Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feed and care instructions for Rochester’s new blue tote

 

CCToteSThe City of Rochester, NY is running a Single Stream Recycling Pilot Program, and the first of the new totes have been delivered to the participants. First, before it even crosses your mind, don’t feed your new blue tote a TV. Doing so will result in your new blue tote getting seriously ill and you getting an unpleasant fine of $100. You might have not even been thinking of cramming your old TV or computer into your new tote because it’s now illegal to even leave your e-waste at the curb in New York State—let alone making your new tote sick with it. But your tote can and should be fed a lot of things, which will make it grow and get strong.

Basically, totes like recyclables. It likes them clean and empty. Like feeding your tote an old TV, your totes does not like rotting, festering ‘ingredients’ lingering inside your recyclables because these will make your tote feel wretched too.

Your new tote, although very hardy, needs some TLC to live a long healthy life. Below, I have tried to answer some of what might be your most pressing questions about your new totes. Complete disclosure: I am not an authority on totes (or recycling) but I was chair of the Rochester Sierra Club’s Zero Waste committee for a couple of years; the City sent us participants a flyer on the program, and the City has provided much of this information here: http://www.cityofrochester.gov/residentialrecycling/

If you don’t feel like surfing over to the City’s Single Stream Recycling site, or you don’t have an Internet connection at the moment (which would be odd, since you wouldn’t be able to read this article either), I will try and anticipate some of your questions regarding the new program:

  • What does your new tote like to eat? Ans: paper, boxes, cardboard, plastic, glass, and metal. Metal like metal pots and pans, pie tins, licenses, plates, aluminum, tin, steel, or aerosol cans. Not metal like cars, trucks, or tractors.
  • What doesn’t your tote like to eat (besides TVs, cars, etc. that I’ve already mentioned)? Ans: garbage, Styrofoam (even if numbered), electronics, ceramics, dishes or glassware, food waste, plastic bags, hazardous waste, light bulbs, window glass or mirrors, electrical cords, hoses or ropes, syringes/sharps, and yard waste. (I might add here that a little common sense in feeding your tote would go a long way in keeping it healthy.)
  • Yipes! What do I do with all this stuff that that will make my new totes sick? Ans: Most of this stuff, especially hazardous waste, should be taken to the county’s eco-park. Many recyclables can be taken to recyclers who make a profit from your waste and thereby keeping a market for this stuff thriving, instead of tearing up our land for more stuff like electronics. Yard waste should be composted or put out at the curb in the City on your scheduled leaf-pick-up day in the fall. Food waste should be composted, which is to say, returned to Mother Earth from whence it came. Start composting. Or, just throw it all in the garbage, which is to say landfill it, where this rotting resource that could be enriching our soil will instead release methane (CH4) a greenhouse gas many more times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) into atmosphere our making Climate Change worse. (Are you feeling the guilt?)
  • How were the test participants selected and why weren’t you chosen? Ans: The City says: “You and your neighbors are among Rochester’s top recyclers…” (mentioned in the flyer you did or did not receive). This sounds almost too charitable to be true, so the real answer might have to do with your tax returns. (Are you feeling the paranoia?)
  • Where in the City are the test participants located? Ans: There is a secret route and may be decoded in a couple of ways. One, obviously just follow the trucks that pick up the blue totes. Two, find the secret document floating around the Internet that has the route on it. Three, ask the City to reveal the route.
  • Does this single stream system mean I don’t need to take reusable stuff to reuse centers, just feed them to my tote? Ans: Absolutely not! Clothes, books, magazines, eyeglasses, furniture, working gadgets, and many, many other reusable items should always be reused. Many charitable organizations and business thrive and help others to thrive by finding homes for used stuff that still has a life. A single stream recycling program is not a substitute for reuse.
  • How will you know if your tote is growing and getting stronger? Ans: The City of Rochester’s test program will expand to include more participants, until it covers the whole city. Then your garbage container will shrink because you won’t have much waste anymore and the world will return to being a sustainable thriving environment instead of one headed to the waste bin of history because of too much freaking waste. (Are you feeling the soap box lecture coming?)
  • What’s the big deal about the City’s single stream pilot program? Ans: No sorting required.
  • Do I have ulterior motives for writing this article? Ans: Yes. I’m hoping to get everyone to understand the link between recycling and Climate Change. (Ah ha, you knew it!) “Stop Trashing Our Climate” is a report that connects the dots between your waste getting landfilled making Climate Change worse. It’s not a long report.
  • What is Climate Change? Ans: It’s not pretty. See below:

1. "Climate change" means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (Climate Change, Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC))

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Political leaders, including Rochester’s, must lead on Climate Change

 

CCWeDidItSUltimately, it is our political leaders and their parties who decide if and how we will address Climate Change. Much can and is being done to adapt to and mitigate this worldwide crisis from the bottom-up—individuals, faith organizations, educational institutions, and businesses—but their efforts are doomed to ad hoc, insufficient, and contradictory solutions if our leaders are not leading the way. A worldwide crisis requires a worldwide top-down framework. President Obama is just now starting to lead. His leadership will encourage billions to act. And just recently, New York State Assembly Speaker Heastie “created a working group to review NYS’s response to Climate Change.”

Assembly Speaker Heastie Creates Group To Review NYS Response To Climate Change The speaker of the New York state Assembly has created a working group to review the state's response to climate change. Speaker Carl Heastie announced the formation of the panel on Thursday. It will consist of 10 lawmakers charged with examining possible ways to reduce greenhouse emissions as well as measures that could help the state prepare for future extreme weather. (February 20, 2015) WXXI News

That’s leadership, taking charge of finding out whether our state’s current response to Climate Change is adequate. I submit that our state’s efforts are woefully lacking in many areas and I hope the findings of the working group will reflect that. Our state’s environmental agency (The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) established in 1970, understands its mission as:

"To conserve, improve and protect New York's natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being." (About DEC)

But the DEC’s mission, which was written about the time greenhouse gases (GHGs) began to seriously affect our climate, should be updated. The DEC, which was far too interested in regulating Fracking and now regulating oil trains, should change their mission to focus entirely on protecting our life support system. Instead of making fossil fuel use safer, they should discourage it. Instead of making wildlife more plentiful for harvesting, the DEC should be planning and educating the public on how to help our wildlife and native plants adjust to a climate that is warming far faster than our endemic species’ ability to adapt. The DEC’s Climate Smart Communities voluntary program to address Climate Change should be mandatory and more robust. The DEC should orchestrate all their public information sessions through the lens of Climate Change. And, most notably the DEC should not be worrying their pretty little heads about our ‘overall economic well-being,’ as that’s why we created economists. The DEC should keep our life support system sustainable; which is the only way to ensure economic health in the future anyway.

These kind of holistic changes can only be changed at the top—our political leaders.

I’m not tilting at windmills here. Rather than a dreamy idealistic hunger for change, many political leaders are coming to terms with the core problem of this issue—it’s physics stupid. Taking time out from going at each other’s jugular, some of UK’s political leaders have agreed to agree that Climate Change is happening and it must be addressed.

Cameron, Clegg, and Miliband Sign Joint Climate Pledge | David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have signed a joint pledge to tackle climate change, which they say will protect the UK’s national security and economic prosperity. The agreement of the three party leaders is highly unusual and comes amid a general election campaign that is becoming increasingly bitter. The prime minister, deputy prime minister and leader of the opposition have all clashed over green issues, but the joint declaration states: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity.” February 17, 2015) Climate Central

Can you imagine our US political leaders walking boldly across the aisle, shaking hands, then speaking jointly to the media, “My worthy opponent and me agree that Climate Change is happening and it is doing so as a result of mankind’s GHG emissions.” It’s not a dream. It must happen. It must happen at all levels of government. It must start happening in the Rochester region too.

