Categories
Environment

Don’t Pass the Climate Buck to the Next Generation

Finn Harries and All Gore at the Climate Reality Project leadership training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 7, 2015. Photo Credit: Finn Harries Twitter account.

In 2015, Finn Harries sat at our table during former vice president Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation in Cedar Rapids. I didn’t know his history as a YouTuber with his identical twin brother Jack. I was assigned as his mentor during the training yet Finn didn’t need a mentor to work on the climate crisis.

Friday, Nov. 26, Finn Harries made this statement on Instagram after attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland:

One of the responses I often hear from older people when I talk about the work I do is “your generation gives me hope”… but this is the wrong way to think about how we go about tackling the climate crisis. In effect, this is the same strategy that has got us so deep into this mess… just passing the problem down to the next generation. What’s different this time is that we don’t have enough time to wait for our generation to be in institutional seats of power… we don’t have any time at all. So we’re flipping it around. We’re passing the problem back, up to those who can actually instigate change. Our role as young activists is to hold people in positions of power to account. To make sure they do what they’ve said they will do. In this way, we all have a critical role to play.

Finn Harries Instagram Account Nov. 26, 2021.

Harries is right. It will take all of us to make a difference during the climate crisis. In the U.S. we are not doing enough to hold people in positions of power to account.

According to a recent Washington Post – ABC News poll, “A clear majority of adults say that warming is a serious problem, but the share — 67 percent — is about the same as it was seven years ago, when alarms raised by climate scientists were less pronounced than they are now.” What will move the public opinion needle and lead to effective climate action?

In Iowa, the effects of climate change are clear. I outlined some of them in a letter to my federal elected officials. What are the two Carbon Capture and Sequestration pipelines to transport liquefied CO2 from Iowa to North Dakota and Illinois but a response to the need to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere? Our political leaders don’t even acknowledge the climate crisis while supporting CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

We do have a critical role to play to prevent the worst effects of global warming. Implementing a solution will require us all.

Here is the YouTube video Finn’s brother Jack Harries made for the Conference of the Parties 26 in Glasgow, Scotland. It features an interview with former president Barack Obama. Young people like the Harries twins are not buying much malarkey. We, as a society, need to act.

Categories
Environment

Here Comes Carbon Capture Technology

Contains 10 Percent Ethanol

Let’s be clear about Carbon Capture and Sequestration: it is an unproven technology to enable fossil fuel use when society should be turning away and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Among the problems with the technology is our government supports it to the tune of $8.5 billion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recently signed into law by President Joe Biden. There is more money for CCS in the Build Back Better Act as currently written. Why would our government do that?

The answer is a familiar one. Oil, gas and coal interests have too much invested to let go of their extraction and distribution operations. During negotiations between the White House and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, support for CCS was included in both bills. Manchin’s vote was needed to pass the legislation.

In addition to funding CCS technology, the Biden administration appointed a prominent supporter of it, Brad Crabtree, a coal ally and longtime carbon capture advocate, to serve as the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. While negotiations over the infrastructure bills were private, Manchin is said to have had a hand in Crabtree’s nomination. Oil, gas and coal advocates let loose a loud cheer of approval upon the announcement.

The question is whether substantial government investment in CCS via the infrastructure bills was a poison pill for environmentalists. Only a few people are asking that question here in Iowa, and fewer still knew what was in the bills. Inclusion of CCS was apparently not too toxic for environmental hawks in the U.S. Congress as it was accepted as part of the sausage-making process of creating legislation.

The partisan lines are clearly drawn. The Republican view of climate action is “with innovative technologies, fossil fuels can and should be a major part of the global solution.” Most Democrats “support increased domestic renewable energy development, including wind and solar power farms, in an effort to reduce carbon pollution. The party’s platform calls for an ‘all of the above’ energy policy including clean energy, natural gas, and domestic oil, while wanting to become energy independent.” It’s no wonder CCS made it into the first infrastructure law, and will into the second if it is passed by the Congress.

The Iowa governor’s task force on carbon sequestration quickly led to Iowa going all-in on the technology, with two proposed Iowa projects. The Iowa Sierra Club opposes them.

We want real climate solutions – not greenwashing schemes!

