353 State Lawmakers From 46 States Support 100% Clean Energy by 2050
More than 350 U.S. state and local elected officials from nearly every state launched a letter calling for 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 at the Paris Climate Conference today.
In Paris, California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De León was among those releasing the letter. California recently passed legislation to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and is the world’s 7th largest economy.
“California’s example shows that climate action can be an engine for broadly shared economic prosperity,” said De León. “By promoting the development of clean energy resources, we are simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and creating jobs that can lift families out of poverty. If Congress won’t act, it’s incumbent on state and local leaders to do the job for them.”
The announcement focused on the success state and local governments are achieving in clean energy innovation and implementation.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently enacted a mandate that 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York by 2030 come from renewable energy services and has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.
New York Assembly person Brian Kavanagh, who chairs the nonpartisan New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators and was at the Paris talks, said, "Progress in Paris is critically important, but whatever the outcome of international negotiations, we know we have a real opportunity to chart a new course at home. The U.S. must take action to aggressively curb climate-changing pollution. As a country and in each of our states, we can move decisively toward clean renewable energy, which will create good jobs and foster prosperous, healthy communities today and for future generations."
“Our region used to be coal country and now is powered by 40 percent wind. That's the future that cities and states are creating,” said Des Moines, Iowa Mayor Frank Cownie. “Where there used to be 23 coal mines 100 years ago in and around the city, now we are building a green space corridor and new industries. It's time for cities, states, the U.S. and the world to aggressively commit to creating a better, clean energy future."
A number of current and former elected officials are organizing the initiative including former Maine State Representative Alex Cornell du Houx, former Caroline New York Council member and Deputy Town Supervisor Dominic Frongillo and California East Bay Municipal Utility District Director Andy Katz. They are urging more elected officials to sign onto the letter at here.
“We organized this initiative to highlight the important work state and local governments are doing to promote clean energy and reduce carbon pollution, despite many in Congress’ complete lack of leadership to protect our families and communities,” said Cornell du Houx. “We need to protect our nation and the world from the real threats caused by climate change. A recent Pew study found ISIL or Daesh and climate change are seen as the top two global threats and the two are interlinked. As a former Marine and now naval officer, I have seen this link firsthand. Instability caused by extreme weather helps terrorists like Daesh recruit fighters—Syria suffered an unusually severe drought that helped trigger the conflict.”
“The political will to act on climate change exists in every state and community. But it's been drowned out by the millions of dollars dirty energy companies spend to sow doubt and denial,” said Frongillo. “The decades of deception are over: science is clear on the necessity to move off fossil fuels and Exxon-Mobil is under investigation for misleading shareholders and the American people. We need elected officials to lead a fair and swift transition to 100 percent clean energy. The transition to renewables can create jobs and prosperous opportunities across the U.S. and the world. Now it's time to lead.”
This year, the U.S. has hit many clean energy milestones. America has added more clean power than natural gas, with clean energy generation up 11 percent while natural gas generation declined. Demonstrating the opportunity, solar jobs grew 20 times faster than the rest of the economy.
The investment of New England Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) estimates a return of more than $2.9 billion in lifetime energy bill savings to more than 3.7 million participating households and 17,800 businesses. In California, a similar program generated $969 million in revenue for the state through the end of 2014 and is expected to generate $2 billion a year or more in the future.
The RGGI states have experienced more than a 40 percent reduction in power sector carbon pollution since 2005, while the regional economy has grown eight percent. “This proves that we can reduce pollution that’s putting our communities’ health at risk while growing jobs and prosperity. From East Coast to West Coast—states and local communities are leading the way,” said Katz.
“Cities and states and on the front lines of climate change. As sea levels rise, our city is in danger,” said West Palm Beach, Florida Mayor Jeri Muoio. “To protect our future and lead by example, we have made a commitment to power all our city vehicles without fossil fuels.”
The initiative also supports the implementation of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, as it will bring the U.S. within seven percent of the stated goal. “We appreciate the administration’s leadership and commitment to working with state and local government,” said Cornell du Houx. “The launch of this letter is only the beginning. We will be working with state and local elected officials across America to ensure a healthier and safer future for our children. As leaders responsible for America’s present and future prosperity, we must take action now.”
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As ocean waters warm and acidify, corals across the globe are disappearing. Desperate to prevent the demise of these vital ecosystems, researchers have developed ways to "garden" corals, buying the oceans some much-needed time. University of Miami Rosenstiel School marine biologist Diego Lirman sat down with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media to describe the process and explain what's at stake. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is killing coral?
