For more information on the issue, click here.
Dear CBJ Assembly, State Representatives, and Avista CEO Scott Morris,
As a resident of SE Alaska, I do not support Avista's proposal to build natural gas infrastructure in Juneau.
Alaska, and especially Juneau, have a wealth of opportunity to switch from fossil fuels to clean, affordable, renewable energy for heating and transportation. If public investments are to be made, they should support proven renewable technologies such as responsible hydropower and heat pumps.
I pledge that I will not connect my home to a natural gas line in Juneau.
This is an important question and Joe Romm dissects it point by point.
The article is long, so I'll spoil it for you: it's not too late! According to the history and the scientific consensus, we can still turn things around if we get our butts in gear and do it.
So here you go. Print this out and take it to all your friends who are feeling depressed and hopeless. Be the change you want to see!
The Really Awful Truth About Climate Change
CREDIT: Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in a scene from the movie "The Awful Truth." (AP Photo)
So Vox ran a story Friday, “The awful truth about climate change no one wants to admit” by former Grist columnist Dave Roberts. While I’m a longtime fan of Roberts, the piece is filled with inaccurate and misleading statements, historical revisionism, and a fatally flawed premise.
The premise comes from an equally flawed commentary in Nature, “Policy: Climate advisers must maintain integrity” in which German analyst Oliver Geden argues that climate scientists (and others) have been “spreading false optimism,” about our chances of stabilizing below 2°C total global warming. Geden’s piece has drawn significant criticism from scientists on BuzzFeed,ClimateWire, and here, as Roberts notes.
But Roberts asserts, “the heated reactions elicited by Geden’s piece do show that he’s on to something.” Dave, Dave, Dave, if heated reactions proved someone is “on to something,” then I guess Fox News is fair and balanced after all….
So what is “The awful truth about climate change no one wants to admit”? Roberts asserts that no one wants to admit “The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.”
No. And by “no” I mean that, setting aside the vagueness of the word “miracles,” lots of people have been saying in recent years that humanity faces some awful shit if we don’t don’t adopt super-aggressive action ASAP. But they have not been saying it’s scientifically hopeless or requires religious miracles — since that isn’t true, though it seems to be what Geden and Roberts want them to be saying.
No, the really awful truth about climate change is that while climate scientists, the International Energy Agency, and many others have been increasingly blunt about how dire our situation is — and what needs to be done ASAP to avoid catastrophe — much of the so-called intelligentsia keep ignoring them.
The most recent example comes in a report out earlier this month from 70 leading climate experts (click here). The parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (aka the world’s leading nations) set up a “structured expert dialogue” from 2013 to 2015 to review the adequacy of the 2°C target. Early this month, the experts reported back. Thoughtfully, they simplified their key conclusions into 10 core messages. Among them:
- Message 1: “Parties to the Convention agreed on an upper limit for global warming of 2°C, and science has provided a wealth of information to support the use of that goal.” Incorporating concerns about ocean acidification and sea level rise, “only reinforces the basic finding emerging from the analysis of the temperature limit, namely that we need to take urgent and strong action to reduce GHG emissions” (emphasis in original).
- Message 2 (again, original emphasis): “Limiting global warming to below 2°C necessitates a radical transition (deep decarbonization now and going forward), not merely a fine tuning of current trends.”
Yeah, scientists just love to spread false optimism.
- Message 4: “Significant climate impacts are already occurring at the current level of global warming” (which is about 0.85°C) and so additional “warming will only increase the risk of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts. Therefore, the ‘guardrail’ concept, which implies a warming limit that guarantees full protection from dangerous anthropogenic interference, no longer works.“
- Message 5: “The 2°C limit should be seen as a defence line … that needs to be stringently defended, while less warming would be preferable.”
- Message 6 (from the 2014 IPCC mitigation report): “Limiting global warming to below 2 °C is still feasible and will bring about many co-benefits, but poses substantial technological, economic and institutional challenges.”
I reviewed all the mitigation literature in my January post, “It’s Not Too Late To Stop Climate Change, And It’ll Be Super-Cheap.”
