A Zero Emissions Manifesto for the Climate Justice Movement
"Zero emissions is an ambitious but achievable goal." —UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Zero has become the most important number for humanity. Why?
Any chance of stabilizing the climate hinges on transitioning to zero greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as humanly possible. Simply slowing the rise of emissions will not work. For the first time, the world's leading climate authority, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has embraced a goal of near zero greenhouse gas emissions or below.
Top military experts and government institutions like the U.S. Department of Defense and National Intelligence Council warn that climate destabilization threatens our national security, yet global emissions just keep going up. Leading biologists like E.O. Wilson warn that the sixth great extinction is now upon us, yet emissions keep going up.
By heating the globe at such a relentless rate, we are playing a deadly game of planetary Russian roulette. In the words of Michael Mann, professor of meteorology at Penn State University: “There is no precedent for what we are doing to the atmosphere. It is an uncontrolled experiment." If you believe your own eyes that climate chaos has already gone too far, the only logical response is to stop making things worse.
We are not suggesting ending the use of fossil fuels tomorrow. Decarbonizing our industries, homes, transportation, power generation and food production will take years of concerted effort and require every ounce of courage, ingenuity, patience and humility we possess. But intergenerational justice demands that we commit ourselves now as a nation to leading this green industrial revolution.
Some will no doubt call this goal unrealistic, saying it cannot be achieved, but they would underestimate the creative genius of the American people. What is unrealistic is thinking we can continue with business as usual and leave a habitable planet for our children. Americans are a supremely resourceful people with a long history of meeting, and exceeding, monumental challenges. While we have never faced anything as daunting as the global climate crisis, there are precedents for the U.S. overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
When destiny came knocking during World War II, we initially resisted, then answered by leading the allied forces to victory in three and a half short years.
It took a Civil War to end the scourge of slavery, and a monumental civil rights struggle to outlaw segregation, Jim Crow laws and discrimination, but we not only overcame, we elected a person of color as President of the United States.
When President John Kennedy boldly challenged America to land a man on the moon in less than a decade, our best and brightest responded by accomplishing this seemingly impossible task ahead of schedule.
It is now time for our generation to do something great.
Zero Emissions Bandwagon
It may surprise you to learn that zero emissions has already been embraced as a goal by business leaders as well-known as Bill Gates, and world leaders as prominent as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria; UN climate chief Christiana Figueres; Prince Charles; and former President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of The Elders.
Again, even the conservative, consensus-based IPCC supports near zero emissions or below, albeit on a year 2100 timeline that belies the urgency of their August draft report, which warns of “irreversible impacts" from continued emissions.
Major corporations, like Google, have embraced a zero carbon goal. Others like Microsoft and Deutsche Bank are moving in this direction by committing to net zero emissions, or carbon neutrality (using carbon offsets or carbon credits to balance out remaining emissions). 684 college and university presidents (and growing) have taken a similar climate neutrality pledge. And a fossil fuel divestment movement is picking up steam on college campuses (including Stanford University, Sydney University and historically black colleges and universities) and in houses of worship around the world.
Sweden, Iceland, Costa Rica and the Maldives are among the nations vying for carbon neutrality. Denmark is committed to becoming fossil fuel free, with Copenhagen seeking to become the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. In the U.S., cities like Austin and Boulder are striving for carbon neutrality, with San Francisco pledging to generate all of its electricity from renewables by 2020.
Scotland is on track to generate 100 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The Philippines aims to shift the country's fuel system to 100 percent renewables in ten years. The German state of Schleswig-Holstein is set to go 100 percent renewable this year. Munich's goal is 100 percent renewables by 2025. The British Labour Party wants to decarbonize the UK's electricity grid by 2030. And the island nation of Tokelau is already 100 percent renewable.
In stark contrast, neither the U.S. President, nor a single member of the U.S. Congress, has yet publicly called for a zero emissions goal for America.
