U.S. Must Rejoin Paris Climate Agreement

Heat waves are causing more deaths in U.S. cities than all other disasters combined. More than 20 fires are burning just in California right now, including the destructive Carr Fire in Shasta County which has killed six people and destroyed 1,500 structures — and the traditional fire season hasn’t started yet.

Among all the climate-related disasters that are confronting cities, heat waves are the deadliest. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extreme heat now causes more deaths in U.S. cities than all other weather events combined. Longer, more frequent heat waves — like the one affecting most of the nation — are expected in the future, meaning summer’s death toll will rise.”

Many cities in the Northern Hemisphere have already seen high death tolls due to heat this year.

  • Japan recorded an all-time high of 106 as a total of 96 people were killed across the country. In
  • South Korea 29 people died during a two-week stretch of 95-degree days.
  • Europe was struck by two separate deadly heat waves this summer, and Portugal’s weather agency said eight places in the center, south and east of the country experienced record-breaking local temperatures as the Iberian Peninsula bears the brunt of a heat wave across the European continent.
  • Germany has also been hit by hot weather, with fires also breaking out in the national park of Saxon Switzerland in the eastern state of Saxony. The drought is so bad in Northern Germany that a kindergarten burned down in the far north after firefighters couldn’t get enough water.

In the U.S. Intended Nationally Determined Contribution ( INDC) to the Paris Climate Agreement (Submitted March 31, 2015) the United States declared it’s intention to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.

However, approximately 85% of U.S. emissions by sector are tied to energy. One third of U.S. CO2 emissions are created in the generation of electricity. Clearly then to achieve it’s “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” the U.S. must reduce the amount of fossil fuels used in the generation of electricity.

The U.S. Clean Power Plan has two steps to enable Power Sector reductions:

Step 1: US government [EPA] sets national technology-specific standards and provides additional options for state- level standards for power sector — both emission per kwh ( rate-based) and total emissions ( mass-based)

Step 2: Each state formulates its own plan to meet its prescribed goal

  • States can choose to comply on a rate basis or on a mass basis
  • States can choose to go it alone, use emissions/credit trading or cooperate
  • If State does not act, US EPA imposes “Federal plan”

According to five electric power grid experts the Clean Power Plan “harnesses the unique interconnectedness” of the U.S. power grids that helps reduce carbon emissions. Grid operators routinely shift between different power plants — coal-fired plants for when demand for electricity is low, and natural gas-fired power plants for when demand is high. The plan will lead to more reliance on natural gas power plants and renewables while promoting energy efficiency without leading to blackouts when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

Under the Plan the EPA was to regulate power plant emissions with each state having its own emissions reductions goal. However, with the fervent support of the coal industry and some utilities, 24 states including Texas, Alabama, New Jersey, West Virginia and Wyoming, have sued the EPA. They are asking the courts to declare the plan unconstitutional partly because they say the federal government does not have the authority to regulate a state’s carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The best way to achieve Clean Power objectives is to replace fossil fuels with sources of renewable energy. A renewable portfolio standard (RPS) is a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal.

— 29 states + DC have a Renewable Portfolio Standard or Alternative Energy Standard.

— 8 states have a Renewable or Alternative Energy Goal.

— 12 states, like Georgia where my family lives, have decided to abdicate their responsibility to protect their citizens from the life threatening harms of climate change and have not adopted any Renewable Portfolio Standard or Alternative. Those states are colored gray in the following map.

Donald Trump and former EPA Administrator Pruitt along with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry deny the consensus among climate scientists that carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are the primary cause of global warming. They plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan and presumably take comments on how the EPA should meet its obligation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA is required to regulate carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases following a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the gases qualify as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The EPA found in 2009 that the gases pose a threat to public health.

According to Columbia University professor Steven Cohen “There’s good reason for fossil fuel folks to be nervous. Time is not on their side.

People know that they need fossil fuels but most of us wish we had alternatives to “earth-damaging” sources of energy. The market for alternatives is there and it will displace fossil fuels as (not if) renewable energy technology becomes cheaper and more convenient.”

There are no good reasons for the U.S. not to participate with other nations in the Paris Climate Accord but there are many for it to participate, not the least of which is the fact that deaths, caused by extreme heat, have no territorial boundaries.

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Notes:

1 https://www.curbed.com/2018/7/6/17539904/heat-wave-extreme-heat-cities-deadly
2 http://www.climatecentral.org/news/the-suit-against-the-clean-power-plan-explained-20234
3 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/09/trump-epa-will-start-rolling-back-clean-power-plan-on-tuesday.html
4 https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-renewable-energy-will-replace-fossil-fuels_us_596cad4de4b022bb9372b313

5 Alissa J. Rubin “Scorching Summer in Europe Signals Long-Term Climate Changes”, New York Times ug. 4, 2018 ( https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/04/world/europe/europe-heat-wave.html#click=https://t.co/fp5Aq7sHSi )

Originally published at neutec.wordpress.com on August 4, 2018.

Husband for 49 years. Dad forever! Very lucky man.