By Amber Hewett
Offshore wind energy has felt just out of America’s reach for quite some time now. While Europe has more than fifty projects up and running off their shores, here in the U.S. we are struggling to catch up. Resistance to a tried and true clean energy source—largely funded by fossil fuel interests—has kept us from capitalizing on an industry that will create jobs, promote clean air and water and protect future generations of wildlife and people from the dangers of climate change.
Responsibly sited offshore wind power must be a significant component of our clean energy future—and yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) took a huge step forward in making this a reality. Yesterday morning, news broke that BOEM has scheduled a first-ever renewable energy lease sale on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. On July 31, 164,750 acres off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts will be auctioned for commercial wind energy leasing. BOEM indicates this area could produce enough energy to power 1.2 million homes—a huge contribution to meeting the region’s energy demand.
“Today we are moving closer to tapping into the enormous potential offered by offshore wind to create jobs, increase our sustainability and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier,” said Secretary Jewel.
This announcement follows months of evaluation by BOEM, as well as the vision, leadership and commitment of the state governments in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, to identify low-conflict areas for offshore wind energy projects and review potential impacts of development activities on marine life in the designated wind energy area. Looking ahead, National Wildlife Federation will closely examine the project proposals that come forward to ensure that wildlife protections are included as this process unfolds.
The Interior Department and BOEM took great initiative yesterday, and now we need to ensure that this momentum inspires the necessary follow-through from Congressional and state leaders to make offshore wind a reality. Recent progress in New England gives more cause to celebrate, and suggests that the pieces of this puzzle are starting to come together.
Less than a month ago, Massachusetts hosted a ground breaking ceremony at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal—the country’s first terminal constructed to deploy offshore wind turbines. Inspired by similar efforts abroad, New Bedford’s infrastructure investment is bringing fresh economic development opportunities to a city that could really use it, hopefully modeling the opportunity for other ports to follow.
Another first came last week, thanks to the leadership and innovation of the University of Maine. The University’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center launched a prototype of a floating wind turbine into the waters off the coast of Castine, ME. The first of its kind globally, this floating platform turbine is also the first offshore wind turbine to connect to the U.S. grid. The Department of Energy acknowledged the significance of this small-scale inaugural project. “The Castine offshore wind project represents a critical investment to ensure America leads in this fast-growing global industry,” said Jose Zaya, director of the Energy Department’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office.
The U.S. certainly remains far from claiming leadership on offshore wind, but getting a model turbine in the water offers a tangible symbol to the global community that we are getting serious. Establishing the infrastructure to deploy more projects, and auctioning areas of the ocean, help strengthen the message that we do not intend to let this opportunity pass us by.
We need congressional leadership. Our leaders on Capitol Hill need to make offshore wind energy a priority, in order to spur the first-movers in this industry to reach the clean energy frontier. That means supporting the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act in both the House and the Senate, by offering an investment tax credit to those willing to fund moving the nation toward this increasingly important goal.
State leaders along the coast also need to step up and ensure offshore wind power is part of our energy future. Now is the time for bold commitments to bring offshore wind energy online.
Yesterday’s news from BOEM is just the latest sign of progress in America’s pursuit of this massive clean energy frontier. Let’s make sure that we build on these successes, and gather them into a collected stride toward the clean energy future that is in everyone’s best interest.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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