2ºC Wrong Target
Just because the governments of the world accept 2° Celsius of heating above the preindustrial average as the agreed-upon target does not make it the right target. To the contrary, last December, preeminent climate scientist James Hansen and seventeen co-authors released a study in the scientific journal PLOS ONE revealing the UN-approved 2°C ceiling is based on politics, not science, and would unleash “disastrous consequences" beyond our control.
Dr. Hansen, economist Jeffrey Sachs, and others argue that “morality" demands a rapid and dramatic cut in global carbon emissions to stay as close as possible to a 1°C ceiling (we are already at 0.85°C). Here's what they said about the urgency of dropping from the current level of 400 parts per million (a level not reached in at least 800,000 years) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm), the level many consider the uppermost safe limit for civilization:
“It is instructive to see how fast atmospheric CO2 declines if fossil fuel emissions are instantly terminated. Halting emissions in 2015 causes CO2 to decline to 350 ppm at century's end. A 20 year delay in halting emissions has CO2 returning to 350 ppm at about 2300. With a 40 year delay, CO2 does not return to 350 ppm until after 3000. These results show how difficult it is to get back to 350 ppm if emissions continue to grow for even a few decades."
We're obviously not going to achieve zero emissions by 2015. The point is we need to do it as soon as necessary to avoid catastrophe impacts from global climate change. Every day we delay buries us deeper in the climate hole.
Failure of Moral Leadership
The United Nations, Congress and the White House are all failing in their moral obligation to stem the tide of this gathering storm.
The United Nations is not leading on this issue, as it must. Since 1990, when the IPCC issued its first report, CO2 emissions have increased by approximately sixty percent. Last year in Warsaw, after 19 successive sessions of the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) failed to achieve meaningful emissions reductions, labor and environmental groups walked out after deciding governments were performing so poorly they could no longer legitimize the climate cop-out with their presence.
Congress is not leading on this issue, as it must. Since refusing to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol, the U.S. Congress has failed to enact any significant climate legislation. The closest they came was a Wall Street-friendly “cap and trade" bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in 2009. Described as an “unacceptable compromise" by Greenpeace and “a step backwards" by Friends of the Earth, it called for a modest 17 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020. Five years later, too few members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are even willing to admit humans are changing the climate.
The White House is not leading on this issue, as it must. The EPA's proposed rules to limit carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants are a step in the right direction, but President Obama's widely heralded “climate action plan" will be more PR than plan, with no chance of stabilizing the climate, unless the White House takes bold action. In fact, the administration's attempt to please all during this climate crisis with its all-of-the-above energy strategy promises more climate chaos by promoting natural gas fracking; mountaintop removal mining; deepwater and Arctic oil drilling; tar sands mining; and deafening seismic oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast. That the President has not yet denounced a scheme as “absurdly reckless" as Keystone XL's northern leg speaks volumes.
Even the renewable energy industry is not leading on this issue, as it must. Four years after it was first pointed out, America's largest wind, solar and geothermal trade associations continue to embrace incrementalism, when the times call for revolutionary change.
Because the climate crisis threatens all life on Earth, it is first and foremost a moral issue. We have already seen how the poor and communities of color bear the brutal brunt of fossil fuel extraction and suffer the most from extreme weather disasters. Three out of four African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. African-American children have an 80 percent higher rate of asthma, and are nearly three times more likely to die from asthma, than their white peers. The moral urgency of this crisis requires a rainbow coalition of people – reflecting the diversity of our great nation – coming together to solve it.
Alarmingly, latest projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration have fossil fuels supplying almost 80 percent of the world's energy use through 2040, with carbon dioxide emissions rising 46 percent from 2010 levels. If this perilous trend is not reversed, runaway climate change could cause most of life on Earth to go extinct, testing the survival of humanity itself.
As the nation that historically contributed the most to global climate pollution, and is in the strongest position to respond, the U.S. has a moral imperative to lead this global charge.
