UN Climate Change Conference 2017

The UN Climate Change Conference of 2017 begins today (11/6/2017)! Although President Trump has pulled the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, this is still very exciting. World leaders are converging on Bonn Germany to discuss how to mitigate the negative effects of climate change- globally- with or without US federal support.

Why is this exciting? Because even though the Trump Administration is denying climate change as a major threat to the nation’s security, the nation’s leaders in business, technology, higher education, state and local governments, tribal nations, non-profits, and faith-based organizations are not.

We Are Still In!

“In the absence of leadership from Washington, representatives of cities and states, tribes, businesses, and academia have traveled to Bonn and are standing alongside the international community to make clear that the representation of the United States extends beyond its federal government. With over 2,500 signatories representing more than 130 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of economic output, ‘We Are Still In’ is the largest cross section of the American economy yet assembled in pursuit of climate action. We invite all attendees to join them as they kick off the US non-national presence at COP 23.”

These amazing leaders are going to help the United States stay connected with the international community as we all strive to fight to reduce emissions and stave off the worst of climate change. This isn’t important just for us in the US (but, we should be concerned for our own safety, too), it’s a global crisis that can be solved collectively. To that, we could say: thank you to all of you wonderful leaders for stepping up!

Video from the Washington Post article about the newest US Climate Assessment Report.

Hope with the Paris Agreement Decision by Trump?

Today is World Environment Day, a day we’re supposed to think about the planet, all that it provides us and how we need to care for its natural resources so we continue to thrive. So, perhaps it bears reason to discuss the President’s decision to leave the  Paris Climate Agreement.

Even though many advised him that was a vacuous move, he did it anyway. Claiming pulling out will help drive the United States economy and job growth, his ideas are unfounded and frustrating to those that understand climate change is real and action must be taken immediately to mitigate it.

The Paris agreement was intended to bind the world community into battling rising temperatures in a united manner. The US is a one of the G7, 7 top world economies, and pulling out sends a really scary message to the rest of the over 150 signing countries– one that says the United States doesn’t give a hoot about the rest of the world. That’s very disheartening.

However, today there was news of a glimmer of hope. A group of the nation’s leaders in business, nonprofits, higher education and political leadership is negotiating with the United Nations to still uphold the United States’ commitment to reducing carbon emissions. This is what being responsible, understanding science and facts, and knowing what the right thing to do looks like.

Their efforts deserve applause and support! You can read about it here:

Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord

Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.

Mexico City is not unlike Chicagoland. It is a city of neighborhoods and suburbs and houses roughly 21 million people (Chicagoland is actually roughly 10 million). They have a democratic government, elect officials to take care of their constituents, which includes providing schooling, police, and municipal amenities like: clean drinking water. In the Chicagoland region we are lucky to have the Great Lakes and we are not facing serious water issues. However, with climate change the Lakes are threatened.

This interesting article about the issues Mexico City is facing with drought and lack of water paints a picture of what could be a potential future for our region. It is the first of a series of articles that are examining how cities are tackling climate change threats or not, and what are the consequences of not acting.

“A Columbia University report found that where rainfall declines, “the risk of a low-level conflict escalating to a full-scale civil war approximately doubles the following year.” The Pentagon’s term for climate change is “threat multiplier.” “

Many organizations are studying climate change as it relates to the Great Lakes. The EPA has a summary of how lake levels have changed over time and what that means for water supply as well as industry.

“In recent years, warmer surface water temperatures in the Great Lakes have contributed to lower water levels by increasing rates of evaporation and causing lake ice to form later than usual (see the Lake Ice indicator), which extends the season for evaporation. Lower water levels in the Great Lakes forced ships to reduce their cargo tonnage by 5 to 8 percent between 1997 and 2000, which increased shipping costs. Lower water levels can also affect water supplies, the usability of infrastructure such as docks and piers, and shoreline ecosystems. These types of disruptions from low water levels are expected to continue as the climate changes.”

Back in Mexico City water shortages have already reached crisis level.

“…the government acknowledges that nearly 20 percent of Mexico City residents — critics put the number even higher — still can’t count on getting water from their taps each day. For some residents, water comes only once a week, or once every several weeks, and that may mean just an hour of yellow muck dripping from the faucet.”

As more and more are without municipal water, they are forced to buy it from private providers. This cost is often too much for the poor to bear.

