The 10 year countdown for the climate starts TODAY

by Tim Donaghy

November 7, 2018

The midterm results show that we can take action to protect the climate, but we're going to have to fight like hell to get real solutions passed.

Activists carry a huge banner as they participate in the Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice march as part of a global day of action to demand our elected leaders commit to no new fossil fuels and a just and fair transition to 100% renewable energy.

© Michael Short / Greenpeace

This week’s midterm elections put points on the board for action on climate change and resistance to Trump’s dirty energy agenda — along with the realization that we’re going to have to fight like hell to get real solutions to the crisis facing us.

We elected a lot of politicians who are ready to fight the fossil fuel industry head on, and a Democratic House of Representatives means that Trump’s deregulatory agenda and dirty energy cronies won’t get a free pass anymore. Still, too many climate deniers are calling the shots in D.C., and a flood of over $47 million in fossil fuel money led to the defeat of some good state climate policies yesterday. But victories by climate champs and some key ballot initiatives point the way forward.

The State of Play

The science is clear that baby steps are no longer enough. Global carbon emissions still have not peaked, and carbon dioxide levels breached 410 parts per million earlier this year, already well beyond the safe level of 350 parts per million. 2016 was the hottest year on record, with 2017 right behind. Yet in the U.S. oil and gas production is still increasing and oil companies are frantically building out infrastructure in an effort to lock us into dependence on their polluting product.

An Aera Energy pipeline spilled an estimated 29,000 gallons of crude oil in a gorge called Prince Barranca near homes in Ventura, California. Crude oil has coated rocks and creek beds, but details on the environmental impact were not immediately available. A person in hazmat gear sets the pump into the creek.

That’s what we’re up against. But renewable energy is getting cheaper and expanding rapidly all over the world. Electric vehicles are poised for rapid growth, which could significantly reduce demand for oil over the next decade. And, although Trump has tried to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, that move wouldn’t take effect until 2020.

The recent IPCC Special Report shows that there is still a chance to limit catastrophic global warming to safer levels, but only if strong, smart, continuous action starts today and doesn’t stop.

We can do this! But first, let’s take stock of where we are and what’s on the to-do list.

Trump’s Regulatory Rollback

In the past two years, Trump, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have been frantically giving handouts to the coal, oil and gas industries. But despite their best efforts, Trump’s deregulation efforts have so far only managed a 5% “win rate” in federal courts, and there might be more losing in his future.

Pruitt is already gone in a storm of scandal, and rumor has it that Zinke might soon follow. Both leave behind less headline-grabbing, but no less dangerous, deputies. But between the scandals and court setbacks, Trump’s pollution momentum is stalling.

Outside the Beltway

Outside of Washington, D.C., the fossil fuel industry has hit roadblocks. California doubled down on ambitious climate policies, but newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom must do more to protect frontline communities from oil and gas extraction. In New York, the Attorney General brought a serious lawsuit against ExxonMobil for misleading its shareholders on climate risks to its bottom line.

And the groundbreaking lawsuit brought by 21 young people demanding a livable climate was allowed to move ahead in federal courts.

Three pipelines designed to expand Canada’s tar sands have run into fierce resistance. Court rulings have delayed the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Canada, while grassroots activists have contested the permitting process for the Keystone XL and Line 3 expansion pipelines in the U.S.

A growing number of politicians — including 11 of the Democrats who flipped Republican House seats this week — have signed a pledge not to take money from fossil fuel interests. Ballot initiatives restricting fracking in Colorado and pushing a carbon fee in Washington couldn’t overcome millions spent by dirty industry, but even in defeat, momentum is building for strong climate policies in the states.

Aerial view of Ivanpah solar power plant. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is the world’s largest concentrated solar thermal power plant, 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas. Opened in 2014, it uses 173,500 mirrors spread across five square miles to concentrate the sun’s rays on three steam boilers which power electric turbines. Ivanpah produces 377 megawatts, or enough power for 140,000 homes.

Real Climate Leadership

Halting Trump’s rollback of climate regulations and investigating the climate deniers running the government is important, but the next Congress also needs to start developing stronger tools to truly halt carbon emissions. False solutions are already starting to pop up on Capitol Hill — like a weak, inadequate carbon tax that would let oil companies off the hook for the damages they’ve caused.

This next Congress must commit to passing 21st-century energy laws that give the authority to phase out coal, oil, and gas. Ending costly fossil fuel subsidies and federal oil and gas leasing are only the first steps. This fossil fuel phase-out should be packaged with a Green New Deal that raises taxes on dirty energy and kickstarts the build out of sustainable energy jobs and infrastructure that we will need – while ensuring a just transition for workers and communities.

The 2020 election begins today. Trump’s cronies are leaving and he could be on his way out, too. Momentum is building for real climate action as Americans are already seeing the impacts of climate change in their daily lives. We need to start laying the groundwork for real solutions now. Let’s demand that Congress start flexing their planet-saving muscles, and organize like hell to send more climate champs to Congress in 2020.

Tim Donaghy

By Tim Donaghy

Tim Donaghy is a Senior Research Specialist with Greenpeace USA. He writes frequently about climate change, offshore oil drilling, energy production, and the Arctic.

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