Making the Great Transition
It is time for America to unleash its entrepreneurial can-do spirit through a wartime-like mobilization to help save America, and the world. Innovating to zero emissions will not only help ensure our collective survival, it is the key to revitalizing our ailing economy and putting America back to work. But we don't have until 2100, or even 2050, to transition off of fossil fuels. Scientists are calling for deep cuts in emissions now. Leaders showing us how to get there include:
- The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which in 2012 commissioned a Renewable Electricity Futures Study showing that 80% of all U.S. electricity demand can be met with currently commercially available renewable energy technologies at the hourly level every day of the year.
- Former Vice President Al Gore, who in 2008 boldly called for 100% renewable electricity for the U.S. by 2018.
- Lester Brown, who in 2008 mapped out how to achieve 80% carbon cuts worldwide by 2020 in his authoritative book Plan B.
- Marc Jacobson and Mark Delucchi, who in 2009 released a plan to power the planet with 100 percent renewables by 2030, a vision that spawned The Solutions Project (a plan to transition all 50 states to 100 percent renewables).
- The prestigious Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in London, Zero Carbon Britain and Australia's Beyond Zero Emissions, all of which are working to achieve zero emissions.
Zero Emissions Mandate
We have solutions. They even have names: conservation; energy efficiency; solar power; wind power; geothermal power; standing forests; organic farms; industrial hemp; electric vehicles; bicycles; mass transit; wave energy; tidal power; zero waste …
Here and there aggressive initiatives are underway. China is developing a single 38,000 MW wind project large enough to electrify a country the size of Poland. Four states in Germany already get more than 50 percent of their electricity from wind power, while in the U.S., Iowa and South Dakota are generating more than 25 percent of their electricity from wind farms. But progress is not being made at anything close to a speed and scale commensurate with the scope of the planetary emergency we face.
On, Sept. 23, a UN Climate Summit is being held in New York City. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has challenged world leaders to bring their pledges to set the world on a low-carbon path. We entreat Mr. Ban, who calls zero emissions an “achievable goal," to challenge attendees of the UN Climate Summit to bring their zero emissions plans to COP20 in Peru this December and to COP21 in France in 2015. Anything less will show our governments are not serious about solving this existential threat.
Our colleague Bill McKibben, who earlier this year called out the Obama administration for sabotaging the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations through NSA spying, has issued a “call to arms" inviting all who “give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced" to gather in New York City on Sept. 21 for a People's Climate March to demand bold climate action at the UN Summit. We ask, what could be bolder than zero emissions?
Earth is the only known habitable planet in the universe, making the climate risks to humanity so great as to warrant the utmost precaution. Now is the time for the climate justice movement to rally around a goal of zero emissions, with the U.S. leading the way by enacting zero emissions policies at the local, state and federal levels. For the love of humanity, and our children, we must act now.
Zero emissions: because the first step to making things better is to stop making things worse.
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More than 200,000 people took to the streets in Washington, DC, today for the People's Climate March. Tens of thousands more joined via sister marches across the globe, including Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica and more.
In the U.S., more than 370 marches in nearly all 50 states took place, from the town of Dutch Harbor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands to the streets of Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major American cities.
EcoWatch was there covering the DC march, and interviewing climate leaders and marchers from all over the nation. Watch our more than five hours of coverage here:
The Peoples Climate March was led by a coalition of frontline communities, faith leaders, labor activists, civil rights champions and climate justice advocates demanding commonsense protections for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the health of the vulnerable communities who have the most to lose under President Trump's administration.
"The sight of more than 150,000 people taking to the streets of Washington, DC, not to mention the thousands more in cities and towns across the country, displays the true power of the climate movement," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. "We cannot nor will not be stopped. We will speak out, we will take to the streets and we will win.
"Donald Trump can try to stick his head in the sand when it comes to protecting our clean air and water all he wants, but that will never drown out the millions of voices across the country demanding action."
According to 350.org, the number of people far outpaced the National Park Service's permitted space of 100,000 people. The march extended for more than 20 blocks down Pennsylvania Ave., with tens of thousands more surging along the mall sending a unified message to President Trump and his administration to stand up for "climate, jobs and justice."