Rochester’s efforts under the state’s Five Cities Energy Plans include:

“•Create a Solarize Rochester program to encourage installation of solar panels by private residents and companies in city neighborhoods and streamline the approval process they must go through. •Support development of a large solar-energy project on 10 acres in the Emerson Street area. Like a similar project now being considered by Monroe County, the solar farm would be built and owned by a private company, with the city purchasing the power at a favorable rate. •Advance energy-efficiency efforts in city-owned buildings and encourage private owners to do the same. An example cited in the plan is the installation of energy-efficient lighting in six city-owned parking garages, which saves $400,000 a year. •Do more to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use. This includes installing more facilities such as bicycle lanes, which the plan foresees going from the present 30 lane-miles to nearly 80 in the coming years. The city also would support bike- and car-sharing programs. •Install efficient LED bulbs in the city’s 28,000 street lights. •Seek expansion of energy districts and microgrids, and explore use of the historic downtown heating district to also generate electricity.” Rochester energy plan pushes community-wide efficiency (2/17/2015, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

Wonderful though they are, these measures are not enough. Rochester must lead on Climate Change. The Rochester energy plan also says this: “These include reduced operating costs, a healthier, safer and more livable community, natural resource conservation and restoration, and mitigating and adapting to climate change.” (Rochester/Five Cities Energy Plan) It’s hard to be a leader on mitigating and adapting to Climate Change if you don’t mention it in public—so the public is clear that you mean you’re willing to lead on Climate Change.

Rochester Competes For State Funding For Energy Projects Governor Cuomo has announced funding for a new energy competition that will award up to $20 million for innovative energy projects in five upstate cities including Rochester.  Cuomo talked about the plan in his State of the State message.  It's part of a $35 million, five-year program spearheaded by the New York Power Authority. Under the plan, a state-funded energy manager position will be created for each city: Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, Albany and Yonkers. Officials say this "five cities energy plan" could save some of New York's largest municipalities up to $400 million annually in energy costs. (February 17, 2015) WXXI News

Also, the slow progress deciding on Ontario Lake water levels highlights the political difficulty of adapting to Climate Change locally. Clearly, allowing the lake’s level to be restored to a healthier ecosystem level where wetlands flourish is more adaptive to more frequent extreme weather. But a relatively small number of folks reject this because it potentially harms their shoreline property. The answer is not to allow the entire lake ecosystem to fail because of the few, but to help compensate the few who might feel the sting of the majority’s need for a sustainable environment. Climate Change is going to require some very inconvenient and tough decisions; but not to make these decisions will be catastrophic. Our political leaders need to get out in front of this very divisive component of Climate Change adaptation in our region, which many are not.

Lake-level plan lacks top-level endorsements Lake Ontario may be nearly frozen over, but fevers still run high along the shoreline as folks continue to debate the merit of changing the way the lake's water levels are regulated. Many of New York's top elected leaders, however, are playing it cool. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state's two United States Senators and U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter have yet to take a position on the matter. Of the four other members of Congress whose districts touch the Lake Ontario shoreline or St. Lawrence River bank, one is opposed, one in favor and two are skeptical and want more study. Not exactly a tidal wave of support. (February 19, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

The increase in extreme cold that we are experiencing right now in Rochester and oil bombs exploding all around us recently are results of using ‘all of the above’ to solve our energy needs in a time of Climate Change. (“All of the above” is code for “I cannot make up my mind.”) However, the colder it gets, the more fossil fuel we use, so the more the fossil fuel industry drills, produces, and ships, which causes more bomb trains and refinery explosions, causing the planet, especially the Arctic, to warm more, which means more of the extreme cold gets pushed our way from the Arctic, so the colder it gets…

Wind farms and solar panels don’t blow up. We should be dramatically increasing renewable energy instead of having to get used to more violent fossil fuel explosions.

As Extreme Cold Engulfs Eastern U.S., Fossil Fuel Mishaps Leave Disaster Areas on Fire As extreme cold temperatures blast the eastern third of the United States, the fossil fuel industry has seen a series of disasters in less than a week. On Wednesday, an explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery south of Los Angeles rocked the surrounding area with the equivalent of a 1.4-magnitude earthquake. The blast in California happened as oil tank cars from a derailed train remained on fire Wednesday in West Virginia, two days after the accident. The derailment forced the evacuation of two towns and destroyed a house. The derailment in West Virginia happened just two days after another oil train derailment in Ontario, Canada, which also left rail cars burning for days. We are joined by Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International. "Climate policy and energy policy are not usually discussed together in this country," Kretzmann says. "Climate change means that we need to transition away from fossil fuels, sooner rather than later." (February 19, 2015) Democracy Now!

Our political leaders and their party platforms need to adapt to this crisis. Quietly working behind closed doors to reduce GHGs and hoping that their constituents will magically connect the dots with Climate Change is not leadership. Speaking publically about a clean energy future but not including ‘Climate Change’ panders to the denial zeitgeist. (Everyone, as Bill Nye, the Science Guy implores the media, needs to “just say the word ‘Climate Change’ now and then”.) This kind of hope and pray political approach to address Climate Change has installed powerful climate change deniers into office which allows them to thwart and reverse what little we have done. The political hush job on “Climate Change” means the public continues to languish in limbo, where nothing is asked of them to address this crisis. There is an incredible opportunity for political leaders to regain the public’s trust by leading on Climate instead of dodging it.

Time passes.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Get beyond Fracking by REV [ing] up renewable energy in New York State

 

CCDodgeSUnless your head is still buried in Sen. James Inhofe’s (“outspoken denier of climate science and chairman of the Senate’s environment committee”) climate-denial book, you know that New York State is banning Fracking. Fracking is a dirty way of extracting a dirty fossil fuel, when we should be turning towards clean energy (wind, solar, geothermal, conservation, energy efficiency, microgrids, and net metering). Now that our attention is back after having been hijacked for 6 Fracking years, we should focus on clean energy options in a time of Climate Change.

Admittedly, it is not going to be easy to get Rochester to focus on responsible energy options—even though energy use is now understood as synonymous with morality. (Just ask Pope Francis.) We still think cold weather means Climate Change is a hoax. We still want to keep our local nuclear power plant even though it’s one of the oldest in the nation and the public may be forced to keep it on life-support. Fracking still makes for sexy, pugilistic headlines and clean energy doesn’t.

However, the clean energy program that should have evolved, instead of the Fracking dinosaur, now has a chance to survive and thrive. That program is “Reforming the Energy Vision" (REV) brought to you by the New York State Public Service Commission, who “regulates and oversees the electric, gas, water, and telecommunication industries in New York”. (Wiki) Why didn’t they launch REV six years ago? Was it because of Fracking?

There has been a series of public meetings so locals can learn more about REV and comment. You could have joined the party if you lived in Syracuse, Buffalo, New York City, Kingston, Albany, Yonkers, and Binghamton—but not Rochester, until a couple of NYS senators (Republicans) complained. Maybe the state thought the specter of clean energy would frighten the third largest city in the state. Nonetheless when we did have a chance to speak last Thursday evening at City Hall, many spoke eloquently about the need to link our energy use with Climate Change. You didn’t know that? That’s probably because the local media didn’t come to the party. They were too busy, or too cold, or they don’t cover events after dinner, or it wasn’t about Fracking energy, or the dog ate their homework. Who knows?

Anyway:

What's REV Why Does It Matter? "Reforming the Energy Vision" (REV) is a major decision-making process underway now to transform the retail electricity market and overhaul New York's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The stated goal of the proceeding is to create a cleaner, more affordable, more modern and more efficient energy system in New York, through the increased development of distributed energy resources, like rooftop solar, energy efficiency, and battery storage. The REV proceeding was initiated by New York's Public Service Commission in April, 2014.” Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE)

Stop. Before we go any further, you must watch this fun 16-minute video that explains the REV program that is so wonky and complicated your mind will explode: “Reforming the Energy Vision, from AGREE.

