AFTER THE CLIMATE DEAL

December 30, 2015
by
5 mins read

Described by 195 world leaders and climate scientists as humanity’s last, best hope of averting the most devastating effects of global warming and climate change, the landmark climate deal approved in Paris on Dec. 12 reached consensus: Modern culture must move away from fossil fuels and a carbon-based economy.

And while participants in the agreement recognize the new deal will not, by itself, save the planet from the devastation of rising seas, melting glaciers, and a new climate reality defined by weather in the extreme, parties to the UN COP21 agreed that we can no longer wait to begin a swift transition toward a clean energy future.

How to actually meet the goal of keeping warming well below 2 degrees Celsius while also aspiring to achieve the more planet-friendly limit of 1.5 C. will depend on what a clean energy future actually looks like — and how quickly we can get there. The concept of the Age of Carbon coming to an end, and soon, is hard for some to visualize.

World leaders, on their own, would never have been ambitious enough to commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gasses. That momentum came from indigenous communities, scientists, environmental organizations, NGOs and groups all over the world now feeling the effects of increasingly unstable weather, pushing, insisting, demanding our leaders take bold action. Flooding, droughts, super-storms, unstable weather on a Biblical scale are strong wake-up calls, strong motivation.

A galvanizing moment in community organizing history that crystallized what is at stake for the future of the planet happened when Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute, declared “Game Over for the Climate” if the Keystone XL Pipeline were to be approved. Dumping dirty, carbon-rich tar sands from Canada onto the world market through a pipeline down the middle of the American Heartland would put us over the tipping point into an unsurvivable climate crisis. He made clear our shared fate, our shared humanity, and our shared responsibility to change our behavior.

On Feb. 13, 2013, Dr. Hansen, along with 47 other community leaders including Julian Bond, Robert Kennedy Jr., Bill McKibben and Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Rune, were arrested in front of the White House in an act of climate civil disobedience. Their bravery and conviction made real for many the possibility of actual climate collapse in our lifetime.

For those of us of the Environmental Youth Council in St. Augustine, Dr. Hansen’s warning created a sinking, sick feeling. We committed then and there, for better or worse, to engage in climate activism.

A series of demonstrations demanding climate justice followed. EYC marched in Washington, D.C. and St. Augustine. We were there for The People’s Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21, 2014. More than 400,000 people from all walks of life showed up to tell world leaders to take climate change seriously, and to show real leadership: Take Bold Action.

And now they have, at least partially.

They are waiting for the rest of us to tell them what’s next, what we’re willing to do to move the world toward climate stability.

We at the Environmental Youth Council have some ideas:

1. Make sure Florida becomes solar-friendly.
Push for, vote for the state constitutional ballot amendment that will allow individual energy users to produce and share their own solar power: Floridians For Solar Choice, flsolarchoice.org. Not to be confused by the competing private utility-baked ballot initiative that will continue to restrict that right: Consumers for Smart Solar, smartsolarfl.org. Florida is one of only four states that does not allow solar power sharing. The intent of the private utility initiative is to confuse voters, pure and simple.

2. Sign the Credo Pledge of Resistance.
Willingness to risk arrest and participate in climate civil disobedience, in all likelihood, is part of what will be required to make our political leadership move forward on climate. This strategy worked to help defeat the Keystone Pipeline, pass the Civil Rights Bill, and kick the English out of India. Bill McKibben said it best: “No one wants to get arrested and spend a couple of days in jail. But it is not the end of the world. The End of the World is The End of the World.”

3. Call out elected officials who refuse to take seriously the immediate threat of an out-of-control climate.
No more hiding behind “not enough evidence,” or “natural cycles,” or “I am not a scientist.” Political leaders who discount the risks associated with continued burning of fossil fuels forfeit their legitimacy to govern. They defraud those who elected them to protect the best interest of the region and the country; they betray the public trust doctrine. They jeopardize our shared futures for the short-term profits of carbon companies. They deny our responsibility for creating the climate crisis in the first place, in spite of the most extensively, thoroughly documented issue of modern times. Call out climate deniers and hold them accountable.

4. Divest from fossil fuels.
Profiting from the industry that’s causing so much damage and misery is indefensible. Financially, the oil industry is the most powerful in the history of the world. Morally, it is bankrupt.

We as responsible citizens must insist that more than 80 percent of the known fossil fuel reserves stay in the ground to meet the goal identified by the Paris agreement, i.e., limit warming to significantly less than two degrees Celsius. Contact your church, mosque or synagogue. Contact the University of North Florida and Flagler College, Flagler Hospital, The Rotary Foundation. Ask why they are still supporting the industries that are threatening the viability of the world. Look at your own investment portfolio. As of today, 3.4 trillion U.S. dollars have been divested from various forms of fossil fuels.

5. Contact President Obama and The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and our local, state and national political leaders.
Tell them in no uncertain terms that we are not going to allow seismic testing and offshore drilling in the Atlantic Basin. Period. To date, 31 U.S. House members, including Ron DeSantis (R, Florida Sixth District), and 85 counties and cities have signed resolutions in opposition to oil development in the Atlantic. We know the climate crisis poses a much more broad threat to the health of the world than any unsavory political group. Do not invest one more penny or another second in looking for or developing new sources of carbon fuels.

6. Contact President Obama and our elected officials again.
Tell them there must be no more leasing or selling publicly owned lands to fossil fuel companies. These properties belong to our children; they are their future. We do not agree with turning them into open-pit coal mines, despoiled oceans, and ruined waterways as a result of fracking and mining.

What does a clean energy future look like? That’s up to us to discover and define, together. A carbon tax would be a good place to start, which would incentivize new energy innovations while chilling carbon consumption and production. Time is short and the stakes are high. Time to go all in.

So what’s next?

According to 350.org, “All the momentum we build through workshops, marches, trainings and meetings will be put to use as we take bold action targeted at fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground and lifting up the solutions we need to take their place. We have waited far too long for serious action and in May, people are going to come together to show that they are serious.”

Environmental Youth Council will be there. We will continue to raise awareness about the climate crisis and other environmental and social justice issues. We invite you to participate. As Pope Francis told world leaders in September, “We have a moral imperative to act on climate.”

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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