Again, no one is saying it would be easy, but it is straightforward, and the literature couldn’t be clearer on how low-cost it is. Geden asserts, “The climate policy mantra — that time is running out for 2 °C but we can still make it if we act now — is a scientific nonsense.” Even Roberts points out, “No. It may be a nonsense, but it’s not a scientific nonsense. No branch of science, certainly not climatology, can tell us what the humans of 2050 are capable of.”
Almost. Thank goodness these pundits weren’t around when we had to do something reallydifficult, like suffer millions of casualties and remake our entire economy almost overnight to win World War II.
It may well be true that policymakers are unlikely to do what is scientifically, technologically, and economically possible (and morally necessary). But what precisely would Geden have climate scientists tell policymakers — “You folks can’t stop unimaginable catastrophe because you’re simply too greedy and myopic so we’re not even going to tell you how you could do it?” In fact, Geden never tells us what he thinks the advice should be nor what target he would recommend to policymakers (which makes his piece mostly a time-waster).
Note: Geden conflates climate scientists with climate advisers, so he can make it sound like climate scientists are overly optimistic about our ability to hit the 2C target. Even today, most climate scientists didn’t consider themselves experts on energy technology or economic analysis or policy — their job in the IPCC was to tell policymakers what the science says will happen if we act and if we don’t. The job of economists, energy experts, and their ilk has been to tell policymakers what different scenarios entail and how much they would cost, which turns out to be virtually nothing in the 2C case.
Again, that doesn’t mean 2C is easy to do or that we will do it — just that if we ever got off of our asses the way the Greatest Generation did, it would require us to invest only a smidgen of our wealth to make the transition, and we’d be paid back again and again in productivity gains and health gains and energy security gains. And of course there’s that whole not destroying a livable climate thing.
The reality of the transition is no longer theoretical. Last fall, China pledged to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.” That “will require Chinato deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar, and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030 — more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.”
Over the next 15 years, the Chinese will build enough clean electricity to power America. So how exactly is it “nonsense” to think the U.S., EU, or even India could not do the same over, say, twice as much time? Answer: It isn’t.
Here’s Message 8 from the world’s leading climate experts: “The world is not on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.”
Such Polyannas, these climate experts.
Roberts writes of Geden’s piece, “Politicians, he says, want good news. They want to hear that it is still possible to limit temperature to 2°C. Even more, they want to hear that they can do so while avoiding aggressive emission cuts in the near-term — say, until they’re out of office.”
This is no doubt true of many politicians, yet last year the entire EU pledged to cut total emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, which is pretty aggressive. And last month, Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) issued an executive order setting the same goal for California.
But it’s where Roberts (and Geden) leap next that bears scrutiny:
Climate scientists, Geden says, feel pressure to provide the good news. They’re worried that if they don’t, if they come off as “alarmist” or hectoring, they will simply be ignored, boxed out of the debate. And so they construct models showing that it is possible to hit the 2°C target. The message is always, “We’re running out of time; we’ve only got five or 10 years to turn things around, but we can do it if we put our minds to it.”
That was the message in 1990, in 2000, in 2010. How can we still have five or 10 years left? The answer, Geden says, is that scientists are baking increasingly unrealistic assumptions into their models.
No, no, and not quite. This is a complete revision of history.
Climate scientists were not saying in 1990, “we’ve only got five or 10 years to turn things around.” Read the IPCC’s Overview of its 1990 First Assessment Report here. Warning: It’s a yawner.
But that’s no surprise since the UNFCCC wasn’t even negotiated and ratified until 1992. That treaty’s goal was to set up an international process to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic [human-caused] interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC did not define what that level was at the time. It wouldn’t officially pick 2°C for almost two decades!
And so climate scientists were not saying in 2000, “we’ve only got five or 10 years to turn things around.” Read the IPCC’s entire 2001 Third Assessment Report here. Another yawner.
There are, however, two specific and synergistic reasons why scientists became increasingly concerned during the 2000s.