Good, you’re back. (Sorry, that thing about your mind exploding was a bit over top, but trying to understand REV really is wonky and complicated.) And, just in case you cannot make it through this whole essay, here’s the take home message: Please comment on Track 1 of REV prior to February 17, 2015 “First track involves a collaborative process to examine the role of distribution utilities in enabling market-based deployment of distributed energy resources to promote load management and greater system efficiency, including peak load reductions.” 14-M-0101: Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)

See what I mean? It really is very wonky and complicated. There’s 90 pages of this stuff.

OK, if you’re still with me and willing to go just a little further, let me explains why all this matters.

If you don’t have the patience to get through all the particulars and jargon of the REV program, AGREE will help you out. And, oh yeah, it’s crucial for our state to hear loud and clear that we care about addressing Climate Change and want our energy options to reflect that.

Sitting this one out, ignoring Climate Change and not giving voice to a major shift in the way New York State gets energy is a major copout on the greatest issue of our day. I know, you’re busy and have lots of other stuff to do. But if Climate Change becomes overwhelming, all that stuff you’re doing now won’t matter.

This week, while on the road to the COP21 Paris Climate treaty in December, there’s a U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Geneva. Negotiators are ramping up for binding agreements in Paris to keep the 2°C (or 3.6°F) goal for keeping greenhouse gases (GHGs) above pre-industrial averages. However, despite the hue and cry about what curbing our fossil fuel addiction will do to our economy, (the fossil fuel industry’s standard trope), and the supposed threat to our lifestyles in the developed nations, there’s a dirty little secret: 2°C, though very ambitious, is not enough to stop the catastrophic consequences of Climate Change. Geneva is working on new goals that would complement the 2°C goal.

New Global Warming Goal Is Goal of Talks For five years, United Nations climate negotiators and onlookers have been focused on one big-ticket objective: Preventing the planet from heating up by more than 2°C, or 3.6°F. That’s a convoluted goal, though. Not all the extra energy that’s trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases manifests as warmth at its surface; most of it heats up the oceans. If current trends continue, scientists say we would blow past the 2°C target within a few decades — but the modeling required to make that projection produces substantial uncertainty. One of the main issues under negotiation during U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Geneva this week is a potential new global climate target — something more tangible for policy makers than the 2°C goal, with progress that’s easier to track. (February 12, 2015) Climate Central

Yes, it’s inconvenient and difficult to ask nations to do even more to address Climate Change than the 2C goal, since even this inadequate number is extremely unlikely to be achieved. However, the battle to align Climate Change politics (what we are willing to do) with science (what we have to do) cannot be achieved by unanimity. It would be like saying in order to get a plane off the ground we would need to balance the techniques of aeronautics with everyone’s ideas, including those who believe in telekinesis. That would be absurd. If the scientific characterization of Climate Change doesn’t prevail, we are screwed. 

Climate Change includes Global Warming but on a local level risks will vary. In the Rochester, NY region, for example, there are many Real Changes going on in our region right now that are not necessarily what other regions are experiencing. (In California it is wicked hot, not wicked cold like it is here right now.) And in the near future the Likely Changes are not what other places will be facing. But the trajectory for all of us is a warmer planet—that’s if we survive the local variations. Climate Change is about planning and we should be doing that on a massive scale. One way to do that is to shift our New York State present fossil fuel power grid to a greener power grid.

Climate Change is global, but the consequences and solutions are local.

IPCC scientists call for focus on regional climate risks  Data on geography of rising temperatures is not getting through to adaptation specialists, warn co-chairs  From heatwaves and wildfires in Australia to flooding in India, climate change affects different parts of the world in different ways. In the last round of reports from the UN’s climate science body, physical scientists produced an atlas of regional temperature and rainfall projections. But this has been underused in efforts to prepare for the impacts and threats of climate change around the globe, the top authors say. Ahead of a key meeting on the future of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Nairobi this month, they are pushing for a heightened focus on localised risks. (February 13, 2015) Responding To Climate Change (RTCC)

Time passes.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Six reasons why Rochester must care about huge gas storage at Seneca Lake

 

CCGasSGilda Radner (television actress, comedian (1946–1989)) reminds us that “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.” Just after New York State finally bans Fracking, up comes the attempt for massive storage of methane and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) on the shores of Seneca Lake. For the folks on the southern shores, this fossil fuel expansion project presents a clear and present danger:

“This project presents geological problems, can affect Seneca Lake water quality, presents health risks, is a threat to our winery and tourist economy, as well as being an infrastructure project that could negatively impact climate change.” Gas Free Seneca

Although a dramatic increase in gas storage at Seneca Lake is not an immediate threat to Rochester, we should help stop it. This increase in gas storage is an immediate threat to those who live on or near Seneca Lake and we should care just for that at reason. Friends don’t let friends get stuffed with explosive fossil fuels. But as the quote above suggests, this project is not just Seneca Lake’s problem. Our life support system is not walled by regions, states, or countries. Our environment is walled only by our planet. “...an infrastructure project that could negatively impact climate change” means our region would continue to be part of the worldwide crisis of Climate Change, instead of part of the solution.

Here are at least 6 more reasons why folks in and around Rochester should act on this issue.

  1. As I stood in the crowd at this rally, I heard Howie Hawkins say it best: “… we are sitting right at the fork of the road, and If we let that project go forward, you know what that does, it locks us into decades of an infrastructure that the people made an investment are gonna want a return on, it forecloses the green energy path…”  Howie Hawkins at the "We are Seneca Lake Too" rally in Geneva, New York
  2. Even in a region of freshwater abundance, jeopardizing freshwater resources for the storage of fossil fuels is immoral.
  3. This massive gas storage project is threat to the economic health of our region--wine, tourism, and a lot of Rochesterians probably have cottages near the lake.
  4. We should not be expanding methane storage anywhere--not to mention the region of the Finger Lakes. Whenever you increase fossil fuels you decrease the price of gas and the public’s will to develop renewable energy.
  5. Fossil fuel development cannot be done safely when the emissions cannot be sequestered. Our ability to stuff fossil fuels deep into the group and keep it there safely forever is an ability we do not have on a large scale—and probably never will.
  6. Do you really only want to drink California or French wines?

How can Rochester help? Learn more: Go to R-CAUSES’s LPG & NATURAL GAS STORAGE IN SENECA LAKE SALT MINES NEAR WATKINS GLEN and my Seneca Lake web page and keep up-to-date. Sign the Save Seneca Lake Petition. Go to Gas Free Seneca and We Are Seneca Lake where you can donate to help defray legal costs by these groups and Pledge to Protect Seneca Lake.

______________

Below is additional information and actions copied with permission from our friends over at R-CAUSE “Rochesterians Concerned About Unsafe Shale-gas Extraction”

GAS STORAGE IN SENECA LAKE SALT CAVERNS - ACTIONS & ARTICLES:

"I don’t think jobs should have to come at the cost of public health, and we can come up with an economic development strategy for the Southern Tier that develops the economy, produces jobs, but doesn’t put public health at risk,” Cuomo said in a radio interview Dec. 20. Couldn't the same be said for gas storage?

LPG Storage in NY Salt Cavern Linked to Salinity Spike in Drinking Water “For decades, scientists have puzzled over why Seneca Lake, the largest of New York State’s Finger Lakes, is by far the saltiest of the 11 glacier-carved water bodies. Now a Nevada hydrologist claims he’s solved the mystery. Tom Myers, who was hired by opponents of a plan to store liquid petroleum gas (LPG) in salt caverns at the southern end of Seneca, pins the blame on LPG storage in the same group of caverns between 1964 and 1984. “The risk of saline influx to the lake from LPG is very high and should be avoided,” Myers wrote in January. (February 6, 2015) DC Bureau)

ACTION 1: Call and/or email Governor Cuomo before the DEC Issues Conference Thursday February 12th! Thank him again for banning fracking and tell him that gas storage on Seneca Lake not only threatens public health and safety, but also threatens the thriving and growing agri-tourism economy.  The Finger Lakes must not be the sacrifice zone for the oil and gas industry.  We refuse to take all of the risk with no reward. The proposed gas storage facility on Seneca will not heat our homes, nor will it lower our home heating cost. Ask the Governor to deny gas storage permits in the Finger Lakes, specifically Crestwood’s gas storage propose on Seneca Lake, and support what is already succeeding here: http://gasfreeseneca.com/?page_id=1058

ACTION 2. DEC ISSUES CONFERENCE regarding the LPG Storage Facility on Seneca Lake, Thursday, February 12th (and 13th if needed), 10 AM, Horseheads Holiday Inn, 2666 Corning Road, Horseheads, NY 14845 

The Conference is a formal opportunity for pre-approved groups to present their arguments opposing and in support of the Storage Facility. Read more here.

