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PennFuture's Climate for Change :: Climate news from around the state, country and world

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Garden for climate: Fighting climate change in your own back yard

For anyone paying attention to the California drought, you've noticed that climate change has altered the way that Californians garden. For example, homeowners now replace grass with drought-tolerant plants to reduce the frequency with which they water their gardens.

However, thinking critically about gardening in a changing climate is not limited to west coast gardeners. From unpredictable growing seasons to the spread of invasive species and pests, gardeners nationwide are experiencing the effects of climate change.

Gardeners are on the front lines of climate change and they’re taking action this May as part of the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) “Garden for Wildlife” month. As NWF’s state affiliate, we’re happy to share the following smart and simple gardening tips to help you fight climate change and protect wildlife in your own backyard:

  • Plant trees to absorb C02
  • Replace invasive plants with native species
  • Reduce water consumption in your garden 
  • Increase household energy efficiency and reduce use of gasoline-powered tools
  • Compost kitchen and garden waste
  • Recognize your yard as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation

If you’re a resident of central Pennsylvania, there's a terrific event on the horizon that will bring these tips to life. On May 30, Ed Perry of the National Wildlife Federation is hosting an event titled, “Climate Solutions: Action to Reduce Energy Consumption and Help Pollinators and Wildlife.” Participants will learn how to make their homes more energy efficient and how to provide habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Following a presentation by a great slate of speakers, local homeowners will open their homes and gardens to participants to see these solutions in action!

What’s another tool for curbing carbon pollution and protecting wildlife and habitat? Urge Congress to protect gardens, communities, and wildlife by supporting the EPA Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Contact me at PennFuture to learn how you can get involved.

Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Pope provides welcome help on winning the climate battle

My post last week highlighted the role that the arts can play in winning the hearts and minds of those who resist accepting the science of climate change, for whatever reason.

So, let's look this week at another non-traditional voice helping to move the nation and the world forward: Pope Francis. His Holiness will this summer release an encyclical on climate change and environmental degradation. The encyclical will make the link between climate change and poverty, thus making the case that believers have a moral responsibility to act on climate.

The Pope, of course, is one of the most influential humans on the globe. And this has some conservatives in this country worried, according to the New York Times: The Heartland Institute says the pontiff is being "misled" by scientists. (Heartland lacks not for chutzpah.)

Pope Francis is getting much attention in Philadelphia these days thanks to his upcoming visit in September to host the World Meeting of Families in the city. While in the country, the pontiff will also meet with President Obama in Washington, and the President has already indicated that climate change is on the agenda.

The U.S. population is about 22 percent Catholic, and 29 percent of Pennsylvanians are Catholic. A significant number of Pennsylvania's members of Congress and the state legislature self-identify as Catholic. We're delighted that Catholic members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation such as Senator Bob Casey and Rep. Mike Doyle are committed to action on climate. But I also wonder if this means that Senator Toomey and Rep. Tom Marino will heed the call of their spiritual and moral leader and commit to addressing climate change.

Let's hope (and dare I say pray?) that Pope Francis, like his eponym, St. Francis of Assisi, will use his moral authority to move our leaders to finally get serious about acting on climate.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy manager and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @joybergey.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Climate change and the Chesapeake, through the eyes of an artist

My blog posts often contain facts and graphics from just-released reports that show the hard science warning of the threats of climate change. This week, I try something different: letting art tell the heart-breaking story of climate change.

A dear friend recently sent me a link to an award-winning art video, "The Ballad of Holland Island House" by artist Lynn Tomlinson. It's a poignant, beautifully artistic (and oh so sad) piece about the impact of rising sea levels on the Chesapeake Bay. It's told through folk songs and animated paintings from the point of view of a house on an island in the Bay -- a house that stands no more on an island sunken by the Bay's rising waters.

Tomlinson, a multimedia artist, describes making the video using a "clay-painting technique." She explains that she wanted the piece of art to show her concern for climate change-induced rising sea levels that have already taken their toll on the islands in the Chesapeake Bay.

The artist tells the story of an oak tree that became the boards that a fisherman used to build his house on Holland Island. He lived there with his family for years until the ever-rising tides forced the abandonment of all the houses on the island.

The story is true -- the house did indeed collapse into the Bay in 2010. Read the fascinating story, including recent attempts to save the house, in the Washington Post.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director. She is based in Philadelphia and tweets @joybergey .

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

More good news from President Obama on climate

As we've been reporting, President Obama took a big step forward toward shrinking our national carbon footprint in November when he committed to China that we will cut our global warming pollution by up to 28 percent (compared to 2005) by 2025.

And now, on March 31, more good news from the White House:  The Administration made the November agreement more formal by submitting the terms to the United Nations. Major emitting countries were required to formally submit their plans in March, indicating how they intend to meet reductions that we hope will be formally negotiated and agreed upon in Paris in December at the next international climate conference.

Again, we urge Congress to act and put a price on carbon pollution—we know that's the best solution. But until that happy day occurs, we continue to praise President Obama for taking strong executive actions, showing the world that the White House means business, even as Congress fiddles.

