Environmental Accomplishments


Any environmentalist is quite concerned about the election results. I am no exception. To lift my spirits, I reviewed the environmental accomplishments over the last eight years.  Given the environment is our life-line, I had wished for more progress, but in retrospect, these accomplishments now appear quite impressive.

— In response to one of our worst financial emergencies in 2008, Congress implemented an economic package that laid the foundation for a clean energy future. Ninety billion dollars were invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and technology. Consequently, solar electricity generation has increased thirty-fold and wind electricity more than three-fold. Research funds granted growth in smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels technology.

— The government bailed out the auto industry and required higher efficiencies – 36.6 miles per gallon by 2017 for cars and 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025. Those new standards will reduce tons of carbon pollution and has accelerated transition to electric vehicles; all the while creating a more marketable product and saving us money.

— The Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide as a pollutant in 2009. The Clean Power Plan is on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other toxic pollutants from power plants 32 percent by 2030. We are closing down our oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Estimated costs to utilities upgrades is projected at $11 billion, while estimated health benefits are $59 to 140 billion. Tackling pollution makes us healthier!

— The Energy Department creation of new standards for energy efficient appliances and products ranging from refrigerators to light bulbs, impacting all structures from homes to enormous buildings. These new regulations won’t only cut significant greenhouse gas emissions; they will also save Americans billions of dollars.

— Last fall the world came together to tackle the dangers of Climate Change. Leaders from 196 countries developed and signed the ambitious Paris Agreement committed to keep global temperature rise this century well below two degrees.

—Per executive order, twenty-three national monuments were designated protecting 265 million acres of land and 100 miles of waterways. It’s always a victory when pristine public land is set aside for us to enjoy along with future generations.

— Per executive order, all federal agencies are making plans to soften their environmental impacts by 2020. Goals include 30 percent reduction in fleet gasoline use, increase water efficiency by 26%, and considering sustainable practices on all federal contracts. These actions will save our tax dollars!

— Efforts were made to keep fossil fuels in the ground to minimize carbon damage. President Obama stopped the Keystone pipeline. The Department of Interior discontinued extracting coal from public land.

On the flip side, a 40-year ban on US crude oil exports was lifted in exchange for extending clean energy tax credits. And, offshore and Arctic drilling leases were granted. Shell stepped away from Alaskan Arctic drilling efforts, ironically oil now more accessible due to glacier melt from carbon-induced global warming. Fortunately just this week, per executive order, President Obama deemed US owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean as off limits to future oil and gas leasing and halted the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Now we have a new president elect who has been spouting anti-environmental rhetoric for months. He calls Climate Change “a hoax”. He pledges to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and pursue “clean” coal reserves, the dirtiest fuel on the planet. He promises to disband the Environmental Protection Agency since those regulations “get in the way of business”. And he says he is going to break our pact with the World by withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

There is much to be gained by continuing and expanding our efficiency and clean energy trajectory:

*Efficient energy practices and products save us money.

*Reducing toxins and pollutions makes us healthier.

*Decreased climate change dangers reduce environmental and world instability.

*Pursuing renewables is a huge economic opportunity.

To live is to progress; frankly I’m flummoxed the public wouldn’t always want to build on what we have learned.  We now know this clean energy trajectory not only protects our environment, it saves us money, creates jobs, enhances our health, it’s a huge economic opportunity and it honors world-wide needs and opinions.

To protect our environment, it’ll now be more important than ever to join marches, support environmental organizations and speak up. I remain vigilant fulfilling my moral obligation to be a good steward of our earth, assuring future generations too will revel in this beautiful gift. This year I became a grandmother – this just got real personal!


The UN Climate Pact (COP21)

It was exhilarating and a bit nerve-wracking, watching the Paris summit unfold as all our world leaders joined together to address climate change.  Speeches abounded stating commitments and encouraging the spirit of cooperation for our common good.  Smaller groups quickly formed working out the details. Soon the climate change deniers arrived on scene attempting to derail the progress and protect their profits.  Fortunately, they were promptly ignored and negotiations continued. Interestingly, the Marshall Island delegates emerged as leaders.  By gathering the voices and faces of many small poor islands struggling with ocean rise and damaging storms, they unified 100 countries vehemently requesting more ambitious global warming limits.  Other contentious issues included how to best secure funds from developed countries to help the disproportionately impacted poor developing countries and how to develop a transparent system to evaluate progress.

On Saturday, December 12, 196 parties adopted an agreement by “consensus”.  All are in agreement we need to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures with the ultimate goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit); certainly ambitious as we have already reached the 1 degree Celsius mark.  Although not legally binding, developed countries have committed to raise at least $100 billion annually to help undeveloped countries survive. All are in agreement to achieve climate ‘neutrality’ (no net carbon emissions) fossil fuels need to be phased out soon after mid-century, goals which will require keeping 80% of the world’s remaining fossil fuels underground. All countries are legally required to monitor their emission levels and reconvene every five years to publicly report their progress and commit to more ambitious goals. Disappointingly, while world-wide leaders were tirelessly working for the common good, our Congress voted to overturn the Clean Power Plan most Americans support.  With no super-majority to overturn a veto, we will continue to curb coal plant emissions. We have a precedent showing how effective world leaders can be when they come together.  Changes implemented after the 1989 Montreal Protocol effectively brought to a halt the damage caused by the growing hole in the Ozone. Those were the days when it was the norm to believe our scientists.

The United States remains committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025. Many are disappointed these goals won’t cover our fair share as the World Resource Institute reports we are responsible for 14% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.  You can bet other countries are watching us.  Meanwhile, our legislators are out of step, continuing to give the oil industry billions in subsidies annually, our tax dollars, and this month lifted a 40-year ban on crude oil exports.

The leaders from every country in the world, 196 countries, signed the pact.  The world is clearly embracing clean renewable energy as our future and markets are responding.  Technical advances make clean energy renewables more affordable, effective and growing.  Although reversing the course of climate change is a daunting task, the pact brings us hope.  As individuals, our vote, voices, and actions will help keep us on course.