First, in that decade, Chinese emissions soared, taking us off of more moderate pathways that scientists had been anticipating. You can see that in a chart Roberts posts.
CREDIT: GLOBAL CARBON PROJECT
Second, at the very end of the 2000s, the world community finally settled on 2°C as the threshold for dangerous warming, which meant CO2 levels in the air needed to be stabilized below 450 parts per million. That consensus, as many people have explained, solidified with the IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report.
That’s why, for instance, in 2004, when Princeton Professors published a landmark paper inScience, “Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies,” they wrote: “Proposals to limit atmospheric CO2 to a concentration that would prevent most damaging climate change have focused on a goal of 500 +/- 50 parts per million (ppm).”
So it was only around late 2007 that people paying very close attention, like climate scientists, could see that 1) emissions were veering onto a worse case scenario track 2) just as a scientific and political consensus was forming around the need to set the bar at 2°C, which was now starting to look like a best-case scenario.
That’s why in 2010, a previously reticent Lonnie Thompson explained why previously reticent climatologists had begun speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.” It’s why, when I launched Climate Progress nine years ago, I created a category called “uncharacteristically blunt scientists.”
But again, it wasn’t actually until December 2010 that the parties to the UNFCCC officially adopted 2°C as the upper limit.
Besides climate scientists, many other climate advisers were becoming increasingly blunt, such as the International Energy Agency, which warned in 2009 “The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming.”
Their 2011 World Energy Outlook [WEO] release should have ended once and for all the notion that climate advisors were pulling their punches. The U.K. Guardian’s (misleading) headline captured the urgency: “World headed for irreversible climate change in five years, IEA warns … If fossil fuel infrastructure is not rapidly changed, the world will ‘lose for ever’ the chance to avoid dangerous climate change.”
Half right. Yes, rapid change is needed. But the IEA did not say the climate change would be irreversible in five years. They wrote:
If internationally co-ordinated action is not taken by 2017, we project that all permissible emissions in the 450 Scenario would come from the infrastructure then existing, so that all new infrastructure from then until 2035 would need to be zero-carbon, unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically.
Yes, shutting down existing fossil fuel infrastructure is much more costly than not building it in the first place. It is politically difficult (see U.S. coal plants), but it also happens all the time (see U.S. and China coal plants).
Everything about the 450 (or lower) scenario is politically difficult as I (and many others) have been saying for years. In one 2008 post, “Is 450 ppm (or less) politically possible? Part 1,” I answered the headline question, “Not today — not even close.”
People can use the political difficulty of averting catastrophe as a reason to express hopelessness if they think that is productive, but don’t try to pin this on climate scientists or climate advisors.
There’s an old saying “it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness” that is based on a Chinese proverb, “Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle.”
But it turns out there is a third option. You can curse the candle lighters, maybe because you have your eyes closed. And that’s the really awful truth.
Obama's Climate Change Words And Actions Don't Match, Alaskans Say, JOHN RYAN, AUGUST 31, 2015
"DANIELLE REDMOND: We know that offshore drilling in the Arctic is not compatible with a stable climate future.
RYAN: Danielle Redmond is an activist with the Alaska Climate Action Network.
REDMOND: And yet the Obama administration approved Shell's final permits just days before coming up here to host a conference highlighting climate change in the Arctic. It's really just an absolute contradiction."
"Our Climate, Our Future": As Obama Visits Arctic, Alaskans Urge Him to Reverse Shell Oil Deal
"Well, for more, we go to Anchorage, where we’re joined by Rick Steiner via Democracy Now! video stream, a marine conservation biologist, former professor at the University of Alaska. Today, Dr. Steiner will speak at the 'Our Climate, Our Future' rally convened by a coalition of Alaskan grassroots groups ahead of President Obama’s speech.
