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At a recent sit-down at the University of Ottawa, TV personality and science advocate Bill Nye confronted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his approval of the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
"I've been to Fort McMurray, Alberta. It really is an amazing place in the most troubling way," the Science Guy said, likely referring to the area's notorious tar sands. "But this pipeline ... tell us about the Kinder Morgan pipeline."
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Madison, Wisconsin and Abita Springs, Louisiana are transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy following respective city council votes on Tuesday.
In the two hours after it aired, the interview has already been viewed about 2 million times, drawn about 100,000 "Reactions" and 52,000 "shares."
The chat was announced Sunday on the senator's Facebook page, with many fans eagerly anticipating the sit-down. Here's what one person said:
The former presidential candidate—who has one of the strongest records on climate change in the Senate and has been highly critical of President Trump's cabinet appointees such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt—got straight to the point with his first question to Nye.
"We have a president of the United States who thinks that climate change is a 'hoax' emanating from China," Sanders stated. "We have a new administrator of the EPA—somebody who I strongly opposed—who is in the process of dismembering environmental protection regulations in this country. What are the short and long term implications of a president who has that view?"
In response, Nye said that the long term implications of global warming are "potentially catastrophic," adding that "the problem is the speed the world is warming and the rate climate is changing."
As for the short term effects, Nye described how coastal cities such as New York will have to spend billions of dollars to build more seawalls to avoid future extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy.
Additionally, he explained how the effects of climate change will be "much more difficult" for people in the developing world who will be forced to migrate and potentially foment conflict due to a lack of resources.
Nye, the former host of the beloved children's science program Bill Nye the Science Guy, has since become a frequent and prominent commentator about scientific topics, especially the perils of a warming planet.
The half-hour interview covered topics such as climate change deniers, the fossil fuel industry's tremendous influence in politics, transforming the transportation industry and getting more people interested in science by promoting space exploration.
Nye also criticized President Trump's recent 2-for-1 executive order that requires federal agencies to repeal two old regulations for every new one.
"Who came up with that number? Regulations are like a machine," Nye said. "You don't just take parts away from the machine just because."
During a poignant moment in the interview, Sanders touched upon the Trump administration's notorious crackdown on the EPA and climate scientists.
"What is the role of scientists today?" Sanders asked. "[The] people who are searching for truth are under pressure."
"I have close friends who work in climate science and they are very concerned about their data being reviewed or erased," Nye said. "They are also concerned about their jobs."
On the topic of climate deniers, Nye said that they suffer from cognitive dissonance, describing how these people have a psychological disorder preventing them from facing reality.
"To the deniers out there. I want you to think about what is called cognitive dissonance," Nye said. "Instead of accepting that the climate is changing, deniers are denying the evidence and dismissing the authorities."
Nye said that the best way to change their minds is to convince them of the economic potential of renewable energy. He used The Solutions Project—a state-by-state roadmap to convert the country to 100 percent renewables by 2050—as an example.
"We can power the entire U.S. renewably right now if we just decided to do it," Nye said, explaining how transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy alternatives such as wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal, tidal and a reconfigured electric grid "can run the whole place."
He noted that investing in renewable energy would create domestic jobs "that can't be exported."
"From an optimistic point of view, I think if we can get these people to look at the world a little differently, they will be on the side of domestic reproduced renewable electricity in a very quick short order," Nye said.
Not only that, renewable energy is now a very affordable option for many people. As Nye said later in the interview, "You can hate me, you can hate everything. But when you get an electric bill—in California, [you can get it] for 10 bucks every 60 days—that's just fun. Just look at it that way."
Lawmakers in California and Massachusetts have recently introduced bills that would require their respective states to get all of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
California Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who introduced SB 584 last Friday, would require the Golden State to have a carbon-free grid by 2045. It would also accelerate the state's current goal of hitting 50 percent renewables by 2030 to 2025.
De León actually helped pushed through the initial 50 percent by 2030 law two years ago, but as he told the Los Angeles Times the legislation did not go far enough.
"We probably should have shot for the stars," he said.
As InsideClimate News noted, California is already well on its way:
"The California Energy Commission says the state got about 27 percent of its electricity from renewables last year, slightly better than the 25 percent required by law. Capacity has more than doubled over the past decade. California's largest utilities have also said they are ahead of schedule for meeting their 2020 goal."
Massachusetts legislators have also announced similar clean energy efforts. HD.3357 and SD.1932 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker and in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Eldridge.
The measure would require Massachusetts to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035. All of its energy needs, including heating and transportation, would have to come from renewable sources by 2050.
So far, the only state that has an official 100 percent renewable energy standard is Hawaii. Hawaii's aggressive clean energy mandate—requiring the state's electricity to come from renewable sources no later than 2045—was enacted back in 2015.
Many renewable-energy loving states—as well as town and city governments—are ramping up their clean energy goals in spite of the federal government's favoritism of fossil fuels and indifference towards fighting climate change.
