Climate Change

Movie and Forum: Possible Impact of Shell’s Cracker Plant

How will the operation of a huge Shell ethane cracker plant in Beaver County affect the health, environment and economy of surrounding communities? To gain some background information, there will be a showing of the PBS documentary ‘Fence Line: A Company Town Divided’ …

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Thursday, May 25
Calvary Episcopal Church
315 Shady Avenue (at Walnut Street)
Pittsburgh Pa 15206

The following panel discussion will include Thaddeus Popovich, engineer and co-founder of Allegheny County Clean Air Now, Terrie Baumgardner, Beaver County Marcellus Shale Awareness Committee, and Matt Mehalik, who teaches environmental policy at CMU’s Heinz School.

Climate Marches Launch Resistance to Trump Administration

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Pittsburghers drive at RFK Stadiumm for the Peoples March, April 29. (Photo courtesy of Fred Kraybill.)

In Washington on April 29 more than 200,000 people in the Peoples March for Climate, Jobs, and Justice showed that the Trump administration’s attacks on the environment and the climate movement will be resisted with passion and reason. Joining the huge throng of indigenous people and members of labor unions, faith-based organizations, and environmental groups were three busloads of people from SW Pennsylvania. Across the nation Sister Marches involved a further 100,000 people, and here in Pittsburgh about 1,000 people marched in Oakland.

The long day for the 150 bus riders began at 4:30 am. In DC the weather was hot and humid, but the atmosphere was exciting and inspiring. As one of the riders wrote afterwards:

“I derived hope from this event. It’s an unfortunate aspect of my nature to envision the worst possible future and to expect very little of my fellow human beings. My default mindset is that people are selfish and primarily look out for themselves. But when I see tens of thousands of diverse people from all over the country (and world) marching to protect the planet for future generations with possibly very little to directly gain for themselves, it gives me hope that all is not lost. While I can’t say I’m optimistic about the future, I can say that I feel energy building and see a light growing brighter. My fervent hope is that this carries us all to a better place where the planet and all living creatures can thrive in a sustainable way. I see this movement as being about more than just the environment; it’s about a just and compassionate way of living and working in the world. Like everyone else, I’m fumbling my way forward trying to be better than I’ve been. For me, this march was a gift of energy and hope to keep me moving in that better direction.”

Our thanks go out to the folk who represented SW Pennsylvania in the national march and who took part in the march in Oakland. Thanks are also due to these local groups for their financial support of the bus riders:  Allegheny Group Sierra Club, Group Against Smog and Pollution, Marcellus Protest, and 350 Pittsburgh.

Sierra Club’s 100 pct Clean Energy Campaign Comes to Pittsburgh

Smaller Mayors iconWith climate deniers blocking climate action in Washington and state capitols, the Sierra Club recently launched a national ‘Ready for 100‘ clean energy campaign. A major goal is to urge city mayors to commit to achieving 100 pct clean energy for their cities by 2035. So far 27 mayors have made that commitment.

Now Pittsburgh has been chosen as the first ‘old industrial city’ to be included in the national campaign, with Eva Resnick-Day as the full time organizer based in Pittsburgh. The immediate goal is to persuade Mayor Bill Peduto to publicly endorse 100% renewable by the June 23-26 U.S. Mayors Conference in Miami Beach. If you don’t believe that 100 pct renewable energy is really doable, please check HERE for 10 case studies.

 

Trump’s Climate Policy Legally Challenged by 17 States, but not PA

On March 27 Donald Trump ordered Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, to review and revise the measures set in place by Barack Obama to reduce the emission of GHG emissions. A central target of these measures is the Clean Power Plan. Following Trump’s order, the EPA asked the US court of appeals in DC to delay proceedings related to the Clean Power Plan while the Obama regulations are being reviewed

In a counter move, on April 5 the attorneys general of seventeen states asked the to reject EPA’s request for a delay. Leading the … was New York’s attorney general, who argued ““In order to repeal Obama-era protections, the Trump Administration must replace those protections, as well — and we know how well repeal-and-replace went the first time around.“

Pennsylvania’s attorney general was not among those of the seventeen states filing the motion

Chatham University Moves Towards Divestment

Of all the universities, non-profits, endowed foundations, pension funds, etc., in Pittsburgh, only Phipps Conservatory has shed fossil fuel stock from its investment portfolio. Now Chatham University shows signs of joining Phipps, as the investment committee recommended to the Board of Trustees moving away from fossil fuels and towards a sustainable fuels.

Initiated by students, this is a significant move for the nascent fossil fuel divestment movement in Pittsburgh. May Carnegie Museums, CMU, Pitt, UPMC, etc., soon follow suit.

Message to the Trump Administration: 2016 Was Earth’s Hottest Year on Record

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President Trump, please take note, “the globally averaged temperature for 2016 was the highest since record keeping began in 1880”. 2016 was hotter than 2015 and 2015 was hotter than 2014, due in large part to wormer ocean surface temperatures. Sixteen of the 17 record years have occurred since 2000.

In the US 2016 was the second hottest year on record, with 15 ‘weather disasters’ causing $46B in damage. For Pittsburgh 2016 was the second warmest year in the 69 years of record keeping, being 3.0 DegF above the 1981-2010 average.average

According to the World Meteorological Office, the largest contributors to the rising temperatures continue to be man-made greenhouse gases like CO2, resulting in acidification of the oceans and minimum ice caps in the polar oceans.