Gas Free Seneca would like as many gas facility opponents to be there as possible. We need to out-number the gas facility supporters.  Please be sure to arrive early!  The court proceedings will be held in a room that holds 200, with those who have been permitted Party Status or filed Amicus Briefs being allowed in first, then room for others on a first come, first serve basis.

Please remember, we need to be an extraordinarily respectful crowd since this is an official court hearing, with an Administrative Law Judge.  We do not want to do anything that angers the judge, or prevents him from being able to hear Gas Free Seneca's arguments, so please, no chanting; and talking should be kept to a hushed minimum!

People should be able to assemble in the parking area and inside the Hotel.  Please bring respectful signs only if you do not intend to go into the court proceedings, or give your sign to someone who is not planning on going into the proceedings. 

Please Wear Blue, as a sign that you are opposed to gas storage on Seneca Lake!

The media is sure to be there in force. To get a good sense of the significant and substantive issues that will be discussed, we highly recommend you look through Gas Free Seneca's Petition for Full Party Status and the public versions of GFS's expert's reports found here: http://gasfreeseneca.com/?page_id=763

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Rochester sprucing up for COP21 Paris Climate Conference

 

CCReliefSBy March we expect countries around the world to submit their climate change pledges under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Obama has pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. China has pledged to lower its GHGs and increase non-fossil fuel energy alternatives. And recently India has pledged to reduce emissions from fluorinated gases, strive for cleaner energy, and alleviate its air pollution. Rochester, NY isn’t a country, of course, but all communities around the world must be sprucing up for the COP21 Paris Climate Conference in December, where “The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.” (1.) Pledges must end up with favorable results:

“On that front, the next few years will be critical. Under the UNFCCC, countries around the world committed to produce an international climate action agreement. This agreement will be finalized at the annual Conference of the Parties, meeting in Paris in 2015 (COP 21). How UNFCCC negotiations progress between now and then will in part determine whether the world curbs climate change—or feels its worsening effects.”(World Resources Institute)

There are several changes afoot in Rochester that may have a profound effect on our local efforts to address Climate Change:

  • ROCHESTER PEOPLES’ CLIMATE COALITION formed in September 2014 around the People's Climate March, this powerful alliance is reorganizing to demand action on Climate Change.
  • Rochester’s ‘Mothers Out Front’, new on the scene in Rochester, MOF engages mothers, grandmothers, and all who care about the next generation to direct our courage and strength toward assuring a healthy future for all. Stories are the fuel that inspire us and others to act. Read more: Moms mobilize against climate change  (January 28, 2015) Rochester City Newspaper
  • As I mentioned last week, the City of Rochester is starting to put together a Climate Action Plan. Read more: Rochester to undertake citywide climate inventory (January 21, 2015 Rochester City Newspaper)
  • From cleaning up 4 parks a few years ago, this county program has increased to cover 21 parks this year: “The 6th annual Pick Up the Parks Event This event is designed to foster stewardship of our 21 parks and 12,000 acres within.  We are all stewards of the great outdoors, so we encourage you to do your part to keep our parks, our waterways, and watersheds clean and green."
  • Greentopia Launches New York's First Online Green Guide! “We are proud to announce the launch of the Greentopia Green Guide, a comprehensive guide and portal to all things green! This guide is for businesses and consumers alike. “--from Greentopia.
  • World renowned climate scientist, activist and author, Dr. James Hansen has agreed to speak at the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s Earth Day forum for 2015, Tuesday April 21st, 2015. Former NASA scientist and Climate Change expert Dr. James Hansen speaks at the local Sierra Club's annual environmental forum, to be held at Monroe Community College. Various other events at other local venues will be included that day, and also Monday April 20th. See his TED talk here: https://lnkd.in/dgSc2Uq.
  • Got Got short film abilities and want to message importance of our environment?  Fast Forward Film Festival Showcasing New Environmental Perspectives Presented by WXXI/Little Theatre, George Eastman House, RIT,  and the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute The Fast Forward Film Festival invites residents in the greater Rochester area to submit independent short films (5 minutes or less) that inspire a deeper connection to the environment. As an incubator for innovative thinking and artistic expression, FFFF encourages films that tap into the local experience, compel audiences to engage with the community, and raise environmental awareness. An acclaimed jury will review the films and select winners who will receive a $1,000 cash prize for each of these categories: (1) most inspiring, compelling, and engaging, (2) most unique perspective, (3) strongest call to action. Submission deadline is February 27, 2015 "" Click here to down load the flyer and help distribute Fast Forward Film Festival

This isn’t a complete list. For example, many local businesses are acting on in lowering their carbon footprint. However, at the end of the day, all the actions we take must result in a dramatic change in the public’s attitude towards this worldwide crisis. We shouldn’t have to defend the science of Climate Change every time we bring it up. We shouldn’t have to argue with every climate denier who still hasn’t done their homework. Our local waste stream, waste water, water, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure must become more resilient for more extreme weather and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

If our collective efforts don’t accomplish all this, we are fooling ourselves. If enough groups and individuals don’t join together to address Climate Change, if we only create a moral hazard by continuing to pick up more litter but don’t’ try to end it, if the City ends up with a Climate Action Plan that looks good on paper but doesn’t bring down GHGs, if our attempts to create a list of green companies only results in greenwashing (if there isn’t rigorous standards and vetting), and if we invite a world-class climate scientist to speak to just the choir, we might be making matter worse by wasting valuable time.

Climate Change has changed everything, especially our environmental actions. We can no longer just appease our sense of aesthetics and our feelings towards our environment—our life support system. Our present actions must result in a dramatic decrease in GHGs and address all the historical environmental issues at the same time—the loss of biodiversity, pollution, overpopulation, food shortages, and much more.

COP21 Paris is coming up soon. Will all the above local actions add up to making a real difference? It’s up to you.

Time passes.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Climate Change occurring in Rochester too; we should act like it

 

CCActLikeSThis week President Obama delivered his State of the Union address, where he highlighted the importance of addressing Climate Change right now. His message was unambiguous. Climate Change poses an immediate threat and we should act in a way that is equal to the threat.

“2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does: 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. I’ve heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they’re not scientists; that we don’t have enough information to act. Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities. And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.” (President Obama, State of the Union 2015, January 20, 2015)

(Watch ABC’s short video version of the above transcript State of the Union 2015: Obama Wants Climate Change Addressed as Security Risk)

Rochester, NY (and every other community on Earth for that matter) should be addressing Climate Change on a level and speed that corresponds to the threat. As reported in this week’s local news, Rochester, NY is starting to put together a Climate Action Plan. It’s very milquetoast, but it’s a start.

Rochester to undertake citywide climate inventory The City of Rochester will hire a consultant to help it put together a Climate Action Plan — a step that an official says builds on other projects and programs helping to make Rochester a more sustainable and, therefore, more desirable city. "You want to be in a community that's somewhat progressive in sustainability areas. People like that," says Anne Spaulding, the city's energy and sustainability manager. "It's a place where people kind of like to live and like to be." The plan will essentially be a blueprint that will include goals, actions, and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city, she says. The city will accept proposals from interested consultants until January 30. (January 21, 2015 Rochester City Newspaper)

It seems to be the City’s goal to quietly address Climate Change using the ‘no regrets’ strategy, which is to say actions that can be justified economically, socially, and environmentally whether Climate Change is real or not. This is not leadership on an issue posing an immediate threat; this is hedging your bets politically.