"...President Obama has been good on climate. He’s probably been the best president in the history of the nation on climate change. But the problem is, he hasn’t been good enough. The commitments that he has made are not enough to turn the tide on climate change. We’re on a sinking boat, and it’s like we’re taking on two gallons of water—excuse me—every minute, and we’re bailing one gallon. So, it’s a recognition that they’ve made that there’s a serious problem here, but it’s not enough to fix the problem. This is an enormous threat in Alaska. We’re living it daily. We’re in crisis. And we need to have a response that’s commensurate with the crisis.'"
Alaskan Greens: Obama’s Words, Actions Conflict On Climate Change by John Ryan, KUCB
Alaskans rally against drilling, climate change outside of GLACIER conference, By Anne Hillman, August 31, 2015
"Danielle Redmond with Alaska Climate Action Network helped arrange the protest, which featured a model of Shell’s drilling rig with the moniker 'Polar Profiteer' instead of 'Polar Pioneer.' She says they’re glad that President Obama is in Alaska and has spoken about climate change, but he hasn’t done enough.
“'The message that has become clear to us is it’s absolutely up to us, to ordinary people, to create the political space that is needed for real change.'”
As president comes to Anchorage, spots of Juneau rise to surface, By James Brooks, August 30, 2015
"Elaine Schroeder came from the capital city to Anchorage on a humbler but no less important mission. She and five or six other Juneauites (and Gustavians) intend to participate in a rally scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. today on the Anchorage Park Strip.
During his trip, the president is expected to focus on the importance of fighting climate change, and Schroeder said their goal is supplementary: 'We feel we are giving the president the support he needs to go even further in his actions to fight climate change,' she said.
While Schroeder and other members of the Alaska Climate Action Network prepared signs Sunday night, Fran Ulmer, chairwoman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and former Juneau mayor, concluded a science expo in the NANA Regional Corp. offices."
My Turn: Our Climate! Our Future! Alaskans Demand Urgent Climate Action, by Danielle Redmond Sept. 7, 2015
"As I reflect on the Our Climate! Our Future! rally, the art party, and the trip to Seward with the 'Polar Profiteer,' it occurs to me that I got a total of one angry rejection the entire time. Instead, just like at previous events this year, Alaskans poured out of the woodwork to say, 'Thank you so much! What can I do to help?'
You wouldn’t expect that in a state where oil provides the vast majority of the revenue — I didn’t. Talking about climate change has been taboo here for a long time.
But it turns out that most people are aware of how much renewable energy potential we have. They feel the impacts of climate change in their daily lives. They know that our $3.5 Billion dollar budget deficit is a direct result of our dependence on the fossil fuel industry. They’re worried sick — and they thought they were alone. It turns out they’re not."
"Danielle Redmond/Alaska Climate Action Network: 'We're here to say thank you to the president for elevating the issue. It's good, it's a good start. But it's not enough, we need more. And we need it on par with the science. We need a just transition.'
The President’s words were echoed at a nearby rally, but environmental activists drew a stark contrast with recent Obama Administration approval of Arctic drilling by energy giant Royal Dutch Shell. Protesters called for a cancellation of the policy, claiming the green light comes at a time when climate change is already wreaking ecological havoc through coastal erosion and receding sea ice."
"In rallying yesterday, the groups are hoping that the President will change his mind on Arctic drilling. 'We are thankful the President is willing to see for himself the real impacts of climate change, but we hope that once he understands the dire situation, he would go further and actually address the situation by taking effective action such as canceling Shell’s Arctic drilling,' said Faith Gemmill of RedOil."
"The most heart warming aspect of this event was how many Alaska Natives (term for Native Americans in Alaska) were in attendance and part of the program. There was a very encouraging diversity of attendees, but the programming was also very diverse, and not just ethnically. The were local labor organizers, as well as others from Seattle, which also happened to be the ethnically diverse, and young. The faith community was represented and spoke. And the Alaska Native, and other Native American, presence was weaved deep into the fabric of the program, and was very visible among the attendees."
Here is the seawater heat pump operating at the NOAA facility in Juneau:
Here's a fantastic example of renewable energy saving costs in Seward, Alaska:
In August 2015, President Obama made an historic visit to Alaska. With less than one month's notice, grassroots groups from around the state pulled together a coalition to host a rally and demand action on climate change. Here are the details from that big event!
