

However, given the science and climate reality, California must, and can, do more. As the world’s fifth largest economy, California should continue to serve as a model for the rest of the country and the world. Working with scores of community and business partners, The Climate Center plans to help our state step up to the challenge.

But how?

California state and local governments must immediately enact a suite of policies that put us solidly on the path to reversing the climate crisis by 2030. That means committing to much more aggressive action and accelerated timelines for achieving net-zero emissions, healthy carbon-sequestering ecosystems, and resilient communities.

These policies are within our reach and include upgrading electricity production and storage to be 100% clean and safe by 2030; decarbonizing transportation by enacting a phaseout of new fossil fuel powered vehicle sales no later than 2025; and, managing rural, agricultural and urban lands to sequester more carbon while also aiding communities in coping with climate extremes, from extreme heat to drought and flooding.

The policies must also incentivize all Californians to make climate-friendly choices. Examples include transitioning to 100% renewable energy and replacing natural gas appliances with electric, leasing or buying electric vehicles, using more mass transit, e-bikes and e-scooters, and eating food produced and distributed with practices that do not contribute to the climate crisis.

Enacting these policies will have a long-term net benefit to our economy but will require major investments akin to the World War II wholesale retooling of the economy. To pay for them, we will we need more dedicated market-based mechanisms for putting a progressive price on carbon. California already has a cap and trade system. We also need to implement tax and dividend, frequent flyer fees, green bonds and other mechanisms.

In addition, we urge Californians to elect policymakers at all levels of government who are committed to aggressive policies that rein in climate change and hold them accountable.

Climate activists are fortunate in California that 80% of residents view climate change as a threat to the state’s future economy and quality of life. Two out of three (65%) support acting independently of the federal government on this issue (PPIC).

With a federal government that is becoming increasing hostile to California’s climate policies, we must work even more diligently to deliver climate solutions at the speed and scale that the science requires. To achieve this ambitious and necessary agenda, business will be an essential partner. Throughout the history of our nation, business has driven innovation. Here in the North Bay, many businesses are leading the way to building a vibrant and sustainable economy, from installing solar on rooftops to purchasing electric fleet vehicles to building microgrids that enable businesses to disconnect from the wide area grid and run autonomously.

Will California invest in making the youth-led climate strikes a turning point in the climate emergency? We can’t afford not to.

By Efren Carillo and Ellie Cohen

Efren Carrillo is Board President and Ellie Cohen is CEO of The Climate Center, a California-based nonprofit working to enact the bold policies required by the science and climate reality to reverse the climate crisis. The Climate Center played a pivotal role in growing community choice energy (CCA), which now supplies more than 10 million Californians, one-quarter of the state, with 88% clean energy.

Microgrids could prevent need for planned power outages

Our aging and unstable electrical system must be replaced now, not decades from now

Mercury News Op-Ed

Ellie Cohen is CEO of The Climate Center, a California-based nonprofit working to enact the bold policies required by the science and climate reality to reverse the climate crisis.

The dramatic increase in the size and severity of California’s wildfires in recent years is just one example of the devastating effects of climate change. PG&E’s power shutdowns this month due to high-fire-risk wind conditions is a stark reminder that our aging and unstable electrical system must be replaced now, not decades from now.

In response to power shutoffs, homeowners, businesses and managers of critical facilities, such as city halls, fire stations, hospitals and schools, currently buy fossil fuel-powered back-up generators. But dirty diesel generators are not the solution. They are heavy polluters, noisy, expensive to operate and are themselves a fire risk. Further, replenishing the supply of diesel fuel is not always possible during an emergency.

There is a better way. California needs a new decentralized power system with clean, resilient energy sources. A more resilient system would reduce the number of outages both planned and unplanned. A decentralized system would enable utilities to better target specific outages and operationally isolate local electricity generation from the larger grid. This would ensure that essential governmental, health and other services would remain powered in communities during outages.

To get started building a decentralized system from the bottom up, every community should identify its critical facilities—water supply, wastewater treatment, first responders and community care centers—and decide where to install new local renewables and storage to create community microgrids. Building microgrids at the community level to generate and store electricity makes more sense than leaving it to random business and residential deployments with everyone prioritizing their own facilities and needs.