Although the City is doing many things on the climate front, few know about these efforts. Number one on its to-do climate action list should be ‘community engagement’. That is not happening. Even in the City’s bicycle projects (bikeROCHESTER), a fantastic effort which constitutes one of the City’s strongest adaptation strategies (as 27% of greenhouse gas emission come from the transportation sector), ‘Climate Change’ or even ‘greenhouse gases’ are not mentioned.

You cannot lead by quietly setting an example that nobody knows about. You lead by continually educating the public so that they will understand the threat, by updating our various infrastructures so they will be resilient and robust enough to tolerate more frequent extreme weather, and by asking the public to become engaged in viewing and acting on all our local issues through the lens of Climate Change—election year after election year. 

Also this week, the City conducted a summit on downtown parking.

Parking summit leads to wider wish list A public meeting Wednesday night on parking downtown had very little to do with parking lots or garages. Instead, city planners and citizens at the city's parking summit focused much more on making downtown an easier and more attractive place to get around by foot, bike, public transit or some kind of shuttle service — not necessarily by car. No one in the crowd of a few dozen people suggested paving over more of downtown for new parking lots, but several people suggested ways to better manage the spots that the city already has. (January 21, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

But instead of a call for more parking (which the majority of Rochesterians would most likely prefer) the City got a surprise. Folks asked, why not increase active transportation (walking and bicycling)? Why not manage the parking lots we have better so we don’t have to pave over downtown completely? (A lot, really a lot, of downtown is already paved over.) Why not make public transportation better, develop parking apps to find unused parking spots, and make park-and-rides more desirable?

Paving over downtown with even more impermeable surfaces, which (while very friendly to resting cars) is not friendly to our environment. Paved surfaces suffocate our soil, make flooding worse, and create more stormwater surges that are more likely to carry more pollution to our streams, rivers, and lakes. Not to mention that more paved surfaces renders the urban heat island effect more intense.

Admittedly, not creating more parking lots in Rochester will be a hard sell. We love our cars and our cars love parking lots—free, convenient, and secure asphalt cribs of auto desire.

The trouble is that our life support system doesn’t like parking lots—any more than we’d like to have a plastic bag put over our head.

This all matters because it is at the point of transportation planning that Rochester must connect the dots between Climate Change and demonstrating its intention to act. By far most of our transportation tax dollars are gobbled up by bridge and road repair, so adapting our existing infrastructure to accommodate low or no GHG emissions when getting around town is relatively low-hanging fruit, financially. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by using alternatives to gas guzzlers as much as possible may be the most effective Climate Change strategy Rochester has in its toolbox. Fewer vehicles, less need for parking them. But when we have surveys and public discussions about our transportation future, we do not mention ‘Climate Change'. It is still unfashionable to connect the climate crisis with our Rochester lifestyle.

If we planned our local transportation strategies so that the public believed there was a shared effort in addressing this worldwide crisis, wouldn’t they be more likely to do their part? Someone who must use a car might be more likely to tolerate those who don’t—and share the freaking road.

Community engagement with Climate Change should include baking Climate Change into our transportation plans. More Rochesterians would move out of their comfort zones to make more sustainable transportation modes work if they believed they were a necessary part of the solution to Climate Change. This will take leadership.

Climate Change is happening. We here in Rochester should act like it.

Time passes.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ominous signs of Climate Change

 

You’re looking at a very small crack at the bottom of a very large dam leaking water. It doesn’t look ominous, just a little dribble of water. But it feels ominous because it’s just the first sign that an incredibly large structure is eventually going to fail.

CCMGlassSThis is how I feel when I read Climate Change studies about our area, and they mention some of the changes already occurring. Annual temperature increases, increase in intensive precipitation events, bird population shifts, and streamflow changes don’t seem like much until you realize these events are unstoppable. (They are unstoppable in our life time; if we address Climate Change now we may be able to slow them down for future generations.)

An incredibly large biological structure that took billions of years to evolve is changing very quickly due to manmade global warming—although, to our untrained eyes these changes appear to be occurring very slowly.

When our local media helps us open our eyes, we can see the cracks. Quietly and with little fanfare, this recent article in Rochester City Newspaper, describing efforts to fortify Irondequoit Creek's banks, bakes Climate Change into the report. When recounting factors that contribute to the creek’s bank erosion, some ominous changes comes up:

“Shifts in precipitation patterns, brought on by climate change, also play a role in the erosion. Overall, the amount of precipitation that the Rochester area gets hasn't changed much, but more frequently it's coming in heavy bursts. And those downpours tend to be more intense than in the past. "On an observation basis, I think we've seen more what we call flashy storms, where the water rises very quickly within the creek, within the parks, more so than in the past," says Monroe County's Rinaldo.” (Water power  (1/14/2015) Rochester City Newspaper)

Articles like this that responsibly include the worldwide crisis of Climate Change demonstrate several important reasons why this sort of reporting should be the new normal in journalism. First, in order to fix problems like bank erosion in a warmer Rochester, we must factor in more frequent heavy rainfall, else fortifying the banks will fail. Second, public officials don’t have the luxury of denying Climate Change because the consequences of warming in our region will affect all efforts to make our way of living sustainable. Finally, the public will truly appreciate how Climate Change must now be weaved into all our plans for the future.

Without reporting continually on how Climate Change is (and will be) affecting our life support system, the public will not be able to compare political candidates, judge the accuracy of energy company claims, or appreciate the urgency of addressing this relentless warming process right now. Though Rochester, and every community around the world, is plagued with innumerable problems, these problems must be addressed while addressing Climate Change. Trying to save species whose ability to adapt have passed is (by definition) too late. Trying to solve public health, inequality, and other issues without factoring in Climate Change is delusional, which is to say impossible.

The tragedy is that the article above is rare. Dominating our local news is sports, then sports, then accidents, then happy news, and then maybe a handful of sentences about stuff we need to know. Our priorities have reversed: We now highlight the trivial and bury the serious.

Locally, the crucial period between the COP20 Lima climate talks last December and decision time coming up next December at COP21 Paris is ignored in the press. A remarkable transformation in humanity’s attitude towards energy use must occur during this timeframe. Instead, there is a hue and cry over gas prices (lowest in a long time but higher than anywhere else in the nation) which is an irresponsible and immoral response to the direct threat of using more fossil fuels on a rapidly warming planet.

At present our local leaders (not to mention the US Congress) find it more convenient to ignore and deny Climate Change because the press isn’t pressing them and the public is not connecting the dots. This must change.

“Wherever you look there are huge risks. The awful thing is that people in authority and power deny that, when the evidence is overwhelming and they deny it because it’s easier to deny it – much easier to deny it’s a problem and say ‘we don’t care’.” David Attenborough (Demand for climate action grows as 2015 deadline approaches, 1/5/2015, tcktcktck)

But avoiding the ominous signs of Climate Change has consequences—as we are experiencing.

Time passes.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Update: Challenges that Rochester’s poor face with Climate Change

 

CCPoorUpdateSRochester, NY still faces ‘extreme poverty.’ Read ACT Rochester’s updated study “Benchmarking Rochester’s Poverty A 2015 Update and Deeper Analysis of Poverty in the City of Rochester.”

Most of the knee-jerk responses from local commenters blame government-sponsored programs to help the poor, high taxes, racism, the Recession, oppressive government, siphoning off the ‘poverty business’ with high wages for those at the top, policies that continue to drive businesses from NYS, more people relying on the government instead of working to earn their own way, dysfunction in Albany, incorrect poverty figures, minimum standard of living too high for someone who has never bothered to stay in school, teachers, lack of help from local colleges and universities, and politicians.