Read what Politico had to say about the announcement.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director, based in Philadelphia. She tweets @joybergey.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Encouraging news on climate action by the President

President Obama put smiles on the faces of climate activists across the country last week when he announced his executive order to limit global warming emissions from the federal government.

The President announced on March 19 that the federal government must cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 40 percent over the next decade from 2008 levels. Here's why this is significant: The federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the nation. The federal portfolio of 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and $445 billion spent annually on goods and services provides abundant opportunities for energy conservation and efficiency.

The feds will avoid emitting 26 million metric tons of GHGs—the equivalent of taking 5.5 million cars off the road.

For those of us extremely concerned about climate change, this in itself is great news. But for those somehow less concerned about the problem, an important co-benefit of this action is that it will save taxpayers up to $18 billion in avoided energy costs. 

PennFuture sees this important action by the President as the latest indicator that he views climate change as a legacy issue. He announced his Clean Power Plan last June, and then his important agreement with the Chinese in November in which both the U.S. and China will significantly reduce emissions in the next ten to fifteen years.

The President's executive order last week is just his latest important step in the right direction.

Now, if Congress would just do the right thing and legislate a price on carbon, we could all rest a bit easier.

Until then, hail to the chief for his leadership.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director, based in Philadelphia. She tweets @joybergey .

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A robust effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania

Recognizing the opportunities that a new governor in Pennsylvania can embark upon, PennFuture staff analyzed and evaluated potential environmental, conservation and energy policy actions that Gov. Tom Wolf can take or initiate, most within the first 100 days of his administration. We've called it A Fresh Start for Pennsylvania: 26 steps that Governor Wolf can take to improve Pennsylvania's environment and economy.

The 26 policy recommendations variously address stormwater management, well constructions standards, and green building standards, among other issues. This post is a synopsis of our recommendation to reduce carbon pollution.

Make robust efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions


Governor Wolf should make climate change a priority for not only the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), but for the entire administration. This vital work needs to be bolstered and elevated in profile. The Wolf administration should immediately commence its climate planning and greenhouse gas reduction efforts in conjunction with the forthcoming requirements of the Pennsylvania Climate Change Act and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan.

A robust state climate policy will make our economy more energy efficient, saving our citizens money. Reducing carbon pollution also reduces smog, ozone, and other traditional air pollutants.

Recent modeling from our grid operator PJM has shown that a multi-state approach to reducing carbon pollution can be as much as 30 percent less expensive than a state specific plan. For this reason, the administration should investigate joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or a similar organization. This would not only simplify compliance with federal requirements, it would also bring money into the state that could support additional programs to reduce carbon pollution.

Because increases in energy efficiency will return money directly to consumers while lowering carbon pollution, Pennsylvania should focus on achievable efficiency measures. This could include building on the success of existing efficiency programs such as Pennsylvania’s Act 129, bringing our building codes up to current standards and promoting energy efficiency financing programs such as Energy Savings Performance Contracting (ESPC), Keystone HELP, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), and on-bill finance programs.

In addition to efficiency, Pennsylvania could do more to encourage renewable energy. While Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) program made the state an early leader, nearby states have since set higher targets for clean and renewable energy. By renewing its leadership in this field, Pennsylvania would create more jobs, lower energy prices, and reduce not just carbon pollution but protect public health by reducing air toxics, water pollution, and waste.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director. She is based in Philadelphia and tweets @joybergey.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

KXL: A bad day for tar sands means a good day for climate sanity

He did it. He said he would and, to our great relief, he did. That is to say that last evening, President Obama vetoed the bill that Congress sent to him which would have greenlighted the development of the Keystone XL pipeline. (Read the Washington Post coverage.)

I'm feeling both great relief and a sense of celebration. Extraction and processing of Canada's tar sands, and then shipping them through a highly risky pipeline through the heart of the U.S. mainland only for all of the resulting fuels to be sent overseas, has been called "the dumbest energy idea ever." I agree.

Why would this country take all the environmental risks for so few jobs (35 permanent jobs) and no new energy sources for domestic consumption (don't believe those who say otherwise)?

Huge thanks to the President for seeing sense and vetoing this bill -- as he had been promising to do.
  Lena Moffitt and NWFers gathered at the White House to thank
 Pres. Obama just hours after he vetoed the bill.

A big shoutout to my good friend and colleague, Lena Moffitt, who is federal policy manager for National Wildlife Federation's Climate and Energy Program, and has led on this issue for years.  (PennFuture is proud to be NWF's Pennsylvania affiliate). When I heard news of the veto from Lena yesterday afternoon and asked her reaction, she said with a big smile, "The President's building a climate legacy, and there's no room for KXL in it!"

I was late waking up to the threats of this ridiculous pipeline proposal; it wasn't until about three years ago that, thanks to savvy, insightful folks like Lena who were way ahead of me, I learned just how daft this pipeline idea is. Thank you, @LenaMDC, for opening my eyes. (Read the guest blog post that Lena wrote for us back in December, in which she exposes the flaws in the economic arguments in support of the pipeline.)

We can't relax just yet -- the President will still need to reject one more permit request.  We're certainly hopeful that President Obama will stick to his guns and kill this pipeline for good.

Joy Bergey is PennFuture's federal policy director, based in Philadelphia. She tweets @joybergey.