The day began at sunrise with a water ceremony led by Indigenous peoples at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Representatives from front line communities spoke at an opening press conference calling out President Trump for failing to address the climate crisis.
The march, which began at 12:30 p.m. EST, was led by young people of color from Washington, DC, and Indigenous leaders from across the country.
"Today we gather to see each other, to work with each other, to embrace each other and to envision a just and clean future together, one without fossil fuels," Mary Nicol, senior campaigner at Greenpeace USA, said. "We have a long struggle, but we know we will win. We will win because we stand for justice, the truth and the rights of all people."
At 3:30 p.m., crowds gathered at the Washington Monument while marches continued to take place across the country. The Peoples Climate Movement is a coalition of more than 900 organizations representing many of the major social justice, labor and environmental groups in the country, which has pledged to keep the momentum going.
The march was divided in creatively named contingents, like "Protectors of Justice," "Reshapers of Power," "Many Struggles, One Home" and "Fossil Fuel Resistance," which included the growing resistance to President Trump's and the Republican Party's dismantling of climate and environmental policies. The bloc included activists and organizations fighting oil and gas drilling, coal mining, pipelines and power plants.
"After losing the popular vote, Trump surrounded himself with fossil fuel executives, climate-deniers and Wall Street bankers hellbent on destroying our planet," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, said. "The real climate solution is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and invest in renewable energy."
Scott Parkin, senior climate campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, agreed.
"Executives at oil companies, coal companies and the Wall Street banks that finance coal mines and oil pipelines don't care about the climate or communities impacted by fossil fuels," he said. "The only motivation is short-term profit. Today, we march to not only say 'no more,' but also we will fight and we will win."
Nonprofits organizations and activists were not the only ones speaking out at the People's Climate March. Socially responsible businesses were there too, including Ben & Jerry's, Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing Company and many others. Here's a great picture of the Ben & Jerry's melting cone:
The People's Climate March sent a resounding message to the Trump administration and members of Congress who continue to choose corporate interests over the health of people and planet: Take climate action now. The voice of the people will not be silenced.
"Today's actions are not for one day or one week or one year," Paul Getsos, national coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement, said. "We are a movement that is getting stronger everyday for our families, our communities and our planet. To change everything, we need everyone."
350.org Executive Director May Boeve summed up the day perfectly.
"The first 100 days of Trump's presidency have been hard. But today I can't help but be filled with indomitable hope: We've marked the 100th day with unyielding resistance, heart and creativity.
"Today in the streets we are proving that we will continue to mobilize against Trump's fossil fuel agenda. And this is only one part of the picture: The March for Science last weekend and Monday's May Day strikes show the resistance will continue on many fronts.
"We're on the precipice of launching an ambitious new grassroots push to stop every new fossil fuel project on the table and build 100% renewable energy in towns and cities nationwide. What we are doing today gives us real leverage to get there.
"There are always holes in the Death Star, and we will keep looking for them—on the 100th day and the 1,000th. Who knows what we'll find."
EcoWatch will be covering the People's Climate March all day in Washington, DC, starting with interviews around 9:15 a.m. EST of climate leaders, spokespeople and influencers. From 10:30 - 11 a.m., 10 powerful speakers will tell their stories about why they are marching. At 11 a.m., hundreds of thousands of people will start to line up for the march. There are also hundreds of sister marches around the world.
Led by frontline and Indigenous communities, the march will begin up Pennsylvania Avenue at 12:30 p.m. towards the White House. At 2 p.m., marches will begin to surround the White House grounds, sit-down, take a moment of silence and join in a heartbeat action for 100 seconds to signify our collective stake in this fight.
"While Trump and his crony cabinet rollback hard-won protections of our communities and our climate, we are mobilizing to fight for the bold solutions we need. We will present our vision to replace the fossil fuel industry with a 100% clean energy economy that works for all. Today, we march. Tomorrow, we rise united across our communities to make our vision of a just and equitable world a reality."
