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Mitzvah Moments - December 2014

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Mitzvah Moments - December 2014
The Tipping Point - Locally and Globally

by Tish Levee

Movements Work - We Marched, the World Listened

The logic behind the People’s Climate March was the knowledge that social change happens because of large-scale movements such as the change wrought by the Civil Rights March on Washington in 1963. After 400,000 people marched in NYC—joining 375,000 others globally—this movement made a difference immediately. The very next day, heirs to John D. Rockefeller’s oil fortune announced that they would divest $860 million from fossil fuels, joining 800 global investors in pledging to divest $50 billion over the next five years.

The day after that, leaders from 120 countries met at a one-day U.N. climate summit. Non-binding pledges set the tone for what will come, agreeing to increase renewable energy use and raise billions of dollars to aid developing countries in slowing global warming, including setting a deadline to end deforestation by 2030—which the U.N. says it would be the equivalent of taking every car in the world off the road. (Trees help remove CO2   from the atmosphere.)

Secy. Gen. Ban Ki Moon proclaimed, “Climate change is the defining issue of our age.” Answering fears that climate protection would hurt the economy, Juan Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said, “The European Union is on track to meet our targets and at same time we have seen our economy grow…climate protection and a strong economy…go hand in hand.”

President Obama made a strong appeal to the world’s leaders. “Nobody gets a pass…we have to raise our collective ambition…the alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching…we can’t pretend we can’t hear them. We need to answer the call. We need…to tackle this global threat before it is too late.” Acknowledging the U.S.’s role in creating the problem, President Obama pointed out that over the last eight years the U.S. has reduced carbon emissions more than any other country, and during his administration there has been a threefold increase in wind power and a tenfold one in solar.

IPCC report—reducing climate change is economically good

Two days before the election, the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reported for the first time that tackling climate change is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that only halting global warming can reduce global poverty. 

Is the China-U.S. climate deal a game changer?

However, the big climate news since the March, possibly the best news in the last several years, came after the election. On Nov. 11th, the surprise announcement of a bilateral U.S-China agreement setting targets for CO2 emissions out to the year 2030, defused the common argument for avoiding doing anything about the climate crisis, “What about China?” True, China burns more fossil fuels than anyone else, but it is also leading the way in renewable energy. China’s annual investment in renewable energy is more than the whole EU, and it surpasses Germany in solar and the U.S. in domestic wind power.

The world’s two largest economies—and the ones with the most CO2 emissions—announcing a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by almost one-third by 2030 is a watershed moment and may be a game changer for the Paris climate talks next year. 

Grassroots organizing pays off! Keystone defeated!

On Nov. 18th, by one vote, the Senate denied approval of the Keystone XI Pipeline planned to bring crude oil from Alberta tar sands through the U.S. to export to other countries. Long the target of environmental protests, it would wreak devastation on a wide swath of the Midwest: endangering wildlife, water supplies, Native American and ranch lands, and would produce emissions equivalent to adding 5.6 million news cars to the highway. It was touted as a jobs’ issue, but most of the jobs would be temporary during construction—about 2,000 according to President Obama in 7/13--less than 100 would be permanent.