This month, Nevada assemblyman Chris Brook introduced a bill to ramp up the state's renewable portfolio standard to 80 percent by 2040. Nevada's current standard calls for 25 percent by 2025.
Transitioning to 100 percent clean energy is not as far-fetched as it seems.
Last year, The Solutions Project team published a study explaining how each state 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 Solutions Project
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.
"It is now established that such a transition is possible state by state and country by country," Jacobson commented to EcoWatch in December.
Also, as USA TODAY pointed out from a University of Texas at Austin study, wind turbines and big solar farms are the cheapest sources of new electricity generation across much of the U.S. Certainly in sun-soaked California, where solar is the cheapest form of energy in much of the state.
I had the chance to take a deeper dive with Jacobson via email on Wednesday. He took the time to answer these following questions:
What do you say to the critics who say it is not feasible for California, Massachusetts (or any other state) to get to 100 percent clean energy?
Jacobson: They speak without having every studied the issue or examined the numbers, including the ability to keep the grid stable or the costs of energy.
What are some of the specific benefits for California and Massachusetts if they transition to clean energy?
Jacobson: Create more net long-term jobs than lost, stabilize energy prices because the fuel costs of wind and solar are zero, reduce the costs of energy since onshore wind and large-scale solar are the least expensive forms of new energy in the U.S. today, eliminate 13,000 air pollution deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses in California alone saving 3 percent of the GDP, reduce terrorism and catastrophic risk because of the more distributed nature of the grid and reduce dependence on foreign energy.
What are some of the biggest obstacles (i.e. technology, politics, fossil fuel industry) for states to get to 100 percent clean energy?
Jacobson: Lack of information and people with a financial interest in the current infrastructure. Once people have full information about the transition and its benefits, most are likely to support the transition. Ninety percent of the blockade to faster progress is due to individuals and companies that have a financial interest in the current infrastructure thus profit over it not happening.
Are you working with any of the legislators who have proposed these 100 percent clean energy bills? If so, who? And, what role is The Solutions Project playing in helping states advance renewable energy policies?
Jacobson: We provide information to all parties who request it, thus our goal is not partisan. It is purely to help facilitate the healthiest and cleanest future for Americans and the world.
How do you feel about President Trump and his administration's pro-fossil fuel agenda? Does it make the push to 100 percent clean energy harder?
Jacobson: The transition will occur regardless of what President Trump wants or does because costs are favorable and most people want healthy air and lower energy prices, and see all the benefits in terms of jobs, price stability, health and security that clean, renewable energy provides.
[Click here for the latest on the Dakota Access Pipeline: 141 Arrested During Police Raid of Camp Halting Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.]
Actor Mark Ruffalo and Native Renewables founder Wahleah Johns presented Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders with mobile solar panels on trailers, bringing clean power to the protest encampment where the largest gathering of Native Americans in modern history is taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Jon WankThe Solutions Project
"This pipeline is a black snake that traverses four states and 200 waterways with fracked Bakken oil," said Ruffalo, co-founder of The Solutions Project, which works to accelerate the transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.
"We know from experience that pipelines leak, explode, pollute and poison land and water. But it doesn't have to be that way."
The solar trailers will provide clean energy to power medical tents and other critical facilities for Native American protesters and their allies at the encampment. The trailers symbolize a healthy, equitable, prosperous energy future made possible by clean renewable energy.
"Water is life," said Johns, a Navajo leader. "By leading a transition to energy that is powered by the sun, the wind and water, we ensure a better future for all of our people and for future generations."
Johns' company, Native Renewables, promotes low-cost clean energy solutions for Native American families throughout the U.S., with an emphasis on job creation and on benefiting the community as a whole. The trailers were built by members of the Navajo nation and were financed by Empowered by Light and Give Power.
Research led by Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson, another Solutions Project co-founder, shows that it would be technically possible and economically beneficial to transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy in each and every state across the country. In North Dakota, for example, wind and solar energy would be the primary sources of clean power and transitioning to 100 percent renewables would create 30,000 jobs.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it was not sufficiently consulted when the Dakota Access Pipeline was in the planning stages. The pipeline endangers the tribe's water supply—and the water supply of millions of other people, as well, given the pipeline's planned crossing under the Missouri River. The pipeline's construction has already marred sacred lands, including burial sites. The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies—including indigenous people from across the U.S. and around the world—see it as a clear threat to both the tribe's cultural heritage and the basic human right to clean water.
"Around the world, more than 80 percent of the forests and lands with protected waterways and rich biodiversity are held by indigenous tribes. This is no coincidence," Ruffalo said. "As so many of us suffer from polluted water, air and land in our rural and urban communities, the water defenders at Standing Rock are showing us another way."
If you're wondering if the epic flooding in Louisiana is related to climate change, CNN has your answer.