By Eric Pooley
President Trump said recently that the tradition of rating a new president's first 100 days is "ridiculous." The White House then created a web page devoted to rating his first 100 days.
It's further proof, if anyone needed it, that the defining feature of this president's first 100 days is noise. Every day brings some piercing new alarm, making it hard to separate the momentarily disturbing from the truly damaging. But this is essential—especially for the environment.
While the president has flip-flopped on some signature issues, he's been totally consistent about dismantling protections for public health, clean air and clean water. So let's take a closer look at what he's done so far, and what it will mean for our health and our world.
Here are the four worst actions Trump took during his first 100 days—and one that's very good:
1. Hired Scott Pruitt
Pruitt is beginning to staff the EPA with Beltway insiders who have made their living lobbying for weaker pollution rules on behalf of industry.
For example, it has been widely reported that Andrew Wheeler may be named as Pruitt's top deputy. Wheeler is now a lobbyist for Murray Energy, a coal mining conglomerate that is demanding an end to the rule that limits mercury pollution.
In fact, a recent analysis by Columbia University Law School showed that more than one quarter of the administration's appointees so far to environmental, energy and natural resource agencies have close ties to the fossil fuel industry. The likely result: Thousands of decisions over the next four years made by those more interested in protecting polluters than public health.
That will leave a toxic legacy of more disease and premature death.
2. Undermined Chemical Safety
Last year, a bipartisan Congress overwhelmingly passed the Lautenberg Act, a new chemical safety law that, after four decades of a broken system that flooded our stores and homes with dangerous or untested chemicals, finally constructed a strong chemical safety net.
But now the EPA has to finish writing the rules to implement it. For that, Pruitt has chosen Nancy Beck, an insider straight from the main chemical industry trade association who even within the last few weeks lobbied the agency on these very rules.
If those new rules give industry everything it wants, we'll have blown a historic chance to restore public trust and market confidence in the products consumers buy for household use. Our health would continue to be at risk—and undoing the damage would take years.
3. Asked to Slash the Federal Budget
The administration's budget proposal would cut the EPA by almost a third—more than any other agency—even though its budget is tiny to begin with.
Out of every $10 the federal government spends, only two cents go to the EPA. These cuts aren't being done to save money. They're part of an ideological crusade the public doesn't support.
If the EPA budget is cut this way, the loss of experts and institutional knowledge will reverberate for years. Detailed plans obtained by the Washington Post show that Trump and Pruitt want to cut a quarter of the workforce and abolish 56 programs with impacts from the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound.
Together, this will lead to more asthma attacks, more health problems for the elderly and a more dangerous future.
4. Moved to Roll Back Protections from Dirty Energy
Pruitt is now trying to gut many of the same the rules and safeguards he sued to stop as Oklahoma's attorney general. They limit the amount of arsenic and acid gases power plants can emit, reduce smog that causes respiratory problems and cut carbon pollution that causes climate change.
He has signaled hostility to the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, despite the fact that virtually all power plants are already in compliance. The EPA chief and Trump have also taken aim at the Clean Power Plan, America's first limits on carbon pollution from power plants, without any strategy to replace it.
5. Fueled Environmental Activism
This is the positive legacy of the Trump administration: Americans who used to take clean air and water for granted are waking up to the danger.
Membership in environmental groups is skyrocketing—the biggest question we get these days is, "What can I do?" as women and men from all walks of life are reclaiming environmentalism as a mainstream American value.
Thousands will take to the streets in Washington and other cities on Saturday for the People's Climate March. Just as a blossoming environmental awareness in the early 1970s led to some of the bedrock laws we rely on today, I believe the great awakening of 2017 will echo for years to come.
If we work together and make our voices heard, we can limit the worst of the damage Trump intends to inflict.
A new briefing paper details how Dominion Energy's proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would involve the blasting, excavation and removal of mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of the construction.
