Climate Actions and Options

In 2015 twenty-one youths filed a lawsuit, Juliana v. U.S., in Oregon’s U.S. District Court.  They were seeking protection from the ravages of a destabilized climate.  They asserted, in part, that “through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.”

Since then our federal administration has been seeking to delay and derail the litigation, but last July the Supreme Court ruled that it should go forward.  The trial date was set for October 29.

It is a lawsuit none of us would wish on our children.  We would like our youth to grow up in a world rich with opportunity, a world that could be counted on—fisheries should be teeming, farms should have plenty of water, forests should offer abundant adventure, wildlife, and timber, too.  But unfortunately that is a declining reality.  Our news is of stressed resources, drought, increasing heat, fires and smoke; of hurricanes dumping more water, and now waving toward the shores of San Diego; of the uneasy specter of disappearing businesses and declining home values as oceans rise and smoke blankets farms and cities.  It is easy to sound apocalyptic on this, and therefor ridiculous.  But climate is everywhere, so when it destabilizes, its effects are everywhere.

Juliana v. U.S. is not a lawsuit we would wish on our nation, either.  We would like, first of all, for climate change simply not to be real.  So while we trust doctors for medicine, financial advisors for investments, and engineers for designing bridges and airplanes, we have denied the expertise of climate scientists, perhaps turning the channel at the news and sometimes even discounting our own experiences.  Climate instability is just too vast, too unusual, and too unsettling to accept.

But even when we get past the wishful thinking, the lawsuit is still not something we would want for our country.  We would hope to be a nation in which a lawsuit from our children were not necessary for us to act responsibly.  But the suit contends, essentially, that as a nation we have not, and in that failure we are denying the Blessings of Liberty to our Posterity.

Regardless of how the lawsuit is resolved, as a representative democracy we choose our government actions.

Locally we’ve made some progress.  Following state regulation, the City of Redding through REU currently provides 27.5% renewable energy, and is exploring scenarios that can more than double its renewable sources by 2030.  Other readily available positive steps could be a strong Tree Ordinance that would support carbon removal and provide cooling shade, cutting both energy costs and emissions that increase fire-prone conditions.  Following the Carr Fire, the city could support energy efficient reconstruction; zero energy offices and homes are possible in our climate.  The new City Council has substantial opportunities to act for our common benefit.

At the county level, we seem stalled.  The issue was absent from Board of Supervisor campaigns, and Shasta County has yet to adopt the Climate Action Plan it drafted six years ago.  The Board could revisit that Plan; a robust form of it could both streamline CEQA requirements and do our part to shrink climate change emissions.

At the federal level, we’re going from bad to worse.  Our government is not only reducing support for clean energy that could cut our contribution to climate change, but is actively taking steps to increase fossil fuel use, effectively raising our climate change input.  Congressman  LaMalfa continues to downplay climate change and vote as if it weren’t real.  Instead, we could promote clean energy by charging energy developers for carbon waste their products create and rebating those fees to the public who suffer from their waste through increased storms, drought, and fire.

In Oregon, the children’s lawsuit may or may not rattle US policies.  Indeed, it may not even go to trial.  In the last month the Administration has again delayed the trial’s start with appeals to the reconstituted Supreme Court and now through the Ninth Circuit Court.

But whatever we as a people do or don’t do, we are suffering from climate change, and our children will suffer worse.  We cannot at this point avert the damage entirely.  But we can keep from adding to the losses.  As individuals, as businesses, and importantly through our newly elected officials we can take meaningful steps to minimize climate change and bestow on our children as best we can the blessings that liberty ought to offer.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    Who is Dan Greany and why isn’t he a Councilman or Senator or President?

  2. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    Dan Greany truly states locally is where changes are to be made. The federal government sets minimum standards and the states add their own. California has set automobile emission standards for sixty years that the other states and countries follow when building cars. California has led the way seeking renewable energy that other states follow. Is California going to lower their emission standards? No. Neither is Colorado or even Arizona. District 1 has representatives who do not follow the path other states, including red ones, are following. Even Wyoming is leaving coal behind while pursuing wind. Blaming the feds for climate change denial when your own representative are in denial is the pot calling the pan black.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      Generally, a federal law trumps a state law if the two laws are in conflict. California is allowed to set its own more stringent emission standards based on the granting of a waiver by US EPA. Primarily out of spite, Trump is currently trying to revoke our waiver, which has been in effect for almost 50 years. It’s headed to federal court. Thirteen other states that set their own emission standards are backing California.