I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for what's killing corals. We know there are many, many different factors influencing coral abundance, diversity, distribution and health these days, but I think the specific answer varies based on where you are.
Temperatures play a major role at global scales, and then you have all of these other, more local factors like disease, physical impacts of storms, or ship groundings.
Researcher Stephanie Schopmeyer prepares to out-plant Staghorn coral onto a Miami reef. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
We had the dredging of the Port of Miami channel a couple of years ago and that caused a lot of localized mortality due to sediment burial and sediment stress. You also have land-based sources of pollution that can damage by location and nutrient influence that causes algal overgrowth of corals.
Local factors are superimposed on regional factors directly related to global climate change. Changes in temperature, more temperature extremes, acidification of the water, changes in storm frequency and sea level rise— all are at different scales — but they all combine to cause coral mortality.
Factors vary both spatially and temporally, but the outcomes are all the same. Regardless of where you are, we've lost a tremendous amount of coral.
Nursery-raised Staghorn coral out-planted onto a reef by a citizen scientist.
In the face of all those threats, can restoration work?
Historically, restoration was developed and used for acute disturbances. A ship runs aground, and so then there's a recovery, and funds are allocated to recovering the reef structure at a given location, and then corals are planted on top of that. But as global conditions decline for coral reefs, there's now a need to scale up. So, we're not just dealing with the localized impact—we're looking at species declining throughout their range.
We need other tools at larger scales, and that's where coral reef gardening has come into play, because it works at larger scales compared to just dumping cement and rebuilding reef structures, costly endeavors that recover just a very small footprint. We're growing and planting these organisms.
Do you worry about planted coral dominating the reefs?
Initially, these techniques were developed for fast-growing corals. The genus that we're focusing on, Acropora, is threatened, so these are very important reef-building species.
When abundant, they monopolize shallow environments. They form thickets, extensive areas of high-density colonies. That's the way they used to grow, until about three to four decades ago when they got wiped out by disease and other factors. The branching corals that we're working with grow between 10 and 15 cm per branch per year, so that's very fast growth.
Through recent advances in coral aquaculture, we're now also able to grow massive species, the ones that grow very slowly. Mote Marine Lab has developed microfragmentation techniques where they can cut coral colonies very, very small and make them grow very, very fast. Although we focused on branching corals initially, now most of the programs, especially here in Florida, are expanding onto other threatened species.
Citizen scientists plant coral. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Can these efforts solve the problem, or are they a placeholder until climate stabilizes?
You hit the nail on the head. One of the early criticisms of reef restoration was the scale issue and spending a lot of resources working on a very small footprint.
We've dealt with that now, over the past 10 years we've expanded to the point where we're growing thousands and thousands of corals—we're planting thousands and thousands of corals—so that issue of scale is no longer a valid criticism.
The other major criticism is that, even though we're planting a lot of corals, we're planting them onto environments where the same stressors that caused their initial mortality are in place. Now there is ocean acidification and increased temperatures, so things have gotten, in some cases, progressively worse.
Staghorn corals create a sustainable source of corals for use in restoration. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
That is a valid concern if we were just planting corals, but we're not just doing that. We're still concentrating on all of the other aspects of reef restoration, setting up marine protected areas to protect fish stocks and coral impacts, working to curb land-based sources of pollution, and setting up sedimentation and nutrient controls. And then, on a much larger scale, we're all trying to curb carbon emissions, trying to limit the greenhouse impacts and acidification impacts. All these tools just help us buy time.
We're also doing a lot of genomics work to see how corals can increase their resilience. A colleague of mine here at the Rosenstiel School at University of Miami, Andrew Baker, is stress-hardening corals. He works on coral symbiosis, and he found that by applying a little bit of non-lethal stress, he can make corals shuffle their Zooxanthellae, which are the endosymbiotic microalgae that provide energy to the corals. In that process, they're able to uptake Zooxanthellae that are more thermally tolerant. So, through the forced shuffling of symbionts, you may be able to buy these corals one or two degrees of tolerance, so that they become more tolerant to bleaching in future years. That is cutting-edge science.
We're trying to actually find out what makes corals survive, and trying to beef up their defenses and their resilience over time. And that's because we have access to all these coral genotypes through the active propagation from coral gardening.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
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