The planned 600-mile interstate
pipeline will carry 1.44 billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, cutting through forests, critical animal habitats and pristine mountains that Dominion would be required to "reduce" between 10 to 60 feet, according to the paper released Thursday by the non-profit Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
The paper cites data from the draft environmental impact statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) as well as information supplied to FERC by Dominion. It also compiles information from Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software and independent reports prepared by engineers and soil scientists.
"In light of the discovery that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cause 10 to 60 feet of mountaintops to be removed from 38 miles of Appalachian ridges, there is nothing left to debate," said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
"Dominion's pipeline will cause irrevocable harm to the region's environmental resources. With Clean Water Act certifications pending in both Virginia and West Virginia, we call on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to reject this destructive pipeline."
Dominion, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy. The developer promises that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have "minimal environmental impact" and that "best-in-class restoration and mitigation techniques will be used to protect native species, preserve wetland and water resources, control erosion and minimize emissions." Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas also have a stake in the project.
Environmentalists and other opponents argue that the pipeline will have adverse effects on sensitive habitats, reduce property values and introduce dangerous precedents for the seizure of private property through eminent domain.
Joyce Burton, a board member of Friends of Nelson County, expressed fears that Dominion's plan to build the pipeline on steep and landslide-prone Appalachian slopes could be catastrophic.
"Many of the slopes along the right of way are significantly steeper than a black diamond ski slope," Burton said.
"Both FERC and Dominion concede that constructing pipelines on these steep slopes can increase the potential for landslides, yet they still have not demonstrated how they propose to protect us from this risk. With all of this, it is clear that this pipeline is a recipe for disaster."
Opponents of the pipeline are demanding more transparency from the company.
Ben Luckett, a staff attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said it was "astounding" that FERC has not required Dominion to produce a plan for dealing with the millions of cubic yards of excess rock and soil that will result from cutting down the 38 miles of ridgetop for the pipeline.
"We know from experience with mountaintop removal coal mining that the disposal of this material has devastating impacts on the headwater streams that are the lifeblood our rivers and lakes," Luckett added.
"FERC and Dominion's complete failure to address this issue creates a significant risk that the excess material will ultimately end up in our waterways, smothering aquatic life and otherwise degrading water quality. Without an in-depth analysis of exactly how much spoil will be created and how it can be safely disposed of, the states cannot possibly certify that this pipeline project will comply with the Clean Water Act."
Dan Shaffer, a spatial analyst with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, said there are too many risks involved with the project.
"Even with Dominion's refusal to provide the public with adequate information, the situation is clear: The proposed construction plan will have massive impacts to scenic vistas, terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and potentially to worker and resident safety," Shaffer said.
"There is no way around it. It's a bad route, a bad plan and should never have been seriously considered."
Here are some of the new paper's key findings:
• Approximately 38 miles of mountains in West Virginia and Virginia will see 10 feet or more of their ridgetops removed in order to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
• This figure includes 19 miles in West Virginia and 19 miles in Virginia.
• The majority of these mountains would be flattened by 10 to 20 feet, with some places along the route requiring the removal of 60 feet or more of ridgetop.
• Building the ACP on top of these mountains will result in a tremendous quantity of excess material, known to those familiar with mountaintop removal as "overburden."
• Dominion would likely need to dispose of 2.47 million cubic yards of overburden, from just these 38 miles alone.
• Standard-size, fully loaded dump trucks would need to take at least 247,000 trips to haul this material away from the construction site.
The new EO will direct U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review the current offshore drilling plans, which limits most drilling to parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet, and reexamine opening parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to drilling. The EO will also roll back President Obama's permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic, issued in the last full month of his presidency. Zinke cautioned reporters that implementation of the EO will be "a multi-year effort," and several groups have pledged lawsuits to further slow down the process.
"Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is dead wrong," said Greenpeace USA senior climate and energy campaigner Diana Best.
"Renewable energy already has us on the right track to energy independence, and opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling will lock us into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and a fossil fuel economy with no future. Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves—including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts—must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change."
