Bob Sheak, June 8, 2023
This post focuses on the unfolding and accelerating climate crisis and that, though there is not much time to gain some control over this crisis, there are innumerable people in the U.S. who are concerned about it and many thousands who engage in actions to address this problem. The Republican Party, many corporations, and right-wing supporters continually attempt to subvert efforts to adequately address this existential problem.
On February 1, 2023, I sent out a post with the title “Is it too late to curtail the progression of climate disruption and its calamitous effects?” (https://wordpress.com/post/vitalissues-bobsheak.com/2705).
I referred to recent books and authoritative reports that “give us a good understanding of the dire effects and projections of climate change (climate disruption, climate crisis, global warming), how fossil-fuel corporations and an array of other powerful corporate and political forces in and outside of government have created or supported false and misleading narratives denying climate change, deflecting attention away from it, or proffering false solutions (e.g., geoengineering). There are two themes that stand out.
We don’t have much time to prevent the ongoing increase in climate catastrophes from getting worse, and we have the know how to slow down, if not prevent, this from happening. In the final analysis, politics will make the difference.
Climate scientist Michael E. Mann’s main contention in his book, The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, published in 2021, is that there is an intransigent enemy, prominently the Republican Party and its corporate and wealthy benefactors, that threatens to make life on the planet less and less habitable, and that it will take an equally powerful force to stop them.
At the same time, Mann contends it is not too late to radically reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are the principal sources of climate change and, through domestic and international efforts, to limit the emissions enough to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over the next decade. That would require at least a 50 percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions. To achieve this goal, he argues, policies based on science must be instituted, citizens must be “educated” about the facts and, some at least, must be or become active in the political process. The disinformation of the fossil fuel interests must be effectively challenged, and the government must, over the next decade institute policies to remove fossil fuels from the energy mix and replace them with renewables, energy efficiency, and other environmentally sustainable technologies.
As time passes that there is little or no reason to expect the Republican Party or their allies and supporters to negotiate on this issue – or most issues – in good faith. See Steve Benen’s documentation of this point in his book, The Imposters: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics (publ. 2020). Kate Aronoff, Overheated: How Capitalism Broke the Planet – and How We Fight Back (publ. 2021). Geoff Dembicki analyzes the “far-right conspiracy to cover up climate change,” in his book, The Petroleum Papers (publ. 2022).
Too little is being done to stop or reverse global warming
Meanwhile, oil, natural gas, and coal continue to provide most of the overall energy and electricity for the U.S, though there is some decline in the contribution of fossil fuels in the energy mix, as renewable energy sources increase their share of energy production. According to the U.S. Office of Energy and Renewable Energy, “renewable energy generates about 20% of all U.S. electricity, and that percentage continues to grow.” In 2021, wind accounted for 9.2%, hydropower 6.3%, solar 2.8%, biomass 1.3%, and geothermal 0.4%. (https://energy.gov/eere/renewable-energy#).
USA Facts provides data on the problematic energy consumption from petroleum or natural gas (https://usafacts.org/state-of-the-union/energy/#).
“About 68% of energy consumption is from petroleum or natural gas, while renewable and nuclear sources account for 20%. Coal production has declined since 2010. Natural gas and crude oil production are growing. Nuclear energy production, the nation’s leading non-fossil fuel energy source since 1984, has remained flat for two decades. Solar and wind energy are growing. Out of 7.8 million energy-related jobs in 2021, energy efficiency jobs comprised the largest share, employing 2.2 million people. Carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption rose in 2021 and 2022 after dropping in 2020.”
Andrea Germanos reported on November, 2017, that nearly 17,000 scientists from 180 countries issued a warning to humanity about the advanced and unfolding disruptive changes in the “biosphere” in a letter published in the international journal BioScience. (2017). Unless humanity, that is the world’ governments, set about making transformative changes in their societies soon, the scientists believe that the best evidenced indicates that there will be “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” The scientists are especially troubled by actually observed trends, that is, of rising greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, agricultural production, and the sixth mass extinction event underway” (http://commondreams.org/news/2017/11/13/over-1500-scientists-just-issued-second-notice-humanity-can-we-listen-now). With respect to agriculture, they are referring to the dominant agriculture system that relies on chemical fertilizers that degrade soil, generates carbon emissions, and overutilize and contaminate water sources.
To expedite the transition away from fossil fuels will require systemic changes of massive levels, including changes that would reduce, if not phase out, fossil fuels over the next three decades, in the U.S. and around the world.