      As for the clear language of the federal law itself, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to prove that the state has no need for a waiver, rather than requiring the state to prove that it needs one. That’s been upheld a couple of times in federal court.

      But regardless, so much for the conservative ethos of states’ rights coming first, huh?

  3. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    Dan Greany is our local John Muir. Not only is he one who can see ‘out of the box’ but one who has a simple statement that we all should listen to; it’s not too difficult to believe what is going on around us from month to month, climate wise. Does anyone remember the four seasons ? Why is my lavender blooming in December instead of June ? These are examples of what main stream scientists have been telling us for many years. Reduce the carbon footprint and we as neighborhood folk can be comfortable that our children’s future will be livable.

  4. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    I’ll vote for him!!!

  5. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    And I’ll spell his name correctly for now on: Greaney. Sorry for that faux pas, Mr. Greaney.

    • Avatar Dan Greaney says:

      Thanks – for all the kind and informative comments.
      This week Rep. LaMalfa wrote me that the 50 member bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC) in Congress had not produced any substantive bill. Also this week, the Caucus did. HR 7173 offers a carbon tax the proceeds of which would be refunded to the public. The bill sets a taxation schedule that increases over time and would reduce U.S. CO2 emissions below 2017 levels by 35% in a decade. The bill also adjusts import and export fees to keep American products competitive.
      Mr. LaMalfa opposes such structures. He insists he wants balanced laws, but his sense of balance prioritizes short-term profits over long-term prosperity. I hope our city and county officials will do better.

  6. Avatar Tim says:

    We need independent critical thinking and measured intervention far more than rapid implementation of unchecked policies at the behest of “experts.”

    75 years ago Fred Schwed’s “Where are the Customer’s Yachts?” lampooned the negative effect of financial advisors on their clients’ net worths. That industry has not improved any in the intervening years. And the medical industry has caused US life expectancy to once again drop. The leading causes are medical mistakes and the opioid epidemic (an epidemic stemming from experts assuring us this new generation of opioid was not addictive). Doctors’ negative effect on human life becomes even more pronounced when you realize that approximately 20% of your wage goes to the health care industry. Essentially you work for your doctor every Monday – wouldn’t society be better off if it had a lifetime of Mondays back instead?

    The problem with experts is that while they are generally right, too often they are specifically wrong. Things might be better if every doctor pondered “is the diagnostic value worth 4 months of my patient’s life?” before ordering a $15,000 MRI.

    Climate scientists suffer from the same self-assured affliction. Report after report documents how many lives will be lost due to global warming and yet few document how many lives will be saved (e.g. a longer growing season in a more carbon-rich atmosphere will greatly improve farm yields, feeding more people cheaply which will reduce famine & illness). A report promoting only one side of the equation isn’t science, it is sophistry. Or as Fred Schwed noted, “One can’t say that figures lie. But figures … seem to have the bad habit of expressing a small part of the truth forcibly, and neglecting the other part…”

    We all generally agree that mankind has some effect on the climate, but the prescriptions have been, uh, problematic. Remember nuclear power? I hear Hanford should be mostly abated by 2046… How about MTBE? This wonder compound was going to save us from the ravages of leaded gasoline, yet it wound up causing even more harm to the environment…

    So what is the expert telling us now? That we need to rapidly implement more GHG reductions in California and especially in Shasta County.

    Hmm, let’s think about this for a minute. California has among the lowest GHG emissions of any developed country/state. And Shasta County is actually carbon negative (our forests sequester far more carbon than we emit). So this new prescription calls for strengthening one of the strongest links in the chain? That doesn’t make much sense. Won’t these costly initiatives will cause businesses to continue fleeing California to places with lax environmental regulations like Texas or China? And won’t that be worse for the environment than if they had stayed in California?

    Environmental regulations cause many unintended consequences. Take the renewable energy mandate forced on PG&E. It was extremely costly, which forced PG&E to raise rates, which caused consumers to cut back on their energy consumption. Sounds good right? But the cycle resulted in less money for PG&E to maintain the grid, so bad things start happening (like sagging power lines occuring at the same places where trees are less frequently pruned). So the rapid push for “clean” energy was a major contributing cause of many of our wildfires!

