AEP Dumps ALEC to Help States Implement Clean Power Plan, Expedite Renewable Energy
It appears that nearly everybody wants to disassociate itself from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative lobbying group that fights climate change policies. Its latest departure? American Electric Power (AEP), one of the nation's largest utilities. If that wasn't bad enough for ALEC, AEP said in it's announcement it will be shifting its focus to working with states to comply with the Obama Administration's landmark climate rule, the Clean Power Plan.
American Electric Power drops ALEC membership to focus on helping states implement Clean Power Plan https://t.co/da5SjUKn23— Midwest Energy News (@Midwest Energy News)1449604581.0
"AEP will not be renewing its ALEC membership in 2016," AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry told The Guardian. "We reviewed our memberships and decided to reallocate resources to other areas of focus including working directly with the states and other stakeholder groups on issues like the Clean Power Plan."
The power company said that "there are a variety of reasons for the decision," but at least part of the decision stems from the lobbying group's controversial stance on climate change. "We have long been involved in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” AEP said.
While AEP was originally critical of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan, a spokeswoman told The Guardian that "AEP supports the EPA’s amended plan and the expansion of renewables in general."
AEP is ditching its membership with ALEC! #ActOnClimate #CleanPowerPlan https://t.co/HmgsAmDRAM https://t.co/0xSP2FiJvO— Moms Clean Air Force (@Moms Clean Air Force)1449612046.0
Environmental groups hailed the decision. “AEP's departure from ALEC shows that climate change denial is increasingly a liability for modern corporations," said Greenpeace's Connor Gibson. "ALEC itself will now suffer an internal shakeup, as AEP served in an ALEC leadership role crafting the group’s anti-environmental policy and spent $50,000 last July to sponsor its annual meeting."
At least six other utilities in the U.S. have dumped ALEC, and the Center for Media and Democracy said AEP is now the 107th company to have withdrawn funding from ALEC since it launched ALEC Exposed in 2011.
“It’s time for other major companies like UPS, State Farm and Pfizer to immediately follow suit and demonstrate their own corporate responsibility. ALEC is determined to thwart or eliminate essential environmental safeguards that protect clean air, clean water and our climate,” said Melinda Pierce, legislative director at the Sierra Club.
Even two oil giants, BP and Shell, told ALEC they would not be renewing their membership next year, with Shell specifically saying ALEC's stance on climate change was "inconsistent" with its own. And the lobbying group is not just controversial for its stance on climate change. Amazon, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Facebook and Google "all left the organization over its stance on gun control in the wake of the 2012 killing of teenager Trayvon Martin," The Guardian reported.
"Corporations are embarrassed by the scientific ignorance that ALEC actively peddles to policymakers," said Gibson. "While some companies are starting to see the light, stubborn utilities like Duke Energy and Dominion Resources still pay ALEC to advance an anti-science agenda that props up dirty fossil fuels."
However, according to renowned climate experts Peter Frumhoff and Naomi Oreskes, even companies that have publicly withdrawn support for ALEC still often secretly support climate disinformation campaigns.
Some examples, include:
- BP still channels funds through its political action committee to climate science-denying U.S. policymakers such as Sen. James Inhofe.
- ExxonMobil gave more than $75,000 between 2008 and 2010 to secretly support the work of Willie Soon, a contrarian climate researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, well after the company announced it would halt such funding. Soon’s research has sought to downplay the human influence on global warming.
- “AEP continues to hold a proxy membership in ALEC through the Edison Electric Institute, the primary utility lobbying organization," according to Gibson. "Through Edison Electric, AEP's money continues to back ALEC's attacks on sensible climate change solutions.”
ALEC firmly denies that it denies climate change, going so far as threatening to sue Common Cause and the League of Conservation Voters for claiming the organization denies that the planet is warming.
But in its official stance on climate change, ALEC argues there is still a debate, despite the overwhelming consensus among the scientific community about the impacts of climate change. "Climate change is a historical phenomenon and the debate will continue on the significance of natural and anthropogenic contributions," ALEC's website declares.
The group goes even further by saying on its website:
Unilateral efforts by the United States or regions within the United States will not significantly decrease carbon emissions globally, and international efforts to decrease emissions have proven politically infeasible and unenforceable. Policymakers in most cases are not willing to inflict economic harm on their citizens with no real benefit. ALEC discourages impractical visionary goals that ignore economic reality, and that will not be met without serious consequences for worldwide standard of living.
AEP, for its part, appears to want to transition away from dirtier energy sources such as coal and gas and towards renewables such as wind and solar. The Ohio-based company is the sixth largest utility in the country, based on market value, with 5.4 million customers in 11 states. The company "insists it is on track to reduce its emissions by 25 percent by 2017, based on 2005 levels," The Guardian reported. And its coal use has dropped by a quarter in the last decade, while renewables now make up 11 percent of its energy supply.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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