Thursday, 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: firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.”