    Let’s not rush into the fire from the frying pan…

  7. Avatar Dan Greaney says:

    Please note: GHG emissions come from every county and state individually, not from any chain-linkage among them; the analogy is misleading. Also, our forests do not sequester more than we emit when they burn. As Secretary Zinke just noted, CA fires emitted as much CO2 this year as came from the state’s entire electricity production.
    But to your point, yes, prudence is merited. But the GHG phenomenon has been known for 160 years, and studied extensively in recent decades. The fires are here. The storms are rising. Inaction is not prudent.

    • Avatar Tim says:

      NIMBYism absolutely shifts American GHG production/emission into China, India, Saudi Arabia, etc. Nothing occurs in a vacuum these days (the untouchables aren’t the ones buying new iPhones every year or two).

      And you’re in for a long wait if you expect a rice farmer to champion GHG reform (rice production is one of the leading causes of GHG emissions in California).

  8. Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

    The American Lung Association puts out a yearly list of dirtiest and cleanest air cities in the nation. Look it up. Every year California places 7 or 8 cities on the top ten dirtiest air cities. The top ten cleanest air cities every year are Cheyenne and Casper, Wyoming and Prescott, Arizona. Also on the top ten cleanest air cities every year, maybe not this year, is Redding, California.

  9. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    May I play devil’s advocate on this issue? I fully believe – and it’s been stated here on ANC a time or two – that until overpopulation is addressed, none of these measures will solve our GHG issue. China tried limiting families to one child, and it was fairly successful. The downside was that abortions of female fetuses were up because parents wanted male heirs. But with our current POTUS and the geniuses he has appointed to SCOTUS, abortion may again be illegal. Not to say that terminating pregnancy by abortion is a a good method of birth control, but it does give a woman a choice in the case of an unwanted pregnancy for whatever reason. Education is apparently the only answer, but it certainly hasn’t been effective so far. Until there is population control in places like India and until there is a Pope with a brain, I fear we’ll continue the downward spiral of upward population. I was aghast when people were celebrating when the U.S. population hit 300 million.

    • Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

      What she said.

      Environmental degradation is ultimately driven by population growth, which is occurring at an unsustainable rate worldwide. When it eventually causes the BIG CRASH, it’s going to be ugly. Most of us won’t be alive to see it, but my grandkids likely will be. It’s coming.

      This is where I part company with many liberals. Sorry, but I’m not down with unfettered immigration of people from places with pro-natalist cultures. I’ve seen enough population growth and sprawl in the United States in my lifetime. I hate it—AARGGH, I HATE IT!—that this puts me somewhat in league with racist @$$holes who are concerned that Hispanic and African-Americans are out-reproducing white Americans. But their solution—white women should have more children—makes me want to march all the NAZIs into the Pacific.

      When you look at fertility rates by country, it’s clear that world population growth is pushed by poverty, lack of education, and religious fundamentalism (Niger, Afghanistan, Guatemala). Developed countries, including the United States and all of Europe, have birth rates that are below the replacement rates for the countries, excluding immigration. Birth rates also drop below replacement rates where “shitty life syndrome” occurs—where everyday life is so bad that nobody wants to have kids (El Salvador, Ukraine).

      • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

        Thank you, Steve. I figured I’d be a lone voice on the subject.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        The most famous example of opposition to immigration into America came, and almost caused a split, from the Sierra Club. I wouldn’t call them racist @$$ssholes.
        As far as Hispanic immigration I see that everyday here in Phoenix. English is a second language down here and I expect someone to walk up to me and tell me to speak Spanish or go back to Wyoming.

  10. Avatar Judy says:

    Gaia may be a concept of some grace here. The ZPG argument was thoroughly debated in the late 1960s with the understanding that technology was many times worse than simple population growth as 5% of the world’s population in North America produces a huge proportion of the CO2. Meantime, China is quickly catching up along with India and others who seek to copy our standard of living without any EPA, CWA, Air Resources Control Board and so forth. Frankly, the storms, fires, floods and even earthquakes in areas like Daly City where building has occurred on one of Earth’s busiest faults simply means we are harvesting the planting our species has been cultivating for a long time. The will to change course is not present. Blame others if you wish. Looking in the mirror next time you turn the ignition in your car might be more productive. And please don’t say electric cars are the way forward until the grid is 100% renewable worldwide. In any event, prepare your children for more Paradise.
    Randall R. Smith