You can add more to this ‘blame list’ in the comment section of this article:

Report: Rochester tops 'extreme poverty' list This is not the kind of national list that Rochester-area residents hope to top. Rochester now has more people living at less than half the federal poverty level than any other similarly-sized city in the U.S., says a report released Thursday by the Rochester Area Community Foundation and its ACT Rochester initiative. For a family of four, that means getting by on less than $11,925 a year — conditions that the report described as "extreme poverty." (January 8, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

From my perspective, this tragedy goes on despite the incredible efforts by many people and organizations who give up much of their time and money to alleviate this misery.

Rather than trying to solve the extreme poverty crisis by blaming just about everyone and every institution, I submit that we ought to stand back and see the big picture. Climate Change. “This Changes Everything,” as Naomi Klein states in her game-changing book, means the consequences of Climate Change provide us with an opportunity to rectify historic economic injustices by properly addressing the mother of all problems.

A year ago, I examined what the poor face in Rochester, based on ACT Rochester’s last report. Here’s my article I wrote on December 14, 2013 “Challenges that Rochester’s poor face with Climate Change.”

Not much has changed; we are doing the same things, expecting different results.

By taking leadership on addressing Climate Change, Rochester could vastly improve the lot of the ‘extreme poor’. Climate Change is about planning and adapting to changes—as climate studies that include our region suggest. Providing jobs that would improve our energy efficiency, updating our transportation, water, waste, and telecommunications infrastructures, proving a more robust public health system, and a continual education program on how Climate Change will affect our region could provide a lot of jobs and a better standard of living for all. Nobody benefits if our life support system is in meltdown.

Rochester can turn its “extreme poverty” around by taking bold action on Climate Change. I have worked with a lot of groups in the Rochester area on environmental issues. Trust me, there would be a lot of brilliant, capable volunteers and all kinds of financial help for this massive change if we had strong local leadership on the worldwide crisis of Climate Change.

We should “plan for climate change migrants” because Climate Change won’t hit us so hard and as soon as other regions. With our plentitude of fresh water, great soil, and no Fracking, we’ll be a destination for many whose states and countries are going to get nailed sooner and harder than us.  We can get ready for this:

Experts warn governments to plan for climate change migrants * Rising seas, heatwaves may force millions from homes * Better planning needed to help those displaced Governments need to plan better for rising migration driven by climate change, experts said on Thursday, citing evidence that extreme weather and natural disasters force far more people from their homes than wars. Projections by leading climate scientists of rising sea levels, heatwaves, floods and droughts linked to global warming are likely to oblige millions of people to move out of harm's way, with some never able to return. The issue is politically sensitive at a time when economic austerity is straining the generosity of host governments and anti-immigrant sentiment is rising in many countries, especially in Europe. (1/8/2015) Reuters)

However, in Rochester, not only is climate change politically sensitive, it’s invisible. Because we have the luxury of being in Climate Change denial a little longer than those states burning up or countries slipping under the seas, we have yet to make Climate Change public at all. We need to change everything in Rochester. Read: “Rochester, NY: a portrait in climate denial.”  

BTW: Please ask our friends over at ACT Rochester to put ‘Environment’ back on their agenda, as in order to assess today’s health accurately for Rochester and plan for its future we need to know the state of our environment—especially Climate Change.

Time passes.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Rochester, NY: a portrait in climate denial

 

Climate change denial is a denial or dismissal of the scientific consensus on the extent of global warming, its significance, and its connection to human behavior, especially for commercial or ideological reasons.” Wikipedia

CCWakeUpSA major characteristic of Climate Change is that it is measurable. Unlike most other issues humanity faces, Climate Change is at the core an existential phenomenon that only responds to physical inputs—and that is quantifiable. If we continue business as usual by burning fossil fuels at our present rate, temperatures go up. Garbage in, garbage out. All our good intentions must end up lowering greenhouse gas (GHGs) levels in our atmosphere and adapting to the increased levels already baked into our present climate by past fossil fuel emissions—or our efforts will be ineffective. Keeping our eye on the ball, on our scientific data as it were, is critical to this issue. 

There are many websites where you can get near real-time data, scientific feedback, about how our planet’s climate is changing due to humanity’s energy use. NOAA is one:   

Climate Monitoring Welcome to Climate Monitoring at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. Our mission is to monitor and assess the state of the Earth's climate in near real-time, providing decision-makers at all levels of the public and private sectors with data and information on climate trends and variability including perspectives on how the climate of today compares to the past. Use the menu on the left to navigate our available products. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also helps us monitor our new reality—a reality fraught with many knowns and unknowns. But in the new Congress, funds for NASA’s research into Earth's changing climate could be threatened. This could seriously blind ourselves to many of the consequences of our behavior. These unknowns (how will our atmosphere respond to the heat stored in our oceans if suddenly released?) are not reasons for Climate Change doubt; they are reasons to dramatically increase our scientific research and monitoring. We need to know as much as possible about the consequences of Climate Change so we can plan properly.

As I mentioned, the Climate Change crisis is a direct result of how humanity gets energy for our present way of living. After the COP20 Lima climate talks, there is now a great push for renewable energy, like wind and solar power, that doesn’t emit GHGs into our atmosphere. For all the talk about addressing Climate Change from the bottom up—cities, states, businesses, environmental groups, individuals, and countries—there is now a way to track who is actually stepping up to the plate and making public pledges for emissions reductions, urban environment, energy efficiency, renewable energy, land use, low emissions development, use of carbon price, resilience, non-CO2 greenhouse gases, and carbon capture use and storage. 

PRESS RELEASE Climate Action Portal to Capture and Catalyze Climate Action in Support of 2015 Agreement Site Spotlights Rapidly Growing Momentum by Cities, Subnational Regions and Companies   Lima, 11 December 2014-- A way to increase the visibility of the wealth of climate action by cities, regions, companies and investors was launched today by the government of Peru. The portal aims to demonstrate the strategic action being taken by ‘non-state actors either individually or as part of cooperative initiatives. The on-line site, developed with the support of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has been named the Nazca Climate Action Portal, after the vast ancient lines found in the landscape of Peru. These world-famous works of art depict among other things the agility of the hummingbird, the creativity of the monkey and the soaring ambition of the condor—all key qualities that are needed now and into the future for realizing short and long term climate action. (December 11, 2014) Untied Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)

The portal, The Non-state Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA), indicates that Portland Oregon is doing its part as are several other US cities and states. But not Rochester, NY. Many communities (317 Cities, 70 Subnational Regions, and 261 Companies) worldwide are proving they are willing to make commitments. But good intentions must add up to holding warming to 2C maximum. Rochester should be a part of the worldwide effort to address Climate Change. We aren’t even watching from the sidelines.

Rochester had plans to release a climate action plan in September of 2013, as noted in its “Energy Management and Climate Action Status Report,” but nothing has come of this “…roadmap for City actions, projects and programs to achieve continued reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.” There are no public education components to inform the public, especially the poor, about the significance of Climate Change (even though the poor will get disproportionally nailed by more heat and more flooding). Though the City’s Office of Energy & Sustainability explains in its report how they are acting on climate protection, energy efficiency and conservation, reduction in fossil fuel emissions, and greenhouse gas management, they only mean all this within the context of municipal owned buildings and property. They’re hoping that their actions will be ‘leading by example.’ But because there is almost no media attention on this, they are not leading. They are talking to themselves.

There are no real educational or enforcement aspects to the active transportation (walking and bicycling) aspirations of our city. Although an extraordinary effort is being put into Rochester’s bicycling infrastructure (bikeROCHESTER) nowhere is “Climate Change’ mentioned. Not even greenhouse gases. Rochester’s strongest (transportation accounts for 27% of GHGs) climate action plan is buried under a desire to be a bike-friendly community. However, without continual education and enforcing the present traffic laws pertaining to vehicles and bikes, even this effort to increase active transportation in our region remains but a dangerous delusion.