To accelerate building community microgrids, The Climate Center started the Advanced Community Energy (ACE) initiative. ACE works to provide funding, technical expertise and local capacity for cities and counties to plan and implement local clean energy and battery storage systems to keep the lights on when grid power goes off. ACE planning involves collaboration between local governments and stakeholders, from residents including those in disadvantaged neighborhoods to electric distribution utilities, clean energy developers and technology companies.

Some California local governments have already started developing community microgrids, such as in OaklandEureka and Santa Barbara. These efforts need to expand to other communities soon. A statewide program to ensure that all cities and counties have the funding and technical support to conduct collaborative, participatory planning processes is essential.

To fully implement community microgrids statewide, we must transform our regulatory policies and institutions by revising market rules so that thousands of small-scale-distributed energy resources can be compensated for providing local energy services. We need to direct the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to develop regulatory rules for the big electric utilities to collaborate in good faith with the cities, counties and other stakeholders in their service areas.

We also need market signals to enable this transformation, starting with increased state funding to support critical facility microgrid projects. The first state supported community microgrids should be established in high fire risk areas in disadvantaged communities, and eventually should cover all of California.

Community microgrids are the logical next step in California’s remarkable history of energy policy innovation. The Advanced Community Energy initiative offers a blueprint for engaging local governments and the communities they serve in creating a clean, resilient, more affordable and equitable electricity system.

2018 4th warmest year; last 5 years warmest on record collectively

NOAA/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Read ScienceDaily summary here

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.

“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

The Real-Life Effects of Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation (NY Times)


By Eric LiptonSteve Eder and John Branch Read full NYTimes article here

For nearly two years, President Trump has pursued an aggressive, far-reaching effort, lobbied for and cheered on by industry, to free American business from what he and many of his supporters view as excessive environmental regulation.

The consequences are starting to play out in noticeable ways in communities across the United States.

An investigation by The New York Times showed how Mr. Trump’s deregulatory policies are starting to have substantial impact on those who experience them close up — and often are economically dependent on the industries the president is trying to help.

Here are 5 key takeaways….

Recommended Sources- Climate Change and Ecology News (my final Point Blue blog post)

Dear colleagues,

On this 50th anniversary of the NASA Earth Rise photo (humanity’s first view of Earth from afar), I thank you for an incredible 20 years at the helm of Point Blue. This is my last official posting as CEO of Point Blue (read more here and here).

To keep up on the latest climate change, ecology and related news, I’ve listed below some of my favorite online, free sources.

Thank you for being part of my Point Blue news blog and community over the years. Thank you for your continued support of Point Blue‘s outstanding, collaborative climate-smart conservation science. And thank you for everything you do to secure a healthy, just future for all life on our planet!

Happy holidays and all the best in the future-

Ellie

Climate change, ecology and related online news sources:

  • Science Daily (you can choose specific topics from climate change, agriculture and food to ecology, animals and microbes; you can also choose daily or weekly updates; you can subscribe and/or get RSS feeds):
  • Skeptical Science (excellent compilation of science articles on climate change as well as multiple resources on rebutting skeptics and more; free subscription, RSS feeds- and weekly climate change science publication summary):
  • Inside Climate News (a non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment – with layperson-friendly interpretations and comments from the scientists- free subscription and feeds)
  • The Daily Climate (an excellent compilation of news stories from around dthe world on climate change solutions, impacts, causes, resilience, politics and good news; free subscription and feeds)
  • Climate Home News (an independent climate change news site with a more global perspective on climate policy, finance, energy, land use, technology and science; they provide excellent high level summaries of the UNFCCC and other global policy efforts)
  • International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD News, Knowledge Hub, global jobs listing and more- free subscription)
  • Nature Climate Change
  • Society for Ecological Restoration
  • Maven’s News (California’s water news/policy blog with daily and weekly news compilations, updates, and other excellent resources on water and groundwater)
  • California Weather Blog (excellent occasional postings with the science explained)
  • Public Policy Institute of California (excellent nonpartisan analyses and updates on water and many other key policy issues facing California)

A Year of Climate Change Evidence: Notes from a Science Reporter’s Journal

  • Compelling new evidence shows we will speed past a dangerous climate-risk threshold as soon as 2030 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, potentially triggering climate change on a scale that would present grave dangers to much of the living planet.
  • The IPCC 1.5C report reinforces the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half in the next 12 years in order to move toward the Paris treaty’s most ambitious goal, and to eliminate emissions by 2050.
  • “The reports are all about one thing: To reach the global climate goal, we have to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the environment and realize that we aren’t separate from the environment,” said Kyle White, who co-authored a National Climate Assessment chapter on Tribes and Indigenous People. “A sustainable environment must become a basic aspect of governance. Indigenous knowledge systems are not just about recording environmental data. They’re about the way society should be organized to learn from people who know about the environment.”