Iowa has two new pipeline proposals. Both are centered around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The lines would carry captured carbon from ethanol plants. CCS is very complicated but when you boil it down, the basic premise is that it captures the carbon and stores it underground (CCS) or it captures the carbon and uses it for industrial purposes. Both Summit and Navigator pipelines claim that they are going to permanently store the CO2 underground, but we have strong evidence that Summit will use the CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). EOR is the process of pumping CO2 into dwindling oil fields to get the last bit of oil out of the ground. The two pipelines in Iowa are being offered as false climate solutions, especially if they will be utilized for enhanced oil recovery and extending the life of coal-fired power plants and the ethanol industry.

We already know the solutions to our climate crisis – we must end our dependence on fossil fuels and invest in solar, wind, battery storage, conservation and efficiency!

Sierra Club website.

Click on this link to learn more about actions you can take to oppose the Iowa CCS projects. Click here to sign the Sierra Club petition on CCS.

Categories
Sustainability

What Will It Take on Climate Change?

Earthrise, Dec. 24, 1968

The 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland seemed like a dud. My friend Rob Hogg corrected me on Twitter, posting:

So there were some positive developments. I’m reminded that zero countries is the number living up to their 2015 commitments to reduce greenhouse gases at COP 21 in Paris, France. It is difficult to let go the negativity when it comes to our collective lack of action on climate change.

On a video call a friend asked if we had installed solar panels to generate electricity for our home. I know our financial condition well enough to say it is unlikely we will because of the up front capital expense. We are doing okay financially yet know our limits.

“When it comes to climate change, we can’t afford to go backward—or even stay where we are,” former president Barack Obama said. “If we are going to act on the scale that’s required to combat this climate crisis, we all need to step up and meet this moment together.”

What does “together” mean? It means governments and a select group of non-governmental organizations and rich people that have the means to address climate change at scale. Behind Obama’s statement is the assumption we live in a democracy. Increasingly, we don’t, as floods of dark money buy our government, including the court system. An individual’s local actions matter, yet they are not enough, especially if one is the only person on the block generating electricity from solar panels.

Former Vice President Al Gore weighed in on COP 26:

Statement from Former US Vice President Al Gore on the Outcome of COP 26

“The Glasgow Climate Pact and the pledges made at COP 26 move the global community forward in our urgent work to address the climate crisis and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, but we know this progress, while meaningful, is not enough. We must move faster to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner and more equitable future for our planet.

The progress achieved in the lead-up to and at COP 26 was only possible because of the power of people – young and old – using their voices to demand action.

Thanks to that advocacy, for the first time in 26 negotiations, leaders at COP 26 agreed to language that calls for a phase down of coal power and fossil fuel subsidies – a critically important step forward. Even more important, the deal significantly accelerates the timeline for nations to revisit and strengthen their net zero goals, calling for updates from every nation by the end of next year and a global convening by the UN Secretary General in 2023 to focus on more ambitious goals for cutting emissions dramatically by 2030. But despite that progress, there is much more that must be done – especially to deliver meaningful climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation to developing nations.

Ultimately, the outcome of COP 26 shows us that it has never been more important to hold our leaders accountable to their words and pledges. Advocates for climate action cannot – and must not – let up.

Six years ago, the Paris Agreement set a clear direction of travel that is moving the world away from greenhouse gas pollution and toward a sustainable future. The deal reached at COP 26 reflects the progress we’ve made in the intervening years and shows that the global community of nations is now in agreement that the era of inaction on the climate crisis must come to a swift end.”

Now is the time for government leaders, policymakers, business leaders, consumers, and activists in every nation to redouble their efforts and use the Glasgow Climate Pact as a springboard from which to drive bold action that will keep the goals of the Paris Agreement alive.”

Al Gore, Nov. 13, 2021, The Climate Reality Project.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of the climate change problem. It is a problem, although against all reasonable efforts to educate, even that is in question for many people.

I wrote to my federal elected officials about how climate change impacted my life. I heard back from Rep. Miller-Meeks and Senator Grassley and am assessing their responses. I’m using my voice to raise the issue with my federal elected officials. Their response falls flat.

We have the tools we need to solve the climate crisis. That seems certain. Yet a society that is interested in supporting the richest among us more than taking care of each other is morally bankrupt.