At this point, many are probably thinking ‘don't sacrifice the good in search of the perfect.’ In other words, the city and county and many well-intentioned individuals are doing what they can. Don’t dismiss their efforts because their efforts are not perfect. The trouble with this logic is that the window for keeping global temperatures to a safe level is rapidly closing; just doing a little is not enough. Now, as 2014 rises in the ranks to be the hottest year in human history, little things cannot fix this problem unless they are part of accumulated, directed efforts on a speed and scale that will matter. The COP21 Paris climate treaty next December will attempt to bind every country’s efforts into something that will actually make a difference. Soon, very soon, global temperatures must level off at 2C, or better yet, concentrations of carbon dioxide must go back to 280ppm—where they were for the last 10,000 years. We are almost to a yearly average of 400ppm and steadily going up. Remember: The Last Time Atmospheric CO2 was at 400 parts per million Humans Didn’t Exist.

The dearth of news on Climate Change, the lack of city and county education programs, and the disinclination of our officials to connect the dots between local adaptation efforts and the consequences of Climate Change mean Rochester is in climate denial. You cannot ‘lead by example’ if nobody knows you’re leading.

Besides the physical aspect of Climate Change, where the mother of all problems will affect all aspects of our life, there are moral issues as well. Though not as measurable as scientific data, those who follow us (our kids) will likely pass through more than just the nine circles of hell if we do not act. Pope Francis, the leader of over a billion Catholics, is demonstrating what climate leadership means:

Pope Francis prepares to issue Vatican teachings on Climate Change to 1.2 Billion Catholics Pope Francis is set to make history by issuing the first-ever comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change, which will urge 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action. The document will be sent to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 400,000 priests who will distribute it to their parishioners. Given the sheer number of people who identify as Catholics worldwide, the pope’s clarion call to tackle climate change could reach far more people than even the largest environmental groups. "The document will take a position in favor of the scientific consensus that climate change is real ... and link the deforestation and destruction of the natural environment to the particular economic model of which Pope Francis has been a critic," says our guest, Austen Ivereigh, author of a new biography called "The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope." The pope also plans to address the United Nations General Assembly and convene a summit of the world’s main religions in hopes of bolstering next year’s crucial U.N. climate meeting in Paris. (January 1, 2014, Daily Kos)

The picture that Rochester is painting on Climate Change is a portrait of denial, of official irresponsibility to its constituents. If the government doesn’t demonstrate a willingness to inform and adapt to a warmer climate, how can it expect its citizens to pay attention—or support their efforts election cycle after election cycle? Rochester needs to wake up from the slumbers of climate denial and join the world community in our global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases—by leading.

Time passes.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Having banned Fracking, New York can be a leader in renewable energy and jobs

Maybe the greatest victory for the anti-fracking activists in New York State is switching the burden of proof from the victims to the producers. A hallmark of European environmental policy is to place the burden of proof on the industries producing suspect products—making industries prove their products will do no harm to the public or to the environment before these products are allowed on the markets.

The reverse has been true on this side of the Atlantic. Decades of environmental and public health abuses by polluting industries—cigarettes, leaded gas and paint, using hydrofluorocarbons (super greenhouse gases) as a refrigerant, etc.—have been allowed to continue business as usual until enough time, health and environmental damage, money, and research finally brought the polluters to court.

This statement by acting New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker could have profound implications not only on Fracking in New York State but also on how we address environmental concerns in our hemisphere:

"Until the science provides sufficient information to determine the level of risk to public health from HVHF [high-volume hydraulic fracturing] to all New Yorkers and whether the risks can be adequately managed, DOH recommends that HVHF should not proceed in NYS," Zucker wrote in a letter to Martens that accompanies the public health report. (The legacy of New York's fracking decision,12/24/ 2014 Rochester City Newspaper)

The burden of proof that Fracking in New York must not harm the public’s health is now the responsibility of the Fracking industry—which should have always been the case. In states like Pennsylvania, Fracking started without much research and since then it’s been the dickens for the public to prove that their health and water well problems have been due to nearby Fracking operations. When already ensconced, the Fracking industry looks on with disdain for those concerned about methane leaks and other concerns because once given approval by the state to begin their harmful practices, it is almost impossible bring them to task.   

This business-as-usual climate, where it’s harder to stop existing polluters than to switch to energy options that don’t pollute, must change quickly. Maybe New York State’s six-year Fracking experience can offer some practical insights to the necessary energy shift we must make if we are to keep global temperatures at 2C above preindustrial levels.  

The science of Climate Change couldn’t be clearer. The CLIMATE CHANGE 2014 Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in November makes it crystal clear that we have to quickly reduce fossil fuel use:

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world's electricity can - and must - be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050.  If not, the world faces "severe, pervasive and irreversible" damage. (Fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 says IPCC, 11/02/2014, BBC News)

Banning Fracking in New York State presents a major opportunity to address Climate Change by dramatically increasing the potential for renewable energy. Now that we’ve dodged a major environmental challenge to our environment, our health, and our climate by NOT Fracking New York, we have opened the door wider for more wind and solar power. The economic obstacles presented by cheap natural gas is now reduced and gives the growing green energy industries the boost they need.

Better battery power for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, conserving energy, increasing energy efficiency, and updating our energy infrastructure with Cuomo’s New York Energy Highway program (fixing leaking gas pipes, supporting green energy, reducing bottlenecks affecting renewable energy, and advancing Smart Grid technologies) can now accelerate our state’s role in reducing greenhouse gases—and provide many jobs. We’ve lost six precious years fighting Fracking in New York. Now let’s focus on the provisions of the COP20 Lima climate talks and make major strides in New York for a successful COP21 Paris climate agreement. (BTW: Did I mention more jobs? More jobs than Fracking would have ever provided New Yorkers?)

Sure, the battle to keep New York Frack-free is not over. Those pro-fracking people will never give up as long as there is a buck to be made from fossil fuels. But the COP20 Lima talks have gotten folks around the world considering an alternative to our addiction to fossil fuels:


The switch to renewable power is a battle we cannot afford to lose The Lima climate talks saw a shift towards action with renewable energy taking centre stage, says the head of the International Renewable Energy Agency Since the final gavel fell at the Lima climate talks earlier this month, discussions have centred on one question: what did the talks actually accomplish? After two weeks of intense negotiation, governments settled on a draft text that will hopefully lead to a successful global climate deal in Paris next December. While opinions vary regarding the success or failure of the outcome, there is another story emerging outside the negotiation room. This year’s conference represented a highly-significant shift in the positive momentum to act on climate change. While negotiators engaged in contentious debates, businesses, non-governmental organisations and local authorities stepped forward to present their own climate initiatives and committed to more action on the ground. In this shift, renewable energy took centre stage. (December 24, 2014 The Guardian)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fracking Ban in New York State important step towards COP21 Paris

 

CCCloseOneSThursday, December 17th 2014 will go down in history as the date that Governor Cuomo finally decided to ban Fracking in New York State. This matters because NY is the second and by far the largest US state to ban this dangerous, unhealthy, methane-leaking, extreme fossil-fuel extraction method in a place that actually has a lot of shale gas. That particular fossil fuel will now stay in our bedrock, not in our air. Ostensively, Fracking will be banned because of public health issues (“Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State, 12/17/2014 NYT) and while this is quite true, it doesn’t quite cover the gambit of concerns. Besides threatening our fresh water, our property rights, and our beautiful countryside, Fracking most likely leaks methane gas like a sieve. (Read local study: “Methane and the greenhouse-gas footprint of natural gas from shale formations”) Great praise goes out to those who resisted this dirty energy option for New York State for six long years, including local leadership by R-Cause.

This ban is an important step towards the most important climate talks ever. Between now and December of next year, when the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris takes place to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world, many big changes must occur. New York State banning Fracking can be viewed as a major step to addressing Climate Change and protecting our own.  It would have been the height of absurdity and hypocrisy for the state of New York to pass Fracking while at the same time trying to save New York City from the consequences of rising seas and ever-stronger hurricanes.