Best added that Trump's latest executive order does not have popular support, and instead caters to "Trump's inner circle of desperate fossil fuel executives."
"Holing up at Mar-a-lago may protect Trump from an oil spill," she said, "but it will not protect him and his cabinet of one percenters from the millions of people in this country—from California to North Carolina—who will resist his disastrous policies."
Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi agrees. "This attempt to greatly expand offshore drilling into the Arctic and Atlantic is a blatant prioritization of fossil fuel profits over the health of our climate and coastal communities," he said. "President Trump is ignoring the cries of citizens who have said offshore drilling poses too great a threat to their economies and ways of life."
For a deeper dive:
A total of 41 humpback whales died in the waters off Maine to North Carolina since January 2016, including 15 that washed up dead this year. That's about three times more than the region's annual average of just 14 humpback deaths.
"The increased numbers of mortalities have triggered the declaration of an unusual mortality event, or UME, for humpback whales along the Atlantic Coast," said Mendy Garron, stranding coordinator at the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, on Thursday.
A UME is issued whenever there is an "unexpected, involves a significant dieoff of any marine mammal population, and demands immediate response," she added.
So far, NOAA has examined 20 of the whales that died last year and determined that 10 of the mammals "had evidence of blunt force trauma or pre-mortem propeller wounds" likely from marine vessels, the agency said.
The whales may be moving around in search of prey, exposing themselves to shipping traffic, researchers suggested.
"It's probably linked to resources," Greg Silber, the large-whale recovery coordinator for NOAA fisheries, told reporters. "Humpback whales follow where the prey is."
The other half of the whales that were examined had no obvious signs of what caused their demise.
"Whales tested to date have had no evidence of infectious disease," Garron said.
The scientists stressed that they are unsure about what is causing the spike in humpback deaths.
"The answer is really unknown," Silber said.
By Dave Anderson
Perry's remarks came during an on-stage interview at the 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit.
During an on-stage interview, Perry was asked if the administration would interfere with state policies requiring utilities to get power from renewable sources. Such a move would potentially destroy efforts by California, New York and other states to fight climate change by encouraging the growth of clean power.
Perry didn't rule it out, saying the reliability of the grid was a matter of national security.
"That's a conversation that will occur over the next few years," Perry said. "There may be issues that are so important that the federal government can intervene."
And according to Time's Justin Worland:
During a question and answer period, Perry also suggested that increased reliance on renewable energy sources like wind and solar might make the grid unreliable given they only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, creating national security concerns. The Trump administration might try to preempt state and local governments that use policy to encourage clean energy to address those concerns, Perry said.
"There's a discussion, some of it very classified that will be occurring as we go further," Perry said. "The conversation needs to happen so the local governors and legislators, mayors and city council understand what's at stake here in making sure that our energy security is substantial."
Saqib Rahim of E&E News provided a slightly different quote from Perry:
"There's a conversation, there's a discussion, some of it obviously very classified, that will be occurring as we go forward, to make sure that we have the decisions made by Congress, in a lot of these cases, to protect the security interests of America," he said at BNEF's The Future of Energy Summit, "and that states and local entities do in fact get preempted with some of those decisions."
Perry's remarks re-sparked earlier concerns that the Trump administration could seek to preempt renewable energy standard policies that are now in place in 29 states, as well as renewable energy goals adopted by another nine states. The growing number of local communities that have committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy could also come under fire from the Trump administration.
Renewable Energy Is Reliable and Makes America Safer—Just Ask the Department of Energy
Rick Perry is also facing scrutiny for ordering a study examining "electricity markets and reliability" that was tasked to his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack, who previously played a central role in attacks against rooftop solar for the Edison Electric Institute. Also named to lead work on the study is political appointee Travis Fisher. Fisher previously worked for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and American Energy Alliance (AEA), which have received ample funding from the Koch brothers and coal industry. IER and AEA have long sought to undermine renewable energy standards in states like North Carolina, a national leader in solar energy.