The latest revelations about the Trump administration’s efforts to manipulate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic are evidence that the highest office in government was willing to use mass-death as a political weapon at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. What kind of human can support that? Yet Trump flags fly unabated in our neighborhood. It is clear the previous administration was going to do nothing about the climate crisis. If they get back in office after the 2024 elections, they will set about undoing what Biden got started to address climate change and more.

In this context it is important to ask, “What will it take on climate change?” From these quotations and more, we know it will take action on a scale only governments can provide. Yet we can’t be reduced to helping political candidates we favor get elected. There is something more at stake. Regardless who holds political office, governments must act on climate change. There will come a time, and soon, when it will become obvious to even the most prominent naysayers we have to act. So we keep plugging away and hope we are not already too late.

Categories
Kitchen Garden Sustainability

Going Home — Local Food

Garden April 20, 2020

Like most people, I want a decent meal when it is time to eat. In 2012, I launched a major study of the local food scene and was not disappointed in the results coming into and out of our kitchen. By working at a number of farms, growing and expanding our home garden, and participating in legislative advocacy, I learned so much about where food originates and conditions which engender growth of a variety of fruit and vegetables.

The impact of local food systems on our home life reached its peak in development of the kitchen garden idea. Now that the work is finished, I have less interest in writing regularly about food. It is an assumed part of a background against which I pursue other interests. I’ve learned what it means to know the face of the farmer. I maintain an interest in doing so. I just won’t write about it as often. Mainly, others are doing a better job of writing about our food system.

Food is basic to a life. It is not the most important thing. I am glad for the work I did, yet I feel it is finished. It is time to concentrate on more important aspects of life. It is time to keep a focus on life closer to home.

Categories
Sustainability

Carbon Capture & Sequestration References

Field Corn

Like it or not, Iowa Republicans have hoodwinked us into a carbon capture and sequestration method of addressing the climate crisis. It is common sense that hooking a polluting ethanol plant, coal-fired electricity generating station, or a propane grain drying operation to a mechanism for carbon capture does nothing to address the root cause of pollution. Nonetheless, here we go.

On June 22, 2021, Governor Kim Reynolds “signed Executive Order 9 launching a task force to explore carbon sequestration and the opportunities it presents for further economic development in the state of Iowa,” according to a press release.

Because of our existing supply chain and emphasis on renewable fuel infrastructure, Iowa is in a strong position to capitalize on the growing nationwide demand for a more carbon free economy. Iowa is a recognized leader in renewable fuel and food production, and this is another opportunity to lead and be innovative, invest in Iowa agriculture, and facilitate new sources of revenue for our agriculture and energy sectors. I am proud to bring together an impressive team of stakeholders that will help formulate smart, commonsense policy recommendations on this issue ahead of the 2022 legislative session.

Governor Kim Reynolds on June 22, 2021

When we talk about the decarbonization imperative across the global economy, carbon capture and sequestration has only limited use. As is typical of statements from the Iowa governor, there was no mention of the climate crisis in the release.

Having been forced to deal with carbon capture and sequestration as a public issue, advocates need references to understand what it is, its consequences, and risks. Below are some links to get started. Expect this post to be updated as new information is found and becomes available.

Carbon Capture and Storage, Center for International Environmental Law.

What is Carbon Capture and Storage?

The Role of Natural Gas Power Plants with Carbon Capture and Storage in a Low Carbon Future, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage comment to California Air Resources Board, Los Angeles Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The Gassing of Sataria by Dan Zegart, Aug. 26, 2021, HuffPost.

Chevron Concedes Failure at Gorgon.

Summit Carbon Solutions

Public Informational Meetings on the Proposed Summit Carbon Pipeline, Iowa Utilities Board.

Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC.

Public Informational Meetings for Proposed Navigator Pipeline, Iowa Utilities Board.

Bold Iowa

Fossil Fuel Industry and Investment in CCS and CCUS.

The Fossil Fuel Industry’s New Rube Goldberg Scheme, Science and Environmental Health Network.

Carbon Capture & Storage: The Facts, Science and Environmental Health Network.

Facts About Carbon Capture and Storage, Sept. 14, 2021, Science and Environmental Health Network.