Keystone XL Pipeline is NOT a Done Deal – Send Trump a Message

Starting with support for the rally in Washington DC in February 2013, Pittsburgh’s environmental community has seen the Keystone XL Pipeline as a major symbol of what is wrong with our national energy policy. Citing climate change, on Sept. 6, 2015 President Obama rejected the pipeline. Since then we have opposed the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. On January 24 President Trump signed an executive order that reopens the discussion of whether these pipeline should be built or completed, much to the consternation of groups like the Sierra Club.

Because the actual consequences of Trump’s action are unclear, sending a personal message to President Trump will be timely.

Why there is uncertainty about Trump’s executive order is explained by Duncan Meisel of 350.org:

  • He did *not* approve Keystone XL or Dakota Access. He briefly succeeded in confusing a lot of people on this point
  • On DAPL he told the Army Corps of Engineers to “consider” revoking the environmental review placed on it by the Obama Administration.
  • On Keystone XL, he invited TransCanada to re-apply and if they do, mandated a final decision on the pipeline within 60 days and waived input from environmental agencies.
  • And when TransCanada does re-apply, they no longer have permits in Nebraska, and their permits in South Dakota are being challenged.
  • Trump also placed conditions on approval of the pipelines — like limiting oil exports, and determining where the steel comes from — that the oil companies might not accept.

Obama Protects Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from Off-Shore Drilling

On November 18 the Obama administration released its 5-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing. Although still allowing O&G development from 2017 through 2022 in ten areas of central and western parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the plan no longer allows leasing in Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. The single leasing area outside the Gulf is part of Cook Inlet off the Gulf of Alaska. Dropped from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s draft plan offered in March is the leasing areas in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi seas in 2020 and 2022.

The plan now heads to Congress, with a 60-day waiting period until it becomes final. If President Trump wishes to revise these leasing limits it will probably take several years.

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:
For years, the Arctic Ocean has been left vulnerable to oil drilling that would devastate its pristine waters, Alaska Native villages, and coastal communities, and the marine life these communities depend on. But thanks to the Obama administration’s leadership, the Arctic Ocean, like the Atlantic Ocean earlier this year, will remain protected from fossil fuel development.

“Alaska Native leaders, activists across Alaska and the Lower 48, and the American people made their voices heard — and President Obama listened. We applaud the President and his administration for listening to these calls, safeguarding the Arctic and the Atlantic oceans and helping ensure that the Arctic’s coastal communities may continue their way of life.

“From forging the Paris climate agreement, to the Clean Power Plan, to today’s news that he is protecting the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, President Obama continues to build on a climate legacy without equal, and the Sierra Club will mobilize more forcefully than ever to ensure it remains intact.

“The removal of our waters from offshore drilling plans is paramount to protecting coastal communities in Alaska and across the Eastern and Western seaboards. The action taken today by the Obama administration recognizes this, and we must and we will continue to build on these efforts to ensure all our coastal communities — including the Gulf of Mexico — are protected from the threat offshore drilling presents.

Planet Keeps Warming While We Wait for Trump to Act

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Although President-elect Trump may be in denial, the planet continues to get hotter and hotter. The second warmest October on record will most likely make 2016 the hottest year on record, with no sight of slowing down. And of significant concern is the abnormal temperatures in the polar regions, causing accelerated melting of glaciers in Antarctica and rising sea levels.

After no discussion of climate change during the Presidential debates, at the moment there is little pressure on Donald Trump to renege on his campaign promises. How those promises will play out is uncertain. Dismantling of the EPA may be difficult, but the possible choice of energy lobbyists to head the EPA is not encouraging. Also uncertain is the fate of Obama’s major effort to curb climate change,  the Clean Power Plan. While being contested in court, there may be limits to the changes Trump can make, and the coal miners of Appalachia may be disappointed. Of global impact Trump’s position on the implementation of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change; as seen at the current COP22 conference in Marrakech the ratification of the Paris Agreement is proceeding, but the desire of the Trump administration to work with China and India to reduce GHG emissions may be wanting.

Interesting times. Stay tuned.

Miami Beach, Arctic Ice, and the Dept. of Defense.

The city of Miami Beach is one of the first places being directly and significantly affected by our changing climate. The city spreads along the limestone key across the bay from Miami. To combat the increasingly frequent street flooding of this flat key the city has created a $400/$500 million project to raise the level of the streets and to pump away the seawater. Building a seawall a la Trump is no use because the key is made of porous limestone and when the sea level rises the water seeps through the limestone.

Further north, and related to Miami Beach’s flooding, is the observation that the Arctic Ocean continues to warm as indicated by the relatively rapid loss of sea ice in the first ten days of September.

What is happening in Miami Beach and the Arctic Ocean are the climate change indicators that have long worried the folk at the Pentagon. As long ago as 2009 the realists at the Pentagon and the CIA recognized climate change as a threat to national security. It was termed ‘an immediate risk’ in 2014, and earlier this month a group of 25 members of the national security community issued a set of climate-related recommendations for the next POTUS.

Among the recommendations is the creation of a cabinet-level official dedicated to climate change and security issues plus the prioritization of climate change in intelligence assessments.

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