  11. Avatar Judy says:

    Further folly or food for thought is contained here. In 1900, Contra Costa County shipped more wheat than the Port of Chicago in Illinois. Give some thought as to why the Bay Area Port of Chicago was so named. We traded that successful dry land farming for rice to show how brilliant we were for building Shasta Dam. No one speaks about the high value protein that was sacrificed. There were once twenty two very productive salmon canneries between Sacramento and Red Bluff. The estimated annual value of this output was $100M in Depression Era dollars. “You reap what you sow.” never had more fertile ground than California!
    Randall R. Smith

    • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

      Yep, we should be living in foothills and mountains and leave the Big Valley for agriculture. Instead, each time I drive to the Central Coast from Fall River, I see more and more subdivisions (ticky-tacky) being constructed, replacing valuable farming real estate. As the song says, “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?” Not in our lifetime, apparently. Fire in California seems to be the great leveler.

  12. Douglas Craig Douglas Craig says:

    Dan is correct. Our reliance on fossil fuels is heating up the planet which means our children, grandchildren and future generations will pay a hefty price for treating our atmosphere like an open sewer. Every day each of us produces a 10 by 10 by 10-foot cube of CO2 that floats up into the atmosphere, most of which will remain for centuries where it thickens the blanket of heat-trapping gases in the troposphere. Scientists have warned us for decades that this was coming. As Dan states, it is tragic that a group of children are forced to file a lawsuit merely because they want to grow up and raise their children on the same healthy planet that we’ve enjoyed. At the moment, CO2 levels are at 406 parts per million, higher than its been for the last 3 million years. Each year, we add almost 40 billion tons of extra CO2. This is a catastrophe. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterras said today, “It is hard to overstate the urgency of our situation. Even as we witness devastating climate impacts causing havoc across the world, we are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption.” Scientists tell us that we only have until 2030 — only 12 years from now — to cut our emissions in half if we have any hope of preventing catastrophic consequences to the human experiment. And yet our emissions are rising, not falling. Meanwhile, the five years between 2014 and 2018 have been the five hottest years in the history of recorded temperatures. Every decade since the 1970s has been hotter than the decade that came before it. Here in the north state, we can expect hotter temperatures, loss of snowpack, declining groundwater, increasing droughts and increasing wildfires. And how long can the insurance industry survive in the face of worsening wildfires and hurricanes? Thanks to the Camp Fire, an insurance company was forced to declare bankruptcy. We are not prepared for the world we are creating. Even if we completely quit emitting greenhouse gases today, the climate would continue to warm for decades and it is too late to stop the glaciers from melting. We have ensured steadily rising seas for thousands of years. Scientists are predicting sea level rise of several feet by 2100 if we continue on our current track. And imagine how the nations of the world will cope when coastal communities must be abandoned. How will we pay for that? We are talking of trillions of dollars of lost real estate literally under water. Some people forget that a healthy economy depends on a healthy ecology, not the other way around. The Fourth National Climate Assessment warned of devastating climate impacts that are likely to cost “hundreds of billions of dollars” to our economy. The report stated, “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization primarily as a result of human activities.”Agricultural yields are expected to decline markedly as temperatures rise, soils erode and droughts worsen. And trees across the planet are dying as the planet warms. “Half of the area burned by wildfires over the last 30 years across the West can be attributed to climate change.” We cannot destroy the ecosystems of the planet and expect that human civilization will survive. On the other hand, quickly converting to renewable fuels gives us all of us a fighting chance. The natural historian, Sir David Attenborough said yesterday, “Right now we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” Every major scientific organization on the planet has issued dire warnings. We must drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Meanwhile our president and congressman deny all this. And we continue to provide massive subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industries while barely supporting renewable energy. One of the solutions is carbon fee and dividend (Google Citizens Climate Lobby). All fees collected from the polluting industries will be returned to Americans in a monthly green check. We can solve the climate crisis but not by sticking our heads in the sand or electing science-denying politicians. It is not too late but time is running out. Thanks Dan for writing this and starting this important conversation!

  13. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I agree with Beverly on her ideas about overpopulation. It is the reason that farm land is giving way to housing and that there is more competition for resources in the world. Everyone was aware of the potential harm from unrestrained procreation back in the 70s, but the topic is taboo today. The problem with this really big problems, and this is one that affects every aspect of our life, is that we will be 20 or 40 years too late in addressing it when we do. A woman my age I really love had 8 children and now has over 20 grandchildren. Another homeless woman I know just had her third baby taken away and she’s young enough to have a few more children! I appreciate Steve sharing his knowledge about this issue and I reluctantly agree that there will be a “big crash”. Our resources are finite.