“People in rich neighborhoods on the other side of town, “they don’t have to think about water,” she added. “But for us it is something we think about all day, every day.” “

The issues the world faces due to climate change are vast and sometimes too much to comprehend. However, it is important that we try. There are other organizations fighting for climate action. They have great solutions like taxing carbon at its source and then distributing that money back to the people. The idea is that initially the increased costs of using fossil fuels will be put back on the consumer. So the dividend is to help consumers bear the initial increased costs. However, over time it will become too expensive to use fossil fuels and companies will be forced to innovate and use clean energy.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is one of those groups pushing this idea. They are a non-partisan organization seeking Carbon Fee & Dividend Legislation. So far, they have 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate that have agreed to join the Climate Caucus that is trying to pass this legislation… so there’s hope.

Climate Change Actions Through Petitions

If you are very frustrated with the current US Administration turning their back on climate change mitigation advancements and devaluing science, here are some petitions you can sign online. Please take five minutes to click on the following links to sign in support and then also check the e-mail address you used to confirm your e-signature. Please also pass these on to friends and family interested in supporting science and climate change mitigation advancements.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/boost-american-economy-through-climate-action

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-us-worlds-leader-combating-climate-change

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/restore-and-maintain-accurate-science-based-information-climate-change-white-house-website

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/ungag-environmental-protection-agency

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/united-states-must-stop-investing-fossil-fuels-and-lead-global-efforts-stop-climate-change

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-us-worlds-leader-combating-climate-change

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/act-climate-now

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commit-following-paris-agreement-0

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/do-not-embrace-shale-oil-coal-industry-and-do-not-open-more-public-lands-forests-and-wetlands-drilling

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/protect-planet-honor-paris-climate-agreement

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/climate-change-undisputed-fact-within-scientific-community-and-neglecting-it-imperils-american-prosperity

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-keystone-xl-and-dakota-access-oil-pipelines

No Mention of Climate Change or Renewables on WhiteHouse.gov

After the inauguration of our 45th President, many changes were made to the WhiteHouse.gov including removing any information about climate change, LGBTQ issues, renewable energy and more. Feel free to search for yourself.

What I did find is this – “An America First Energy Plan” that basically outlines intents to abolish the existing or proposed policies that actually help to make America a great and safe place to live.

I was shocked. Upset. Frustrated. I still am, but I need to focus that energy into making sure we still work for climate change policy and justice. So, I reached out to some friends and asked for help to find hope, to inspire me to keep up the good fight. It worked. Here are a few reasons why:

1, This headline from popular online zine, Vox.com, “Illinois passes huge, bipartisan energy bill, proves democracy still works”

2, This blurb from the The Environmental Law & Policy Center summary of the bill helps explain the positive impact further: “Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814) will improve and modernize the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by ensuring long-term, reliable funding sources for the purchase of renewable resources into the foreseeable future. The newly updated RPS creates a secure, stable budget of more than $200 million annually for the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) on behalf of Illinois utilities by the Illinois Power Agency (IPA). It also establishes new community solar, low-income solar, brownfield solar, and distributed generation programs that will lead to diverse and balanced solar market development that is accessible to all Illinois residents.”

3, (summary of a conversation with a colleague) So that means at least IL is not going to kill renewables. Also, even though Illinois allows fracking, the low gas prices have discouraged fracking in Illinois, and as of today no permits have been granted. Furthermore, the economics of renewables have gotten much better and we should expect that to continue. In IL and surrounding, republican controlled states, we have seen movement toward green energy… Texas has one of the largest wind energy programs in the nation!

4, Here is a recording from ELPC Executive Director, Howard Learner talking with Justin Kaufmann from WGN Radio. Learner gives a lot of insight into what we should be concerned about the future of the EPA, but also why we should be hopeful.

5, And another interview with Learner, by Kari Lydersen from the Midwest Energy News: Q&A: Advocate upbeat about Midwest as Trump administration looms 

This interview even more so highlights progress that has been made, bipartisan in fact, on clean energy and why he believes it will continue.

But it will take work. It will take constituents reaching out to their representatives and telling them to support a clean and healthy today and tomorrow for all of us.

Dr. Jenkins Makes Statement on Climate Change Policy

Welcome to Spring 2017!! I thought it’d be good to start the semester off with some good news. So here you go!!