Brad Plumer reports that “there is still one last chance to shift course…. But it would require industrialized nations to join together immediately to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030 and then stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s. If those two steps were taken, the world would have about a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius…. Delays of even a few years would most likely make that goal unattainable, guaranteeing a hotter, more perilous future” (https://nytimes.com/2023/03/20/climate-global-warming-ipcc-earth.html
However, there are developments that could shatter any hope for resolving the climate crisis. Here’s one example. In an article published for The Atlantic magazine On March 18, 2023, Christian Elliott calls our attention to research on the danger that vast areas of permafrost could melt and release the greenhouse gas methane as temperatures rise (https://theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/03/permafrost-mercury-toxic-arctic-carbon-canada/673428). He writes:
“Covering nearly the same area as Norway, the Hudson Bay Lowlands in northern Ontario and Manitoba is home to the southernmost continuous expanse of permafrost in North America. Hudson Bay can stay frozen late into the summer, its ice-covered surface reflecting sunlight and keeping the surrounding area cold.
“Trapped in all that permafrost is an estimated 30 billion tons of carbon. It’s an unfathomable amount, Kirkwood says. With global warming, the permafrost is thawing, threatening to release a ‘carbon bomb’ of heat-trapping methane gas into the atmosphere.”
Political obstacles in the U.S.
Climate Deniers in the 117th and 118th Congresses
Ari Drennen and Sally Hardin document that “there are [were] 139 elected officials in the 117th Congress who still deny the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change” (https://americanprogress.org/article/climate-deniers-117th-congress). Ari Drennen is the associate director of communications for the Energy and Environment War Room at the Center for American Progress. Sally Hardin is the Center’s director of the Energy and Environment War Room.
That 139 includes “109 representatives and 30 senators, who refuse to acknowledge the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change. All 139 of these climate-denying elected officials have made recent statements casting doubt on the clear, established scientific consensus that the world is warming—and that human activity is to blame. The same 139 climate-denying members have received more than $61 million in lifetime contributions from the coal, oil, and gas industries.
These numbers do not fully capture the position of Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Even those who do not take a public stand on the climate crisis, and are therefore not counted in the numbers cited by Drennen and Hardin, Republicans in the Congress vote together on relevant legislation. (The recent vote on the debt limit ceiling is an exception, but then only to avoid a first-time catastrophic default.)
Robinson Meyer illustrates this point on Republican partisanship in an article analyzing the vote on The Inflation Adjustment Act, a bill advanced by President Biden and Democrats in both houses of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by Biden on August 16, 2022 (https://theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/08/ira-climate-bill-house-vote-republicans/671133). Robinson notes that the legislation is “the first comprehensive climate legislation in U.S. history,” and it will authorize the spending of “roughly $374 billion on decarbonization and climate resilience over the next 10 years, getting us two-thirds of the way to America’s Paris Agreement goals.”
Here’s the point. No Republicans in the House supported the bill. “The IRA [Inflation Adjustment Act] was adopted entirely along party lines, with all Democrats and not a single congressional Republican in support of the legislation.” Meyer continues. In the Senate, “the bill passed only because there were 50 Democrats in the Senate, with a Democratic vice president to cast the tie-breaking vote. Had any of those Democrats lost their elections—had Joe Manchin, for instance, decided against running for reelection in 2018 in his heavily Republican home state, or had Democrats not eked out two Senate wins in Georgia last year—then the bill would not have made it across the finish line.”
Withal, Drennen and Hardin find it to be “stark and shocking” that there were 139 elected [Republican] officials in the U.S. Congress who are willing publicly and without apology to deny the empirically-based scientific consensus, despite the obvious effects of climate change now accelerating across the country and globe. In the political partisan environment, most other Republicans in the Congress go along with the anti-scientific position.
Drennen and Hardin point out that there is an urgency about climate change that requires attention. A climate catastrophe “is no longer a distant threat looming in the future—nor has it been for quite some time. In 2020, there were 22 extreme weather events that caused damage in the United States that exceeded $1 billion each, a new annual record that shattered the previous record of 16 events that happened in both 2011 and 2017. With the backdrop of a deadly pandemic, Americans last year  had to flee their homes in the face of out-of-control wildfires and an unprecedented number of hurricanes and seek shelter from sweltering heat waves—events that exacerbate already-troubling racial and economic inequalities.”