U.S. House Conservative Climate Caucus

Rational Solutions at COP26, Not Dramatic Alarmism, podcast by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX02)

Categories
Sustainability

Innovations in the Climate Crisis – CCS

I viewed the S&P Global Market Intelligence discussion between reporter Taylor Kuykendall and Former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Nov. 8. The thirty minute video is worth viewing to hear Moniz on major technologies and technological developments that will help prevent and mitigate the effects of global warming on humans.

Dr. Moniz answered the question I posted in the YouTube chat: “Regarding CCS (carbon capture and sequestration), how important is it to leave sequestered carbon in the ground? If a market for CO2 were developed, would there be an interest in digging it back up?”

He sort of laughed at the idea of “digging it up” as something that would not be done, yet gave an answer I hadn’t expected. There may be engineering applications to use captured CO2 in order to address our goal of net zero emissions by 2050, rather than burying it in geologically stable underground rock formations. This has been a point of contention with opponents to the Summit project.

Summit Carbon Solutions, an Iowa company, has proposed construction of a pipeline to transport liquefied CO2 captured from ethanol plants and other Iowa industrial producers to North Dakota for sequestration. The Iowa Utilities Board approved public hearings in the 30 counties the proposed pipeline would cross. One of the sticking points between activists who oppose the pipeline and the company was about Summit making a written commitment to leave any sequestered carbon in the ground permanently. CEO Bruce Rastetter indicated they would not make such a commitment because markets may be found for captured CO2. Moniz’ comments yesterday indicated such markets are under study and may be developed in order to address the climate crisis.

Is carbon capture and sequestration technology a hero that will help society reach net zero emissions by 2050, or is it a villain that will violate landowner rights and cause more pollution than it prevents? Fossil fuels should be left in the ground.

The highlight of Moniz’ interview for me was that advocates against the Summit Project (or the similar Navigator CO2 Ventures project) have a lack of big picture information about addressing the climate crisis using carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The information has not been readily available.

Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa isn’t perfect. However, he is a veteran of multiple pipeline fights. In a Sept. 23 blog post he outlined his concerns about the Summit project. He claimed Summit plans to use sequestered CO2 for “fracking” instead of sequestering it in the ground. He also claimed Summit wasn’t being transparent about their intentions. Summit denies these claims. Fallon is the right person to engage in a pipeline fight, yet his blog post lacked a depth of understanding of CCS beyond his immediate concerns. Ed could use more information as could we all.

Over the coming weeks, I intend to remedy the lack of accessible information about carbon capture and sequestration. In a series of articles, I will explain what it is, evaluate whether the Summit and Navigator projects are boondoggles designed to skim taxpayer money for the richest Americans, and what plans exist for implementing CCS as a solution to the climate crisis. Hopefully, with a better understanding of the technology and its proposed applications, advocates for and against it will have a better base of information to address the climate crisis. Stay tuned.

Categories
Home Life Sustainability

Winter and Reading

Fallen maple tree leaves, November 2021.

Retirees will soon migrate to winter homes. Pontoon boats were pulled out of the lake, scrubbed down, and covered with tarps. The last volunteer work is finished, and even though local weather is quite pleasant, rents have been paid for winter homes, or second homes are owned in Florida, Arizona, or other points south and west. Warmer climates beckon.

The two of us remain in Iowa year-round. When it is cold, we leave home less often, read more, and with higher natural gas prices forecast this winter, will keep the thermostat down and stay warm with additional layers of clothing. I put an extra blanket on the bed when I made it this morning. We’re from here.

My reading consists mainly of three types: I read between 40 and 50 books each year; subscribe to four newspapers and several daily newsletters; and read linked articles in my Twitter feed. I stay well informed without watching television, listening to radio, or using streaming news sources. Reading is a mainstay of staying engaged in society.

In November I might read five 250-page books. It is getting harder to answer the question, what’s next? There is a backlog of books to read, both recently acquired and those that have been in the stacks for a while. Figure I’ll keep reading until at least age 80, so there’s room to read about 500 more books. The days of seemingly endless available reading time are over. Each book choice matters.

I spend a lot of time gardening and cooking yet read few complete books on the subjects. I have enough experience to do this work and improve it by tweaking current practices. I consult with books and online articles, yet more with farmers I know both locally and in other parts of the country. I seldom read a cook book or gardening book all the way through.