Monday Aug, 31 from 12-2 at the Anchorage Park Strip
Aug 30, 4-7 pm in the Valley of the Moon
Our Climate! Our Future! Alaskans Demand Urgent Climate Action
For Immediate Release
September 1, 2015
Anchorage, Alaska - As President Obama met with world leaders in Anchorage, 300 people rallied outside to “confront the glacial pace of political action” and demand protection for Alaska’s communities, cultures, and livelihoods.
Rally organizers represented a broad coalition of Alaskan grassroots groups. They were united around four demands: 1. Rapid transition to renewable energy, 2. Protection of indigenous rights and communities, 3. No offshore drilling in the Arctic, and 4. Binding agreements at the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference, on par with the science.
These demands are outlined in detail at: www.ourclimateourfuture.com
Indigenous speakers and musicians at Monday’s rally highlighted the social justice dimension of climate change in Alaska. Failure to act on the above demands relegates several Alaskan villages to “sacrifice zones.” As Faith Gemmil of REDOIL explained, “Indigenous Peoples of Alaska have seen alarming impacts due to climate change. We had 300 wildfires burning simultaneously this summer, forcing whole Alaska Native communities to evacuate. Permanent, forced relocation looms over several towns due to coastal sea ice loss and erosion. Our food security - our very survival - is threatened as the bounty of our lands and waters is imperiled by climate change and fossil fuel extraction. We are in climate crisis.”
Rally participants were glad to see the President visiting Alaska to elevate climate change & the Arctic. “It’s a good start - and we need more,” said Danielle Redmond of Alaska Climate Action Network. “We need policy that is on par with the science for a just transition.”
“The GLACIER Conference rode in on the heels of federal approval for Shell’s offshore Arctic drilling program. Obama can’t claim to take climate change seriously while turning a blind eye to the unacceptably high risks and impacts from Arctic drilling,” said Ceal Smith, organizer with Chukchi Sea Watch. “He also can’t have a serious climate conference without discussing mitigation,” she said, referring to the GLACIER conference agenda which covered resilience and adaptation but failed to include measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The good news is that Alaska has a wealth of renewable resources which could help both the climate crisis and the $3.5 Billion budget crisis we now face as a direct result of our state’s dependence on oil. It’s up to us - ordinary people - to create the political space for real change,” said Redmond.
Rallies were also held in Fairbanks and Bethel.
For more information, contact:
Kirby Spangler in Palmer, Alaska Rising Tide 907-795-2386
Faith Gemmil in Anchorage, REDOIL (907)750-0188 or email@example.com
Jessica Girard in Fairbanks, Northern Alaska Environmental Center firstname.lastname@example.org Danielle Redmond in Juneau, Alaska Climate Action Network email@example.com
Love what you see and want to help build the climate movement in Alaksa? Donations are always welcome - and much appreciated!Donate
"Unless we take immediate action, by the time today’s children are middle-aged, the life-supporting systems of the Earth will be irretrievably damaged.” (1)
The climate crisis is harming the Arctic at twice the rate of other regions of the globe. Alaska is experiencing a wide range of alarming climate damages, including:
- Forest fires
- Coastal surges and erosion
- Ocean acidification
- Threats to wildlife and subsistence, including wildlife die-offs
- Arctic sea ice disappearance
- Melting permafrost
- Weather disasters/extreme weather
- Glacier retreats
- Sea level rise
Many indigenous and coastal communities in Alaska are suffering accelerating threats to lives, lifeways, livelihoods, subsistence, ecosystems, cultures, and infrastructure. Destruction of the material basis of Alaska’s indigenous cultures is a serious violation of human rights.
Global scientists have clearly stated that drilling in the Arctic is a “climate-breaking” activity. Nonetheless, local and international pressures are increasing to exploit the fossil fuel resources of the Arctic.
President Obama’s recent statements on the urgency of climate change and the federal government’s responsibility to act is heartening, but insufficient.