The fossil fuel industry’s funding of climate denial
As already noted, “The 139 climate science deniers have accepted more than $61 million in lifetime direct contributions from the oil, gas, and coal industries, which comes out to an average of $442,293 per elected official of Congress that denies climate change. This figure includes all contributions above the Federal Election Commission’s mandated reporting threshold of $200 from management, employees, and political action committees in the fossil fuel industries. Not included in this data are the many other avenues available to fossil fuel interests to influence campaigns and elected officials. For example, oil, gas, and coal companies spent heavily during the 2020 election cycle to keep the Senate under the control of former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)—a known climate denier—with major oil companies like Valero, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips contributing more than $1 million each to the conservative Senate Leadership Fund.”
“This analysis only shows direct, publicly disclosed contributions to federal candidates. The fossil fuel industry regularly spends millions of dollars of dark money advertising to the public; shaping corporate decisions; lobbying members of Congress; and otherwise funding the infrastructure that makes climate denial politically feasible and even profitable.”
The reality that so many members of Congress and senators—including many newly elected officials—deny basic science leaves the overwhelming majority of the American people who accept the evidence with a grueling task ahead. Without bold new investments in a clean energy economy and an end to the practice of subsidizing fossil fuel extraction, the agents of doubt peddling climate change misinformation will have succeeded in darkening not just the future but also the shape of the present as well.
At least 149 GOP members of the present, 118th Congress, are STILL willing to reject openly the reality of climate science.
Meteor Blades, a writer and contributing editor at DailyKos, documents that there are “at least 149 GOP members of Congress STILL reject the reality of climate change” (https://redgreenandblue.org/2022/12/15/least-149-gop-members-congress-still-reject-reality-climate-science). That is up 10 from the 117th Congress. Blades writes:
“I include as a denier any elected official who argues in favor of expanding oil and gas production while simultaneously calling for reducing the regulatory authority of the EPA or abolishing it altogether. Low rankings on the League of Conservation Voters congressional scorecard provides additional evidence of a tendency toward denial.”
“It would be bad enough if all these lawmakers were merely fools. However, most of them know climatologists’ warnings aren’t fake news. This doesn’t stop them from continuing to regurgitate debunked propaganda that the fossil fuel industry has for four decades been paying shills to disinform the public about. Nor does it spur them to take legislative action to address what scientists say we must. They don’t care. And if fattening their wallet accompanies their not caring, so much the better.
“These days, ‘hoax’ has mostly been replaced with some version of ‘the climate is always changing.’ This subterfuge fails to acknowledge that scientists agree with this hoary truism but simultaneously warn that the speed with which the changes are coming is unprecedented since modern humans left Africa tens of thousands of years ago. Not to mention that the overwhelming majority of climatologists have concluded that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is causing this rapid change.
In addition to explicit and publicly out-spoken climate deniers, there are other Republicans reasonably suspected of harboring such views. For Blades, “any member of Congress who doesn’t put the climate crisis among at least their Top 5 priorities counts at this late date as a denier no matter how much they claim to accept what scientists are telling us.”
He also refers to “denier-adjacents,” whose “statements are ambiguous enough to give them a pass. Many Republican candidates, incumbents or not, also escape the list by simply avoiding mentioning climate altogether.”
“There are a multitude of those denier-adjacents in the current cycle, including Eric Burlison of Missouri’s 7th district, Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon’s 5th, Juan Ciscomani of Arizona’s 6th and Eli Crane of Arizona’s 7th, Anthony D’Esposito of New York’s 4th, Monica de la Cruz of Texas’s 15th, Brad Finstad of Minnesota’s 1st, Erin Houchin of Indiana’s 9th, Jen Kiggans of Virginia’s 2nd, and Anna Luna of Florida’s 13th.”
Recent evidence of a warming planet
There is ever-more evidence that the planet continues to warm and the “systemic” changes that are needed are not being realized soon enough. Indeed, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)reports on May 17, 2023, that “Global temperatures are likely to surge to record levels in the next five years, fueled by heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event (https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/global-temperatures-set-reach-new-records-next-five-years). Consider WMO evidence.
“There is a 66% likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. There is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record.
“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.”
“‘A warming El Niño is expected to develop in the coming months and this will combine with human-induced climate change to push global temperatures into uncharted territory,’ he said. ‘This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared,’ said Prof. Taalas.”
The WMO report also points out “human-induced greenhouse gases are leading to more ocean heating and acidification, sea ice and glacier melt, sea level rise and more extreme weather.”
Likely to exceed 1.5C global climate temperature goal of Paris Agreement
“The Paris Agreement sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 °C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 °C, to avoid or reduce adverse impacts and related losses and damages.
Mel Gurtov, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest, considers highlights of “the latest IPCC report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on global warming, the most comprehensive scientific report to date” (https://counterpunch.org/2023/04/04/the-climate-time-bomb).
The report “was approved by 195 governments, and synthesizes the results of countless other scientific reports as well as summarizes its six previous assessments.” Alas, “the IPCC contributing authors keep issuing warnings, governments keep making dubious promises, and worsening environmental conditions keep multiplying. We’re approaching a tipping point but no authority exists to stop our passing it.” We are told yet again “that 2030 is the year of living dangerously—when humanity must cut greenhouse gas emissions in half, and then proceed to stop them altogether by 2050.”
Indeed, “Concentrations of carbon dioxide are at their highest in at least two million years” and the prospects to curtail and/or reduce global warming “are very small.” Gurtov adds: “The planet has already warmed to 1.1 degrees C. above pre-industrial levels, and every year we see heat records being set around the world.” We are headed for 2.0 degrees C – and more.
“Governments will violate their pledges on climate change whenever their economies need pumping up—such as China’s decision to permit 168 new coal-fired power plants to be built, or the US decision to go ahead with the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.” Additionally, populations, especially in the richest countries refuse to “change their habits.”
“They (we!) want more plastic packaging, more air conditioning, more access to food from far away, more oil and gas, more lumber from old forests, more water to combat the drought they helped create, more homes where they shouldn’t be built, and more government bailouts when things go wrong.
Gurtov amplifies his point, writing:
“Climatologists are not saying that the world will end as we approach 2.0 degrees C. of warming. What they are saying is that living conditions for nearly everyone will be profoundly affected by changes in weather, including health and safety for many millions of people and other species.” If current trends continue, the effects will be catastrophic.
* The rich-poor gap in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) continues to grow: “The 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34–45% of global consumption-based household GHG emissions, while the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.”
* Food and water security is endangered: “Roughly half of the world’s population currently experience severe water scarcity for at least part of the year due to a combination of climatic and non-climatic drivers.” As many as 2.4 billion people will experience water scarcity by 2050, and millions more will not have access to safe sanitation in water supplies.
* Extreme heat is responsible for increased deaths, water-borne diseases, and displaced persons in all world regions. “Compound heatwaves and droughts are projected to become more frequent . . . Due to relative sea level rise, current 1-in-100 year extreme sea level events are projected to occur at least annually in more than half of all tide gauge locations by 2100 under all considered scenarios. Other projected regional changes include intensification of tropical cyclones and/or extratropical storms, and increases in aridity and fire weather.”
* Every increment of global warming increase will increase the risks and make them more difficult to manage. “Multiple climatic and non-climatic risk drivers will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions. Climate-driven food insecurity and supply instability, for example, are projected to increase with increasing global warming, interacting with non-climatic risk drivers such as competition for land between urban expansion and food production, pandemics and conflict.”
(Democracy Now reported the following headline in its online program on June 7, 2023:
“A new study published this week by Nature Communications finds the Arctic is expected to be ice-free during the summer months starting as early as the 2030s. Even in a best-case emissions reduction scenario — which the world is not currently on track to achieve — scientists say the loss of Arctic sea ice in the summer is now inevitable in the next few decades” (https://democracynow.org/2023/6/7/headlines/arctic_summers_could_be_ice_free_by_next_decade)).”
Not enough is being done
“As usual,” Gurtov writes, “the IPCC report does mention multiple ways in which adaptation and mitigation can affect climate change. All are quite familiar, such as more efficient use of resources, better forest management, carbon capture of fossil fuels, sustainable land use, electric vehicles, and more efficient buildings. There’s never been a problem imagining a net-zero carbon world. Here and there, these changes are being accepted. But for every piece of good news, there’s an ‘on the other hand.’ For example:
* From 2035 on, new gasoline-powered cars and most heavy trucks cannot be sold in California, and only zero-emission cars can be sold in New York. That’s two big states, but it leaves 48 others.
* Greenpeace reportsthat an international group is now putting together a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty. (Worst offender? Coca-Cola.) But only a tiny fraction of plastics is being recycled, and more than 170 trillion plastic particles are found in the ocean alone.