Christian Roselund of PV Magazine responded to Perry's study order by pointing out that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—one of the Dept. of Energy's 17 National Laboratories—has already written studies that show we can rely on renewable energy to provide much more of our electricity than it does today. In fact, one 2012 NREL study found that we could get 80 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2050 using existing technologies. Other studies by states and grid operators confirm that renewable energy is reliable.
Another NREL study documented the significant health and environmental benefits generated by the state renewable energy standards that the Trump administration could try to preempt. In short, these policies make Americans safer by reducing harmful pollution emitted when we burn fossil fuels—especially coal—to produce electricity.
Other reports by clean energy experts have documented the economic security benefits of these state renewable energy standards, which have supported the growth of jobs in the booming solar and wind power industries.
Real world experience also shows that renewable energy is working just fine. Texas, the state where Rick Perry was governor, actually leads the nation in wind energy generation. In fact, nearly a quarter of the electricity generated in Texas during the first quarter of 2017 came from wind.
Ask the Department of Defense, Too
The Dept. of Defense does not appear to share the Trump administration's concerns about renewable energy. In fact, the military has made significant investments in renewable energy in order to enhance national security—an investment that continues with Trump in the White House. The U.S. Navy just recently refuted misleading claims that a new wind farm could interfere with a radar system made by some Republican lawmakers in North Carolina who wrote a letter to the Trump administration.
Climate Change Is a Real Threat to Energy and National Security
In 2015, the Dept. of Energy released a report that documented the threat climate change poses to energy security—and by extension national security—in every region of the U.S.
Trump's efforts to rollback limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants and his embrace of the so-called "clean coal" put the nation's energy and national security at further risk from climate change. Preempting state and local support for renewables would only increase those risks.
Rick Perry Could Support Renewable Energy by Working for a Smart Grid
Greentech Media reported that Perry made only "sparse" mention of renewable energy at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, but did say he wants to "help renewable energy make its way to the grid … "
Preempting local and state support for renewable energy would only ensure that less renewable energy makes its way to the grid. Perry could instead take positive steps to support integration of renewable energy by working to build a smart grid, the topic of a Dept. of Energy website. He could also support the energy storage revolution that is now underway, thanks in part to earlier investments by the Dept. of Energy.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration's energy policy seems to more squarely align with fossil fuel and utility interests who seek to undermine state and local support for renewable energy.
The Trump Team Is Full of Opponents of State and Local Support for Renewable Energy
Travis Fisher is not the only political pick by the Trump administration that comes with a history of attacking state and local policies that have fueled the growth of renewable energy to benefit funders in the fossil fuel or utility industry.
Trump tapped Thomas Pyle, also of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and American Energy Alliance (AEA), to run his Dept. of Energy transition team. IER and AEA have targeted state renewable energy standard policies with misleading attacks for years. During the 2016 election, Trump responded to an AEA questionnaire with pledges to "review" key U.S. clean energy and climate change policies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and science-based endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has already fulfilled part of that pledge by beginning the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan.
Trump similarly chose climate denier Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Like Fisher and Pyle, Ebell has attacked renewable energy standards in states like Ohio. Greentech Media recently took a rather revealing look at the backgrounds of some other members of Trump's energy beachhead team.
No Uncertainty About State and Local Support for Renewable Energy
At this point, it remains unclear how exactly the Trump administration would use the pretense of reliability concerns to preempt state and local support for renewable energy. If it does seek to preempt state and local control, it will certainly face significant opposition from states and local communities—including those led by Republicans—that are already leading the way on renewable energy.
The ruling against Exxon in a suit brought by Environment Texas and the Sierra Club found that the oil giant failed to update emissions-reductions technology at its Baytown, Texas refining and chemical plant.
In their suit, the groups alleged the plant illegally released more than 10 million pounds of pollutants between 2005 and 2013, while Exxon gained more than $14 million in economic benefits.
"Today's decision sends a resounding message that it will not pay to pollute Texas," Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, said in a statement. "We will not stand idly by when polluters put our health and safety at risk."
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