We therefore demand that the U.S. government, President Obama, and our Alaskan Senators and Representatives fulfill their responsibility to the citizens of Alaska by taking the following actions. These actions constitute the basic requirements to preserve a livable climate for communities in the Arctic.
- A rapid transition to renewable energy
- Protection of Indigenous rights and communities
- No offshore drilling in the Arctic
- Binding agreements at the 2015 UN Climate Conference that are on par with the science
1) Support an immediate shift to the development and widespread implementation of renewable energy sources.
a) Fully enact the Clean Power Plan, including Alaska;
b) Fund & develop renewable infrastructure by implementing the Stanford University plan for 100% renewable by 2050 in all 50 U.S. States;
c) Eliminate federal subsidies for oil companies. Use the resulting income to fund renewable infrastructure and upgrades, to provide tax incentives for renewable & efficiency development; and to fund training programs for workers transitioning into the renewable energy sector;
d) Adopt the Citizen’s Climate Lobby’s Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal to put a fee on fossil fuels at their source and return all revenue to individuals in the form of dividends; http://citizensclimatelobby.org/remi-report/
e) Reject trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would undermine American sovereignty and prevent the U.S. from being able to fully enact and enforce such policies.
2) Support the call by global scientists to keep 80% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground:
a) Revoke Shell Oil’s permit to drill in the Arctic and immediately cease sale of outer continental shelf lease sales;
b) Develop no new fossil fuel infrastructure (i.e., reject the Keystone XL pipeline, Enbridge pipelines, coal export terminals, etc.);
c) Remove the Halliburton loophole for fracking.
3) Protect and champion the rights of communities of color on the front lines of climate change.
a) Prioritize funding and other support for indigenous, lower income and communities of color suffering disproportionately from the effects of climate change and environmental contamination;
b) Direct FEMA and/or other federal agencies to provide funding and other resources to Alaska Native villages experiencing coastal erosion, permafrost melt, coastal surges, sea level rise, disappearing ice, wildfire, and negative impacts to subsistence hunting and fishing due to climate disruption. Villages need these resources to protect lives and livelihoods, to bolster failing infrastructure, and, where necessary, to plan and execute community relocations;
c) Include these communities in decision-making processes.
4) Commit the U.S. to legally binding commitments at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference:
a) 80% carbon emissions reduction by 2050;
b) Keeping 80% of the world’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground;
c) Elimination of subsidies for fossil fuel industries;
d) 80% increase in investments in renewable energies.
We further demand that Governor Walker and State Senators and Representatives make the following changes within the State of Alaska:
- Re-establish the statewide subcabinet on Climate Change and immediately develop a plan for climate adaptation and mitigation;
- Repeal SB 21, which grants over $10 billion in subsidies to the oil industry and invest these funds in renewable energy development, job training, and public transportation infrastructure for Alaskan cities;
- Establish an Alaska Climate Change Response Fund for statewide mitigation and adaptation efforts;
- Pass House Bill 191, introduced by Republican Senator Paul Seaton, which would return the state to a “separate accounting” system, rather than the current “worldwide apportionment” system which allows oil companies to deduct losses from out-of-state operations against the corporate income taxes they pay in Alaska;
- Divest the Alaska Permanent Fund and Pension Funds from fossil fuel investments;
- Take immediate action to prevent further ocean acidification, which dangerously threatens Alaska’s fisheries and all marine life;
- Regulate methane emissions from oil production facilities within the state;
- Make oil and coal industries operating in Alaska subject to the Clean Power Plan.
 Anthony D. Barnosky and 500 scientists. “Scientific Consensus on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support Systems in the 21st Century: Information for Policy Makers.” Mahb.stanford.edu/consensus-statement-from-global-scientists
Check out these 3 short videos to get an idea of what carbon pricing is and how it works:
Robert Reich explains Carbon Tax
Oregon Climate: Fee & Dividend
Citizens' Climate Lobby: Federal Carbon Tax
British Columbia has had a carbon pricing system for the last four years. Could it work in Alaska?
For more detailed information: