This guest post was written by guest blogger Spencer Johnson & cross-posted from 350 MA’s Climate Beat.
2013 is almost over.
We’ve seen victories this year in all categories of environmental justice and activism, but we’ve seen some detrimental losses.
Barack Obama, upon being inaugurated for his second term, said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” He went even further to say that while some may deny the science “none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.” He joked, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.”
Twelve months later and we’ve seen these ‘devastating impact[s]’ firsthand. In March, we saw Exxon’s Pegasus Pipeline spew over 12,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude oil into the town of Mayflower, Arkansas. In July, we saw “the 341st consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.” July 22nd, the North Pole melted. November 8th, SuperTyphoon Haiyan, perhaps the most powerful tropical cyclone ever, struck landfall in the Philippines affecting 13 million people and taking the lives of over 5,000.
But 2013 has seen some big progressive steps, too.
On February 17th, over 40,000 businessmen, organizers, visionaries, high school, college kids, grandparents and future leaders walked ’Forward on Climate’ at the White House in D.C. demanding Obama reject the Keystone XL Pipeline, Transcanada’s proposed international oil pipeline that will cut through the heart of U.S. farmland and risk the contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer. According to John Stansbury, a professor of environmental water resources at the University of Nebraska, one spill would mean the contamination of “nearly 5 billion gallons of groundwater” and a benzene plume “40 feet thick, 500 feet wide, and 15 miles long.” That’s equivalent to a small town. We’ve seen numerous events to fight the Keystone XL since the march and more are scheduled to come in early 2014.
In Massachusetts specifically, we’ve seen the launch of Mothers Out Front, successful Climate Summer and Ride for the Future programs (which seek to spread the word about climate change by educating local townspeople), the addition of six new nodes to 350 MA’s state network, and the near tripling of 350 MA network membership. In addition, we saw about 400 people come together in efforts to shut down Brayton Point, the largest and most polluting coal-fired power plant in New England, and in May 2017 our efforts will be rewarded––Brayton Point is shutting down. Following the Shutdown of Brayton Point, 350 MA co-sponsored the Energy Exodus March, which hoped to show a literal transition from Coal to Cape Wind. During the March volunteers and members of 350 MA and other environmental organizations walked 70 miles from Brayton Point to the proposed site of the Cape Wind off-shore turbine Project in Barnstable. Recently, 350 MA members have been holding rallies and forums at the state house and across the state touting Bill S1225, which would require the state pension fund to divest entirely from direct holdings in fossil fuels within five years. Over 400 colleges, universities and municipalities find divestment to be the best course of action and have signed on to 350.org‘s national Fossil Free campaign in hopes of Divesting their endowments and pensions from this killer industry and focusing on sustainable reinvestment options like Green Century Funds. According to an Oxford study, the Divestment movement is the fastest growing movement in history and it’s only growing faster.
More broadly, this June at Georgetown University, Obama gave the “best address on climate by any president ever,” according to former Vice President Al Gore, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his climate advocacy work. Obama’s speech mentioned, among other things, imposing the first carbon limits on existing power plants, and requiring all federal projects to be prepared to account for future sea level rise.
In September, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with their annual report and we now have a 95% consensus among scientists that humans are the “dominant cause” of global warming. Fighting to keep that global warming at bay, we have the newly formed Green Tea Party that “seeks to bring people from diverse perspectives together in genuine conversation, generating creative new solutions to our collective challenges.” We’re making headway and our movement is building.
U.S. automobile passenger miles have declined, Massachusetts set a record on the Boston MBTA, and places around the world have increased energy created from, and set new records for, wind and solar installation. Ontario is outlawing coal burned by power plants, Obama has signed an executive order that will triple the renewable energy usage of the U.S. by 2020, the Sierra club has helped to retire 150 coal-fired power plants, the World Bank is refusing to offer funding to the coal industry is instead focusing on “accelerating” energy efficiency and renewable energy, the L.A. Times isn’t allowing climate deniers to have a voice in their paper, Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts has introduced a Federal Energy Standards bill that would not only create 400,000 jobs, but would also reduce CO2 emissions by 480 million metric tons annually.
This movement is doing big things. And they’re only getting bigger.
Two weeks ago, over 1,200 people worldwide fasted with the Philippines showing they stand in solidarity with developing countries who are suffering from the consequences that results from a world plagued by climate change. Developed countries are creating these problems. Our addiction to Fossil Fuels is not sustainable, is not economically viable, and it’s causing our progress to stumble slowly backwards.
So what’s to come in 2014?
As sea level rise marches on, so marches our movement. In January, a preliminary action against the Keystone XL called Dissent KXL will hopefully mark the largest amount of students ever arrested––an attempt to show the fossil fuel industry that the Keystone XL pipeline is not worth our sacrificing our future. In February, 350.org and Credo Mobile have joined forces to form the Pledge of Resistance, a rally at which over 76,300 people are signed up to risk arrest if Obama approves the Keystone XL. I would sure love to see look on Obama’s face when he sees 76,000 people being arrested on his front lawn.
In addition to all these actions, we will see gubernatorial elections for new governors. In Massachusetts, we ask: will Governor Patrick Duvall be the Climate Governor we need? Will his Climate Legacy as Governor be one that will further his political career or will he fall short and in turn fall to join the ranks of those ignoring climate change and suppressing climate justice? Will we elect a Climate Congress? One that will take seriously the implications of climate change currently and plan accordingly for future devastation with effective policy changes and progressive thinking? Will Cape Wind construction finally begin allowing Massachusetts to become the first state in the nation to install a permanent grid connected to offshore wind? How many more coal plants will the Sierra Club and other organizations shut down? Will natural gas investments drop as Divestment becomes more popular? Will we jump from the coal bubble into the natural gas bubble or will we allow this carbon bubble to disappear entirely?
How many more Lac Magantic’s and Mayflower’s do we need to have before we realize fossil fuels and everything associated with them is dangerous to the environment, the economy, and human health? There are ten indicators of the human footprint on climate change and we’re seeing all the warning lights flicker. In January of 2014, Jamaica will be the first location at which “the climate exceeds the bounds of historical variability.” That is, Jamaica will be undeniably hotter every year after 2014. Jamaica will be the first in the world to experience this phenomenon, but soon it will catch up to Massachusetts and every other location in the world. What will our excuse be then?
Climate change will soon be scientifically and experientially undeniable. We will see the seas rise, we will see the earth further fracked, we will see more of our mountains explode. But we remain strong. In 2014 and beyond, we’ll see big changes. We’ll lay down our bodies, we’ll chain ourselves to industry equipment, we’ll continue to grow and make allies and create bonds and meet new friends. Like Charlie’s tour through Wonka’s factory, though our allies may disappear and some may be silenced by industry checks and political bribes, we cannot forgot that we need to win this fight, we will win this fight, and so, as Wonka said, it’s “best to press on.”
Onwards & Peace,
The post Climate Change in 2013 & What To Expect Moving Forward in 2014 appeared first on Fossil Free.