Our heat-stricken planet is orbiting through the end of a year that humanity might rather forget. But several recent climate reports tell us that 2018 may be remembered as a turning point, for better or worse, in the fight to cap global warming…

….Several reports conclude that investing in a global economic transformation now would save huge amounts of money compared to paying spiraling costs for climate disasters later. Others outline the tremendous challenge: We are still shoveling millions of tons of coal into furnaces every day; CO2 emissions have increased 4.7 percent since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015.

Although there were many promises of action and signs of progress as coal plants closed, renewable costs dropped and companies and state and local governments tightened their rules, the United Nations Environment Program said the gap remains as large as ever between commitments under the Paris agreement and the cuts needed to reach its goals.

IPCC: 1.5°C Warming Is Bad; 2°C Is Worse

The climate science highlight of the year was publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of a report mandated by the Paris Agreement, Global Warming of 1.5 Celsius.

It authoritatively reinforces the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly half in the next 12 years in order to move toward the treaty’s most ambitious goal, and to eliminate emissions by 2050. That means transforming energy, agriculture and forest systems on a large scale. It means rethinking how and where we build, work, shop, play and live; how we get around and feed ourselves; where we obtain the energy we need for economic development, and how we adapt to the global warming impacts that are ahead….

….Biodiversity, Food Security and Extinction

…scientists have also started identifying global warming impacts to biodiversity, and by extension, the effects on humans due to the loss of important food crops or the ecologically valuable services of species like pollinating insects and bats. By 2070, global warming could be the main driver of biodiversity decline. Warming temperatures can affect animals directly, by changing their habitat, and also by disrupting natural reproductive cycles between species, like flowers, insects and birds.

A World Wildlife Fund study released in October found that global populations of vertebrate species have, on average, declined in size by 60 percent in the past 40 years. Habitat loss and direct exploitation are the main factors, and are linked with overconsumption of resources, which is also at the root of global warming. In November, the European Commission Joint Research Centre suggested global warming will cause cascading extinction effects at up to 10 times the rate of existing estimates. Scientists also showed how populations of crop-killing insects will boom with global warming, and how warming temperatures are throwing the plant-pollinator cycle out of sync.

In the oceans, hundreds of fish species are moving north to cooler water, disrupting coastal economies and threatening food supplies in less developed countries in the Global South…

In the Arctic: Rapid Changes Underway

Several 2018 reports also described how global warming continues to force rapid changes in Arctic ecosystems, including changes to ocean chemistry that are affecting marine life, as well as melting ice and thawing permafrost that is directly affecting local communities and the wider global climate system….

….What Should We Be Learning from All This?

The massive amounts of information can seem overwhelming, but if you strip away most of the technical and scientific jargon, the message is clear, said Michigan State University professor Kyle White, who co-authored a National Climate Assessment chapter on Tribes and Indigenous People.

“The reports are all about one thing: To reach the global climate goal, we have to fundamentally rethink our relationship with the environment and realize that we aren’t separate from the environment,” White said.

The indigenous knowledge expressed in several of this year’s reports has universal relevance for the systems-level change we need, he said. “A sustainable environment must become a basic aspect of governance. Indigenous knowledge systems are not just about recording environmental data. They’re about the way society should be organized to learn from people who know about the environment,” he said.

Our Food, Our Farmers and the Planet

  1. Solutions to global environmental problems will also not be realized without tackling the problems in agriculture.
  2. Agriculture is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of freshwater withdrawals, 70 per cent of biodiversity loss on land and 73 per cent of deforestation in the tropics.
  3. At the same time, the increased frequency of droughts and floods is a major obstacle to ending hunger and malnutrition.

International Institute for Sustainable Development Read full story here

Agriculture matters: it provides a livelihood for more people in the world than any other sector and represents almost 50 percent of total employment in poor countries. It is also on the front lines of nearly all urgent global challenges, from hunger & malnutrition to climate change, biodiversity loss and freshwater scarcity.

Farming has the power to end extreme poverty and feed billions of people. The goal of ending hunger is within reach, but it will not happen unless we increase public spending—by an extra USD 11 billion per year from now to 2030. IISD is working with IFPRI to measure the costs and provide the solutions to ensure the world achieves the critical SDG goal of ending hunger. Our recent study looked at the agricultural conditions and policies of 117 states in Asia and Africa over 45 years to determine why some countries have made the leap beyond subsistence agriculture and others have not….

Scientists called for ‘unprecedented’ action. But the global climate talks aren’t built for that.

  • “We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” said one young activist.

  • But in Poland, the IPCC’s findings on what the world would need to do to hold off the worst impacts of climate change collided with the reality of a bureaucratic process that requires consensus among nearly 200 nations. It was never designed to be nimble. Instead of dramatic new commitments, diplomats were left to wrestle with what to outsiders may seem like semantics, arguing about whether to “welcome” or “note” or “recognize the role” of the report.

 

Rapidly disintegrating Arctic sea ice leaves scientists ‘shocked’– means faster sea level rise, faster global warming, and more extreme weather

  • Rapidly disintegrating Arctic sea ice means faster sea level rise, faster global warming, and more extreme weather for us.

Joe Romm Read ThinkProgress article here    Read 2018 NOAA Arctic Report Card here

The annual Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is out, but it appears that humanity is flunking science badly.

As NOAA reports, “Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.” And one stunning result of this is that 95 percent of the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice has disintegrated in just three decades.

The Report Card makes clear that our failure to slow global warming has led to an all-but irreversible Arctic death spiral — which in turn is driving more extreme weather in this country, faster sea level rise everywhere, and more rapid disintegration of the carbon-rich permafrost, which in turn causes even faster global warming….

….NASA scientists who in March flew over the region north of Greenland — home to much of the Arctic’s oldest and thickest ice — were stunned by how much the thickest sea ice had been broken up into pieces as opposed to remaining a solid sheet. NASA cryo-scientist Nathan Kurtz, who has been on many such research flights, told the Washington Post, “I was just shocked by how different it was.”[Read more here]…

—————————-

Highlights from the NOAA report:

  • Surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe. Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.
  • In the terrestrial system, atmospheric warming continued to drive broad, long-term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, and the expansion and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation.
  • Despite increase of vegetation available for grazing, herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the Arctic tundra have declined by nearly 50% over the last two decades.
  • In 2018 Arctic sea ice remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years.
  • Pan-Arctic observations suggest a long-term decline in coastal landfast sea ice since measurements began in the 1970s, affecting this important platform for hunting, traveling, and coastal protection for local communities.
  • Spatial patterns of late summer sea surface temperatures are linked to regional variability in sea-ice retreat, regional air temperature, and advection of waters from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
  • In the Bering Sea region, ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels and linked to a record low sea ice extent in the region for virtually the entire 2017/18 ice season.
  • Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are also coinciding with an expansion of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean and threatening food sources.
  • Microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.

 

Sierra snowpack could drop significantly by end of century

  • Researchers found that we could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak Sierra Nevada snowpack water volume by 2100.
  • Peak snow melt could be as much as one month earlier, increasing the lag time between when water is available and when it is most in demand.
  • “We basically get 50 percent of our annual precipitation in five to 15 days, or one to two weeks. Our water demand is highest during the summer months when we don’t get a lot of precipitation, so we really rely on mountain snowpack as a stopgap for our water supply.”

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Read ScienceDaily coverage here

A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study that analyzed the headwater regions of California’s 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state’s surface storage, found they could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100.

…the study found that peak timing, which has historically been April 1, could move up by as much as four weeks, meaning snow will melt earlier, thus increasing the time lag between when water is available and when it is most in demand.

…Mountain snowpack is a critical source of water for California, and much of it comes in a very narrow window. “Our precipitation is really intermittent and extremes-driven,” Rhoades said. “We basically get 50 percent of our annual precipitation in five to 15 days, or one to two weeks. Our water demand is highest during the summer months when we don’t get a lot of precipitation, so we really rely on mountain snowpack as a stopgap for our water supply.”…

Alan M. Rhoades, Andrew D. Jones, Paul A. Ullrich. The Changing Character of the California Sierra Nevada as a Natural Reservoir. Geophysical Research Letters, 2018; DOI: 10.1029/2018GL080308