What am I seeking in a book? Some poetry, some fiction, and a lot related to my life. For example, I recently read Elizabeth Warren’s book Persist because of my connection to her presidential campaign and my interest in politics. I just finished The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization by Roland Ennos. I enjoy books that have broad historical sweep because I need escape in them from time to time. Lately I’ve been reviewing books from Thom Hartmann’s publisher and that work kept me busy in late summer. I recently read Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings by Gabriela Marie Milton who I found through WordPress. There is a stack of books about or by people I have known. My process for reading selection exists and needs a bit more self-awareness and adjustment.

A person can effectively read only one book at a time, so I work to choose the next one well. With winter coming I’ll read four or five books each month. I want to make sure it is the ones from the stacks, shelves and boxes in my indoors writing area that will serve my interest in remaining engaged in society.

It goes without saying, I want to protect my eyesight so I can go on reading as long as I have the mental capacity to do so.

Categories
Environment

Time for Republicans to Act on Climate

Image of Earth 7-6-15 from DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory)

We witnessed climate change in Eastern Iowa. For me, it’s personal.

• The 1993 flood delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.

• We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.

• Record flooding in 2008 filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible and devastated many nearby places.

• Record drought in 2012 made life outdoors miserable. It negatively impacted crops. Corn yield in Johnson County decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.

• There was a derecho on Aug. 10, 2020. In our yard it took down one tree and damaged several others. My greenhouse lifted into the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.

I know about climate change from living it, as do most Iowans. It’s time for our Republican members of Congress to work with Democrats and take action to mitigate it.

~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on Oct. 30, 2021.

Categories
Environment

Retro Post: Climate Change is Real

Photo taken by the author.

First published on Iowa City Patch on July 13, 2013.

Climate Change is Real

Last week was arguably the best summer weather we have had in many years. Temperatures were moderate and humidity low; some rain, but not too much; and glorious partly cloudy skies coupled with a light breeze. A bit of imitation vanilla extract on the nose, and even swarms of gnats couldn’t spoil the enjoyment.

Everyone I know who has a garden is having an abundant year of produce. Foragers can find plenty of black raspberries, and while the Iowa DNR sprayed the lily pads on Lake Macbride near Solon, one more toxic substance in the water won’t kill us — we hope.

Climate change is real. Any question that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, and are caused by human activity has fallen away to leave the more appropriate one, “what will we do about climate change?” The crazy weather we have been experiencing recedes from view on days like last week, while coal and natural gas power plants continue to dump CO2 pollution into the atmosphere like it was an open sewer to air-condition our homes. There are two issues: protecting what we hold dear from the effects of climate change, and doing something to address the causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

While addressing climate change is complicated, things we can do to help are not. Reduce energy use at home by turning off lights after leaving a room and unplug your computer and mobile phone chargers when they are not in use. Change how we think about transportation by consolidating errands. We should be doing these things anyway.

The point is not to radically change how we live, but to join the vast majority of Americans in acknowledging that climate change is real, and poses a tangible threat to how we live. Then take steps to personally do something about it. You will be glad you did.

Categories
Environment

Letter to Federal Elected Officials

Woman Writing Letter

On Monday, Oct. 18, I wrote my federal elected officials regarding the climate crisis. If U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst, or Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks respond, I will copy the response below the text.

Dear Senator/Representative,

I hope you will support Democratic proposals to address the climate crisis.

As you well know, global warming is a crisis in Iowa.

I witnessed the effects of climate change multiple times since moving to our home near Solon.

  • The flood in 1993 delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.
  • We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.
  • In 2008 there was record flooding that filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible, and devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and other nearby places.
  • In 2012 there was record drought which made life outdoors difficult and negatively impacted crops. In Johnson County corn yield decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.
  • On Aug. 10, 2020 there was a derecho which took down one tree and damaged several others on our property. My greenhouse lifted in the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.

I know about climate change from living it as do most Iowans.

I don’t expect you to agree with everything Democrats propose. We both know that’s not how legislation works. I urge you to find common ground with other members of the Congress and take needed action to prevent and mitigate the worst effects of our warming planet.

Thank you for your consideration.

Regards, Paul

Email response dated Oct. 22, 2021.