Oct 28, 2019
by Tish Levee, For the Planet
Students and adult allies have been striking for the climate every Friday since August 2018, when 15-year old Greta Thunberg sat alone outside the Swedish Parliament holding a sign that said “School Strike for the Climate” in Swedish — a sign she’s carried with her all over Europe and now North America. Since then she’s been joined by millions worldwide. On September 20th, a Global Climate Strike saw 4 million people take to the streets to protest inaction on the climate crisis. During the week of September 20-27, over 7.5 million people took part in actions on every continent, including Antarctica. (See my article in October’s Gazette at.https://tinyurl.com/y5nhljb5)
The next Global Climate Strike is this month. Fridays For Future USA, a sponsor, has a Facebook page with information about the November 29th strike. To reach world leaders, who’re still not really taking action, we need to turn out in even greater numbers. How about 10 million of us?
I’ve been writing for many years about the effect on the climate that result from our continued use of coal, oil, and gas. The climate breakdown we are now experiencing — melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic; forest fires in the West and the Arctic; rising sea levels; and extreme weather events — heat waves, drought, and more frequent and intense hurricanes are all the result of our continued use of coal, oil, and gas. But there’re many other incidents resulting from our continued emissions from fossil fuels that we don’t always see.
In Japan, contaminated waste from an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima was swept away by Typhoon Hagibis. On October 15th, an earthquake in Pleasant Hill triggered flaring at two Martinez refineries, and at a storage facility in Crockett, two fuel tanks caught fire resulting in a fireball explosion and toxic smoke which closed I-80 and trapped residents indoors for hours. In September Hurricane Dorian caused a spill at an oil terminal in the Bahamas where storage tanks were damaged and the domes that covered them were ripped off by winds. In 2017, more than 22,000 barrels of oil, refined fuels, and chemicals spilled at sites across Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, along with millions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of tons of other toxic substances, but that was much less than the roughly 190,000 barrels spilled in Louisiana in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Nearly half of all US refineries are in states that are subject to earthquakes or hurricanes.
PG&E, our “public utility,” which delivers natural gas and electricity to about 16 million people in central and northern California, is actually an investor-owned company. It’s long chosen hefty dividends and bonuses for executives over maintenance, such as trimming back vegetation from power lines, replacing lines and transformers, and under-grounding utilities. Although PG&E filed bankruptcy due to liability from recent fires, the CEO now earns $2.5 million a year. This summer the bankruptcy court denied a proposal to pay top executives $11 million in bonuses.
While the recent power outage did prevent a recurrence of the recent fires here and elsewhere, it wouldn’t have been necessary if PG&E had instead put the money into preventive maintenance and upgrading infrastructure, especially the antiquated grid. Because of its convoluted construction many people in low-risk areas unnecessarily were without power. This system needs modernizing so it’s decentralized, clean, resilient, and safe.
Even better would be modern micro-grids. The Climate Center (formerly the Center for Climate Protection) is working with its partners to establish community micro-grids, using local clean energy (such as Sonoma Clean Power’s Evergreen) and battery storage statewide to keep the lights on when it’s necessary for safety to turn off the grid. Ellie Cohen, The Climate Center’s new CEO says, “This more resilient system will reduce the number of planned and unplanned outages, reduce emissions, save lives,…[and] make us less vulnerable to the whims of utilities and the growing number of climate-driven disasters.”
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