With the milquetoast COP20 Lima talks and high-profile climate deniers worming their way to high office next year, the road to Paris 2015 is going to be long indeed. The Lima talks were hailed in mainstream media as a success because they didn’t outright fail. Mostly, this 20th Conference of Parties kicked the can down the very hot road to Paris (metaphorically the ‘can’ is our collective willingness to keep greenhouse gases (GHGs) 2C below preindustrial averages).

Some have lauded Lima because “The agreement removes the longstanding division of the world into developed and developing countries and paves way for a model of unity.” And while Lima did merge the responsibilities for curbing GHG’s for both rich and poor countries, this misses the point. The point is (again) keeping to 2C. It is necessary for the poor to help curb GHGs, but they cannot do that without a viable Green Climate Fund—and tragically there was no agreement to fund this adequately.

The final week of COP20 Lima was packed with demonstrations, a frantic two-day run into overtime, and a seething undercurrent of resentment against a binding agreement in Paris by the rich nations. Basically, the rich countries who caused Climate Change don’t want to be forced to undo it. But everyone knows, even a binding agreement is unenforceable—it’s a gentlemen’s agreement. What a binding agreement would do is create a top-down structure so that bottom-up grassroots solutions (granted the ones most likely to work) aggregate all local efforts to a level and time frame that will actually work without stepping on everyone else’s efforts. This matters because our window of opportunity to act so that our children’s future isn’t hosed is closing very quickly.

Climate change cannot be solved if it remains as an ‘us vs. them’ problem—the way we have historically characterized environmental issues. The fight between those who want a pristine nature and those who think we can have it all is over. At this point in time, there is no possibility for a pristine nature, we’ve broken it and now we own it. However, this does not mean unfettered growth and less restrictions—quite the opposite. We’ve already locked ourselves into a warmer world that will necessitate big government with lots of rules to maintain anything like a sustainable future. But we must stop the absurd battles with ourselves within our own life support system. We don’t have the time for more lengthy battles (like the six-year fight to end Fracking in New York State) that hijacked our attention from addressing Climate Change. (The tragedy of the Fracking battle in NYS is not that one side won and other side lost—it’s that we could have dramatically increased renewable energy during that time.)

In just one year, intense efforts need to be made to educate the public on what we are facing with Climate Change and the importance of their understanding all the ramifications. All those promises made after the People’s Climate March at the UN Climate Summit in New York City, and Lima—lowering GHGs, increasing renewable energy, putting climate change into school curricula, increasing transparency in countries’ s emissions targets, stopping deforestation, appreciating the pivotal role of women in addressing climate change, and more—must come to fruition. We used to have a lot of time to wrangle over who should do what or whether we should do anything at all, but now we don’t.

For those still advocating for the Soft Plan (non-binding agreements) to Climate Change solutions, they have a year to lend any credibility to this unlikely option. Let them prove their case with substantial results before the Paris talks or be forever quiet on that non-solution. (No one has ever stopped anyone, any company, or any country from voluntarily reducing GHGs and yet the trajectory is for more GHGs, not less.) Here are some things the Soft Planners could be doing before Paris if there is any merit to their arguments: no more subsidies for fossil fuel exploration, no drilling in the Arctic, create millions of jobs in renewable energy, stop the XL Keystone pipeline fiasco, update infrastructures to adapt and mitigate Climate Change (like FDR’s job programs without the dams). This isn’t idle rhetoric, the results have to add up to subtracting GHGs. Under 2C you win; over 2C we lose.

Addressing Climate Change demands (among other things) that all humanity morph more-or-less instantly into environmentalists. No more of this looney media construct where only some folks care about their life support system (environmentalists) vs. those who only care about progress. All of us. Individuals, countries, corporations, activists, must get on the same page. There are no winners in a world that’s too warm to live in. We must change and do so quickly.

If you live in the Rochester, NY region, consider advancing the prospects for a real deal in Paris 2015 by joining one of these groups:

  • Global Warming/Energy Committee Addressing climate change is Sierra Club’s number one priority. The scientific facts on the worldwide climate crisis are fully available. They say climate is changing very rapidly and is going to get worse. In fact climate change isn’t the only problem. The world is facing an array of interconnected environmental problems such as overpopulation and water and food shortages. What can we do to avoid a ‘hard crash’? Our GW/E Committee has developed a summary design on how to address necessary changes. We call it a ‘Three Legged Stool’ approach. Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club.
  • Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  Here’s what Dr. James Hansen, head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA say’s "Most impressive is the work of Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fast-growing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 60 chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group." The contact information for the local Rochester group: nyrochester@citizensclimatelobby.org We meet monthly, and people can contact us for more info on getting involved!
  • Cool Rochester--Save money, energy, the planet http://www.coolrochester.org/  Cool Rochester is a non-profit group composed of concerned citizens who are engaging the Rochester community in the fight against climate change. We believe dramatic reductions of carbon dioxide emissions are necessary to preserve and protect a functioning planet for this (and future) generations. Our goal is to reduce Rochester area carbon emissions one billion pounds in three years. To achieve this, we need to recruit 80,000 households and workplaces to participate in our program, to reduce their emissions by 25%. By unleashing the power of community we can save energy, save money and save the planet. Join Cool Rochester. [RENewsletter June 28, 09]
  • Gandhi Earth Keepers International  "is a grassroots, people powered environmental justice organization based on the teachings of sacred ecology and the principles of Gandhian styled nonviolence. Our events and programs include daily vigils, educational seminars and workshops, wildlife advocacy, outdoor meditation training for youth, book groups, blogging and other forms of new journalism, the promotion of climate justice, disaster relief preparation, community  activism, and even demonstrations of civil resistance. Every day, we vow to work for a justice that serves all living beings regardless of species, gender, age, race, nationality, religion, or social class. Founded on August 1, 2014 in Rochester, NY,  we are an income earning social benefit project designed to produce community based agency.  There are no fixed fees for our  products and we only accept donations for our programs and services. We trust that people will support this work through membership contributions, angel investment, grants, volunteer labor, and the gift economy."
  • Mothers Out Front | Mobilizing for a Livable Climate "We are mothers, grandmothers, and other caregivers who can no longer be silent and still about the very real danger that climate change poses to our children’s and grandchildren’s future. We have watched our leaders at every level fail to take action to address the growing climate crisis. We are mobilizing our energies and talents to build a movement that will be a force for change, beginning in our own communities and moving throughout the country and, eventually, the world. Our goal is to transition our society away from fossil fuels to clean energy. We do this out of our love for our children and grandchildren, and our commitment to protect their lives. Join us today by signing our Declaration of Protection for Our Children Against Climate Change."
  • The Climate Reality Project is a non-profit organization that was founded by Al Gore to promote climate change education and counter climate change denial campaigns worldwide.  They sponsor a number of different campaigns and offer training to individuals who want to become effective activists.  See climaterealityproject.org for more details.
  • Rochester Climate Action Rochester Climate Action is run by a group of local mothers who are concerned about how climate change will affect their children’s futures.  These mothers are unpaid volunteers and are not affiliated with any “green” businesses.  For more information, including other action opportunities, visit RochesterClimateAction.org.  (The site is slowly coming along.  Though it’s still in development, we invite you to check out what we’ve posted so far).  We welcome your feedback on our work.  Please send comments, questions, suggestions, etc. to rochesterclimateaction@gmail.com.
  • The Pachamama Alliance seeks to empower indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to preserve their lands and culture and, using insights gained from that work, educate and inspire individuals everywhere to bring forth a thriving, just and sustainable world.  Through their workshops and training programs they strive to engage people in transformational conversations and empower individuals to take action.  To learn more, visit pachamama.org, contact Sue Staropoli at suestar1@rochester.rr.com, or check the events calendar on this site to find information about upcoming Pachamama events.
  • Citizens Climate Lobby "The purposes of Citizens Climate Lobby are to 1) create the political will for a stable climate and 2) to empower individuals to have breakthroughs in exercising their personal and political power.”