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Boone, NC Passes Historic Resolution: Ditch Fossil Fuels, Go 100% Clean Energy

Apple's solar PV facility in Maiden, North Carolina is helping the state become a national solar leader. Photo credit: James West / Climate Desk

With an incoming presidential administration seemingly hostile towards action on climate change, local solutions are now more important than ever. With or without Donald Trump's help, the North Carolina municipality of Boone is calling on the whole state—and the United States at large—to encourage green jobs and transition to 100 percent clean energy across all energy sectors.

The resolution was approved by a 5-0 vote by Boone Town Council on Thursday. This makes Boone the first town in the country to officially demand that the U.S. completely ditch fossil fuels to "avoid climate catastrophe."

The country's total transition to clean energy is not as far-fetched as it seems. Boone's resolution was inspired in part by the research of renewable energy expert Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University professor and cofounder of The Solutions Project, a state-by-state roadmap to convert the country to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

You might have heard of the project before. In fact, Jacobson stopped by David Letterman's late-night television show in 2013 to explain how the whole world, not just the U.S., can transition to renewables.

"There's enough wind to power the entire world, for all purposes, around seven times over," Jacobson explained then. "Solar, about 30 times over, in high-solar locations worldwide."

Jacobson is an advisor for the North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition which endorsed Boone's resolution.

"This decision by Boone, North Carolina to commit to transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy sets a great example for other towns and cities in the U.S. and around the world," Jacobson commented to EcoWatch. "It is now established that such a transition is possible state by state and country by country."

Last year, the Solutions Project team published a study explaining how each state in the country can replace fossil fuels by tapping into renewable resources available in each state such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and even small amounts of tidal and wave power.

The authors found that converting the nation's energy infrastructure into renewables is ideal because it helps fight climate change, saves lives by eliminating air pollution, creates jobs in the rapidly booming renewable energy sector and also stabilizes energy prices.

North Carolina's roadmap to renewables.The Solutions Project

"The results of such a transition are the creation of more net long-term jobs than lost (2 million more if the U.S. converts), more stable energy prices (since wind and solar fuel costs are zero), lower overall energy costs, lower terrorism and grid blackout risk (because energy sources will be more decentralized), no more air pollution mortality from fossil fuels and a reduction in global warming," Jacobson explained.

One reason Boone adopted its resolution is because North Carolina is a solar power all star. The Tar Heel state ranks third in the nation in installed solar capacity, with enough to power 260,000 homes. The state's solar power industry employs some 6,000 people. In 2015, nearly $1.7 billion was invested on solar installations in the state. Not only that, the Atlantic coast state also has incredible offshore wind energy potential.

"Leading economists, policy experts, and business leaders conclude that transitioning to a clean energy economy available for all would create millions of green jobs nationally, improve our living standards, and boost economic growth in coming years," Boone's resolution states.

Boone's resolution stresses that the state's most disadvantaged populations are most affected by a warming planet, which is why action is needed.

"Low-income communities and communities of color in North Carolina and the United States are inordinately exposed to pollution, that causes serious health problems such as cancer and asthma, from fossil fuels, including the dirtiest coal-fired power plants which produce coal ash, are disproportionately located in communities of color," it reads.

Unlike our president-elect and his top staff comprised of climate change deniers and fossil fuel puppets, Boone's town council accepts that rising global average temperatures are primarily due to human-caused fossil fuels emissions and that 195 nations agreed during the Paris climate talks to hold global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Jacobson believes that the country's transition to sustainable energy is possible but the main barriers are "social and political rather than technical or economic." See North Carolina's storied solar wars, for example.

"Boone," however, as Jacobson said, "has overcome many of the social and political barriers."

Dr. Michael E. Mann, renowned climate scientist and fellow North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition advisor, praised the town's vote.

"Daniel Boone was an early pioneer who explored our nation's frontiers during it's early history. So it seems fitting that a town named after him would serve as our next great American pioneer, boldly leading us into the frontier of a clean energy-driven economy," he told EcoWatch. "Just when we really needed some good news in the climate change battle, I thank the people of Boone, North Carolina for providing some."

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Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

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"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.


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