Lots of good news for a sustainable future as the world wakes up
Who knew that the summer of 2015 would bring so many breakthroughs recognizing global warming as reality, and accompanied by actions that will result in cleaner, healthier, and efficient energy use?
Who could have guessed that the G7 leaders at their German summit would pledge to develop long-term low-carbon strategies and abandon fossil fuels by the end of the century (mouth hanging open)? The U.N Paris conference in December should put meat on the statement.
Then, Pope Francis issued his Encyclical Laudauto Si-On Care For Our Common Home. In this eloquent, expansive document, the pope, a chemical technician before becoming a priest, uses science and religion to validate global warming, linking it to suffering especially of the poor and our moral responsibility to do something:
The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.
He urges us to abandon our throwaway culture, to recognize our dependency on the natural environment and appreciate our connections to it. He cautions against continued use of fossil and nuclear fuels and over-reliance on technical fixes.
Locally, this summer we also learn of the demise of TVA’s Widow’s Creek coal-fired power plant and its resurrection as a Google data center, powered with renewable energy. Further, TVA will be purchasing solar power from an 80MW plant coming to northern Alabama. The location allows use of the same transmission lines as Colbert fossil fuel plant, meaning less upfront investment.
Meanwhile, EPA is circulating its draft Clean Power Plan. It proposes guidelines for states to figure out ways to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels. The final document arrives this summer, and Tennessee can begin fashioning its plan. We’re in a good place given that TVA has already shut down several coal-burners. Locally, the Chattanooga City Council just passed a resolution supporting the Clean Power Plan that can help create jobs, healthier citizens, economic benefits, and improved quality of life here. This resolution, proposed by Climate Chattanooga Health Energy for Everyone (CCHEE), opens the door for future neighborhood work, as all of us take actions in our homes to help use energy wisely and save on energy costs. CCHEE and Empower Chattanooga will hold a Day of Action in August in the Highland Park neighborhood.
Other good signs: In Georgia, Gov. Deal signed the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015. The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council published an Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report establishing a baseline for advanced energy job creation and economic development. Who would have said an airplane would fly around the world this summer with only the sun as fuel?
What a summer! Slowly, we turn to a low-carbon economy for the good of all life. In the words of the Pope:
As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning…Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.