* The soft-energy path is catching on. As the IPCC reports: “From 2010– 2019 there have been sustained decreases in the unit costs of solar energy (85%), wind energy (55%), and lithium ion batteries (85%), and large increases in their deployment, e.g., >10x for solar and >100x for electric vehicles, varying widely across regions.” But: “Public and private finance flows for fossil fuels are still greater than those for climate adaptation and mitigation.” Any wonder why oil and gas company profits are at their highest level ever? BP, for example, reported $28 billion in profits in 2022, and ExxonMobil reported $56 billion in profits. These companies have, without embarrassment, announced they will be scaling back commitments to move toward renewable energy.”
A devastating start to 2023: 7 weather/climate disasters, 97 lives lost, billions in damage
Dinah Voyles Pulver reports on climate/energy related costs that ran to $1 billion or more just in the first four months of 2023 (https://usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/05/09/billion-dollar-weather-disasters-to-start-2023-noaa-says-70195541007). She refers to evidence from NOAA.
“The disasters – with preliminary total costs estimated at $19 billion – are the second most on record for the first four months of the year, even adjusted for inflation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday [May 8, 2023].
“The California flooding and six other billion-dollar storm events claimed 97 lives, the agency said.
“It’s also been a record warm year so far for seven states and among the top 10 warmest for another 21 states, NOAA said.” The top seven include: Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.”
“The U.S. isn’t the only country seeing record warmth in some locations. April was the fourth warmest on record globally, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service said Monday. Spain, Portugal and Morocco recorded their highest-ever April temperatures, according to the Copernicus summary.
“Meanwhile, the BBC reported that Thanh Hoa, a province in Vietnam, reported its highest ever temperature last week, about 111 degrees Fahrenheit.”
What are NOAA’s billion-dollar disasters this year?
California flooding, January-March, 3.5 billion
Northeastern winter storm / cold wave, February 2-5, $1.5 billion
Two South and Eastern severe weather outbreaks, March 2-3 and March 24-26, $6.4 billion
Central tornado and Eastern severe weather outbreak, March 31-April 1, $4.3 billion
Central and Eastern severe weather, April 4-6, $2.2 billion
Central and Southern severe weather, April 15, $1.0 billion
Examples of efforts and programs to contain, slow down, and/or reverse the greenhouse gases that are the principal causes of rising temperatures and their effects?
#1 – The Biden administration (https://earthjustice.org/article/biden-administration-climate-scorecard). The article on the Earth Justice website was published on May 19, 2023. It lists the climate/energy related achievements of the administration. And, bear in mind, these achievements would not have occurred if the pro-fossil-fuel Republicans and their supporters had been in control of the White House and Congress. The achievements.
- Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from drilling
- Accelerate transmission infrastructure in an equitable way
- Secure strong efficiency standards
- Direct 40% of climate investment benefits to the communities most impacted by pollution
- Defend Tribal sovereignty
- Protect forests that absorb climate pollution
- Ensure bioenergy initiatives provide real climate benefits
- Strengthen methane pollution standards for the oil and gas industry
- Cut carbon and hazardous air pollution from power plants
#2 – Keep hope alive
This is one of the principal themes in the book, Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility. Edited by Rebecca Solnit & Thelma Young Lutunatabua, it is a collection of short essays that reflect the book’s title. It’s about hope, commitment, activism, voting and the need to join and support social movements aimed at reducing dependence on fossil fuels and shifting to climate-friendly renewable energy alternatives. One essay lists 80 “climate victories” over the years from 1974 through 2022, reflecting widespread and growing activism (pp. 92-102). Solnit offers the following examples of myriad types of activism aimed at stopping and reversing global warming.
“Climate activists have blockaded roads, pipeline paths, and fracking sites, gone on…hunger strikes, tree sits, marches, long walks, rallies, FridaysForFuture weekly protests; have orchestrated divestment campaigns, petitions, phone-ins, die-ins, sit-ins, educational campaign; blockaded harbors with kayaks; hung banners from bridges; doused nude figures in fake oil in London’s Tate’s Modern museum while it was taking money from BP; painted morals in the street; staged mock trials; shut down thousands of coal plants and prevented others from being built; stopped fossil-fuel leases and pipelines; blockaded oil trains; interrupted board meetings; organized shareholders; raised money; and, more important, raised consciousness” (p. 8).
Among the climate victories is this one: “In 2022, investments in renewables outstripped investments in conventional energy for the first time” (p. 9).
Leah Cardamore Stokes gives this example. “Consider the key clean technologies: solar, wind, batteries, and heat pumps. Over the past several decades, the cost of each of these technologies have fallen rapidly.” For example, the cost of an American household to rely on solar photovoltaics for a month has dropped from $300,000 in 1957 to just $30 today (p 49).
In an essay titled “In Praise of Indirect Consequences,” Sonet writes:
“Activism routinely consists of a movement, a manifesto, a group demanding something and not getting it, at least not at first. Too often, people seem to think that if there are not immediate and obvious consequences, there’s failure. In reality, what happens in response is often more subtle, delayed, unpredictable, incremental, and indirect – and yet still valuable and significant, sometimes more so – than simple formulas and short timelines account for. Often those consequences continue to ripple outward and unfold for decade afterward” (p. 130). She adds: “The Green New Deal, longtime activists agree, changed the whole conversation about what is possible and what we want…. It was a jobs- and infrastructure program, and a farm program, and a justice program.” It later became a “template for Biden’s climate platform” (p. 135).
#3 – Minnesota as a role model, with Democrats in control of the state government
Minnesota Emerges as the Midwest’s Leader in the Clean Energy Transition
In an article on Inside Climate News, Aydali Campa points out that Minnesota as emerged as the Midwest’s leader in the clean energy transition, moving ahead of Illinois (https://insidelclimatenews.org/news/31052023/minnesota-clean-energy-leader).
On May 24, 2023, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill that advances the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Campa elaborates as follows.
“Legislative sessions recently wrapped up in the two Midwestern states that saw the most clean energy transition efforts in the first quarter of the year. The states, where Democrats control both legislative chambers and have Democratic governors, saw a slew of bills introduced this session promoting clean energy and environmental justice. Still, each had generally different aims and outcomes.
“Experts say the difference in each state’s number of actions taken and how many of those measures were enacted can also be attributed to differences in electric utility markets between the two states, when their 100 percent clean energy standards were set and the political makeup of their legislative bodies. Minnesota’s Senate flipped from Republican to Democratic control in the 2022 midterms.”
“In February, Minnesota passed a 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2040 law that also streamlines permitting for renewable energy projects, defines what qualifies as renewable energy and ensures that constructing or retrofitting of major electric facilities receive the prevailing wage in the state. The new law also includes provisions excluding large polluting incinerators near environmental justice communities from counting toward its 100 percent target and ensuring that all Minnesotans have access to and benefit from clean and renewable energy.
“On top of setting one of the country’s most ambitious clean energy standards, Minnesota also passed a new rule requiring regulators to consider existing pollution levels in an area before granting or renewing a permit within or near an environmental justice community.”
The U.S. and all nations now face many crises, some of which could destroy the world as we know it. Certainly, the climate crisis is one such crisis, along with the growing threat of nuclear war. It doesn’t help that as the earth’s population continues to grow, mining, agricultural, and ranching continue to encroach on and destroy the dwindling habitable parts of the earth, consumption levels by the rich and the more economically prosperous countries seemingly have no restraint in their consumption levels, the rich and powerful resist environmental restrictions, and, in the U.S., the Republican Party at all levels of government oppose regulations and even encourage increased dependence on fossil fuels.
The situation is getting so bad environmentally that in some parts of the U.S. (e.g., California, eastern Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida) insurance companies are refusing to insure home owners and businesses protection or charging exorbitant rates, according to a news item written by Christopher Flavelle, Jill Cowan and Ivan Penn, (https://nytimes.com/2023/05/31/climate-change-insurance.html).
Though bad, the situation is not yet hopeless. There is certainly a need to limit corporate power generally and fossil fuels specifically. This goal can be advanced by a progressive political party, by energized environmental movements, and by an informed and active electorate. The agenda: enforcing anti-trust law, phasing out fossil fuels, increasing support for climate-friendly options like solar, wind, geothermal, along with sweeping energy efficiency measures, ending subsidies to fossil-fuel corporations, banning the US export of natural gas and oil, providing transitional support for workers who are displaced from fossil-fuel jobs, and educating the public about sustainable lifestyle options and what makes for a “resilient community.” See the book, The Community Resilience Reader, for multiple views on resilient communities, and David Miller’s book, Solved: How the World’s Great Cities are Fixing the Climate Crisis.