Open Letter on Climate Action from over 230 Higher Education Leaders to Incoming Administration and Congress about Climate Policy

Dr. Jenkins and Moraine Valley Community College, along with over 230 other Presidents and Chancellors from Colleges and Universities, including 35 states in the U.S., have joined together to urge president-elect Trump and the incoming congressional representatives to accelerate progress towards a clean energy future. Through their open letter, organized by nonprofit Second Nature, they call on elected officials to support participation in the Paris Agreement, climate research, and investment in the low carbon economy.

The group of schools expressed their alignment with the business and investment communities in supporting the science-based targets outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement. Moraine Valley has been taking climate action for years, including voluntarily setting carbon neutrality goals and publicly reporting progress through a program called the Climate Leadership Commitments.

Dr. Jenkins, thank you for your support & leadership on this very important issue. 

A full list of the schools supporting the open letter can be found here: secondnature.org/higher-education-climate-action-letter

Interested in learning more about Climate Policy and how to integrate discussions in the classroom? 

I’ll be leading some CTL workshops on the topic. I’m happy to come for a classroom visit. And you can find some good resources here to fight the “doom and gloom” attitude & stand up for good policy changes.

 

Cheers! Winemaker Shows the Future of Farming Lies in the Past

With significant droughts for years on end, Jackson Family Wines is adapting to conditions caused by climate change to save the business, which is one of the biggest family owned wineries in the US. You may have purchases or seen Kendall-Jackson chardonnay. That’s a big seller for the Jackson family. With an attitude of adjust or lose, the winery has a formal sustainability program; tracks energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions; employs renewable energy sources; and practices many ‘old school’ farming methods. The increased introduction of owls and falcons as predators of the new warmer weather grape obsessed pests decreases the need for pesticides. Energy efficiency of solar and wind power, precise irrigation systems and water reservoirs keeps their energy and water needs down. Jackson Family Wines has become a leader in modern farming applications given climate change and hopes to inspire others in the wine and coffee businesses worldwide. For more details read: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/05/business/california-wine-climate-change.html.

Money Talks

If you are as concerned about environmental advancements taking a few steps back, perhaps we should worry less. A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times posted an article highlighting the want for large corporations to keep addressing climate change issues instead of the new Presidential administration abandoning the Paris climate agreement and more. Concern over US economic security has these corporations speaking up. At least 365 companies will stick to their own greenhouse gas protections, but urge the new President to honor the direction the US has been heading. Read more at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/17/business/energy-environment/us-companies-to-trump-dont-abandon-global-climate-deal.html?mtrref=undefined&_r=2.

Recycling… does it really happen?

The radio station WBEZ (91.5) has several feature shows that tell stories about current events and interesting topics. Personally, I like their story-telling style versus a bullet point fact sheet approach to news-telling. Curious City is one of my favorite shows (also podcasted). They take questions from listeners that are specific to curious and “mysterious” topics about Chicago and surrounding areas.

Recently, Curious City was asked about the Blue Cart Recycling Program. Many think it’s just a sham. It’s not working and is just a “feel good” placebo program. I’ll admit, I had my doubts too. After listening to the podcast “What really happens to Chicago’s blue cart recycling?” by Chris Bentley, I am happy to know that at least 80% of what I (and collectively, my Chicago Family) put in the blue bin actually ends up somewhere with the intent to recycle it: to turn them into something of use, reclaim the natural materials and reserve the need to use virgin and raw materials. They will not sit in the landfill forever, never to be used again, wasted.

 

 

2 World Leaders #ActOnClimate

Woke up to hopeful news this morning!

U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping coming to agreement to #ActOnClimate Change. Under this new deal, the U.S. would cut its 2005 CO2 emissions by 26-28% before 2025 and China will aim to get 20% of its energy from clean (zero-emission) sources by 2030.

The U.S. and China are two of the world’s top CO2 emissions polluters so this deal is quite significant; it sets a precedent and calls for other countries to also address their emissions in a global commitment to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change. Perhaps there is hope for the Climate Summit in Paris next year!!

Still have questions about climate change? The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has a series of podcasts and simple to understand articles that help explain what is climate change; what changes can we expect regionally and globally; what is being done to address these changes (policy and innovations); what else can be done and how can we, individually, act?

Or, Check out Bill Nye the Science Guy explain climate change in less than 5 minutes…

then dig deeper to get wise on the topic. The more we know, the more we can do to make positive change for today and tomorrow.