Bill Nye the Science Guy was on CNN's New Day Tuesday to talk about the flooding in Louisiana, where at least 13 people have been killed and 60,000 homes damaged.
"For us, on my side of this, this is a result of climate change," Nye told CNN's Chris Cuomo. "It's only going to get worse."
"As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands," he continued. "Molecules spread apart and then as the sea surface is warmer more water evaporates. And so it's very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects."
In addition to discussing impacts of climate change, Nye shared what he believes is a solution to the problem of a warming planet.
"The big unexploited renewable resource on the East Coast of the United States, and Canada and Mexico, is wind," Nye said. "So, I encourage you, I am not a member of this, but I encourage everybody to check out The Solutions Project, a bunch of civil engineers who have done an analysis that you could power the United States, you could power most of the world, renewably if you just decided to do it, right now. There's enough wind and solar resources, a little bit of tidal and some geothermal, to run the whole place."
Nye did not just leave the conversation about climate change and renewables, he also called out CNN for having "essentially a climate change denier meteorologist."
Nye didn't mention any names, but, according to Huffington Post, he appeared to be referring to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who has a track record of making comments on climate change that run counter to established science.
"You know, to think that we could affect weather all that much is pretty arrogant," Myers said in 2008.
However, on Twitter, Myers said that he has since come around:
He followed up that tweet with this one:
One year after establishing itself as a climate and clean energy funder, The Solutions Project is launching the Fighter Fund, a new grant-making program for community-based groups on the front lines of the fight for clean energy and climate justice. The Fighter Fund is designed to be a highly responsive source of money that invests in change makers as change is happening. Plans call for the Fighter Fund to respond to most applicants' requests in a matter of days, instead of the months traditional philanthropic funding decisions can often take.
Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio at an event hosted by The Solutions Project. Kelly Taub / BFA.com
"Often philanthropy can't keep up with what's happening on the ground," said Tyler Nickerson, director of investments and state strategy at The Solutions Project, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to 100 percent clean energy for all. "The Fighter Fund is designed to make small grants at key movement moments so that homegrown, frontline groups working with regular people from Alaska to Alabama to Alberta can empower and mobilize communities."
The grants, topping out at $15,000 each, will be available on a rolling basis to nonprofits throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Groups are encouraged to apply when this money would make a tangible difference in their work.
"If we want real change—a sunlight revolution—we have to support fighters on the front lines," said The Solutions Project Co-Founder Mark Ruffalo, who came up with the idea and the name for the Fighter Fund and recruited his fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio and other donors to co-fund the effort.
"I'm excited about this innovation in clean energy philanthropy. We're creating a nimble source of funding that sends money where it's needed, when it's needed, to support bold action, collaboration and leadership in communities across the continent."
Examples of occasions when nonprofits could successfully apply for funding include:
- Direct actions or organizing that support a transition to 100 percent clean energy or keeping fossil fuels in the ground;
- Communications, earned media or new media that builds public will and cultural power for the energy transition; and
- Movement-building actions such as planning, convening and training activities.
The Fighter Fund grew out of The Solutions Project's first year of grant making through the 100% Leadership Fund, which so far has invested nearly $1 million supporting nonprofits working for clean energy in the states of Iowa, New York and California.
"The 100% Leadership Fund involves bigger investments and longer-term commitments to organizations across the country," Nickerson said. "But we need to be able to move money faster and more strategically to keep pace with what is going on with the climate justice movement. The Fighter Fund allows us to do that—and to make riskier frontline bets."
Earlier this year, 100% Leadership Fund grants went to Iowa groups involved in working on that state's astonishing progress in wind energy. Iowa now gets more than 31 percent of its electricity from wind power and Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, is calling for Iowa to hit 40 percent wind power in the next five years.
Most recently, The Solutions Project announced fresh 100% Leadership grants to groups working for policies that advance clean energy in the state of New York. As part of the NY Renews coalition, they launched an effort to make New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ambitious clean energy targets—including 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, which is one of the country's most ambitious clean-energy goals—first benefit working families. In June, the coalition cheered as the New York Assembly passed the nation's most ambitious climate bill, requiring that greenhouse gas emissions from major sources fall to zero by 2050 while safeguarding economic and environmental justice.
"A year after establishing The Solutions Project as a climate and clean energy funder, we are excited to add this new grant program to our portfolio of work," said Sarah Shanley Hope, The Solutions Project's executive director.
"We take a hybrid approach: We inspire action through our 100% campaign, while also providing direct financial support to grassroots organizations across the country. To achieve 100 percent clean energy for 100 percent of the people, we must all give our 100 percent. We know these investments will help get us there."
The 100% Leadership Fund and the Fighter Fund are generously supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Sara & Evan Williams Foundation, JPB Foundation and Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
Community-based nonprofits interested in Fighter Fund grants can ask questions of The Solutions Project's program officer, Rudi Navarra, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and can submit applications here.