The Fierce Urgency of Now

One of the reasons many Americans are not particularly freaked out about climate change is that they tend to believe that the impacts will occur far in the future in distant lands.  The EPA’s Climate Change Indicators in the U.S. Report shatters that myth, documenting the many effects we are experiencing right here, right now. From disappearing beaches on the east coast to droughts in the Southwest and Hawaii, the EPA’s 24 indicators leave little room for complacency.

We at Sungevity certainly take climate change very seriously–it’s a key reason why many of us work in the solar industry.  Back in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. implored Americans to confront “the fierce urgency of now.”  The EPA report makes it clear that the reality we must confront is becoming fiercer by the year.  While it’s up to world leaders and major corporations to implement climate stabilizing policies and practices, each of us as individuals can also play a role by setting an example for our neighbors, friends and elected officials.  Whether it’s installing solar, using mass transit, turning down the air conditioner, or participating in a grassroots environmental campaign (like Solar on the White House!), we can all confront the fierce urgency of now.

–Erica Etelson

Keep your Earth Day resolutions

Many of us in the Sungevity community made Earth Day resolutions to reduce our carbon footprints.  But will our green resolutions go the way of our New Year’s resolutions, with a few false starts and then a slow fade to oblivion?  Probably.  Unless we harness the power of peer pressure to hold us accountable.  Behavioral research consistently shows that people overcome unhealthy habits when they are accountable to a social group whom they trust and respect–that’s why AA works and why people who learn that they’re using more electricity than their neighbors find ways to lower their bills.

To help keep us honest, the Ecology Center is offering a Climate Change Action Workshop Series beginning May 3 and running every Monday evening for four weeks.  You’ll learn what steps you can take as an individual consumer and as part of a community committed to curbing climate change.  If you can’t attend the workshops, the Ecology Center can help you facilitate your own group of ten or more individuals through your neighborhood, place of worship, workplace or school.  Or use the comment feature below to share your resolution–we’ll check back with you in a few months to see how it’s going.

–Erica Etelson

Killing Green Jobs

Remember that blog post last week about how great AB32 will be for California’s economy, especially consumers and small businesses?  Well get this:  Petitions are circulating to put an initiative on the November ballot that would suspend AB32 as long as unemployment in the state is above 5.5%.

So who’s behind the so-called “California Jobs Initiative”? You guessed it… oil companies.  The New York Times reports that Texas-based oil refiners Valero and Tesoro are the sole funders of the ballot measure.

Linking environmental regulation to unemployment is a longtime PR strategy for big polluters.  The fact that it has been exposed as a blatant untruth does not prevent the spin doctors from trotting it out every time the government threatens to impose new environmental regulations.

In December, 2009, Next 10, a non-partisan think tank, released “Many Shades of Green.”  The report highlights 36% green job growth since 1995, compared to 13% overall job growth in California.  (The green job sector leader during this period was solar with 63% job growth)!  Again, in 2007-08, green job growth grew by 5% while total jobs fell 1%.  So, great idea Valero…let’s undermine the very industries who are keeping the California economy afloat.

Warn your friends and co-workers…don’t sign this petition!

–Erica Etelson

AB32=Smart Growth

Picture of Route 374, Death Valley, California, USA - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

Though its title is one only a bureaucrat could love, the new Economic Analysis of California’s Climate Change Scoping Plan is chock full of reassuring conclusions about how implementation of AB32 (California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) will affect the economy.

Quick refresher:  AB32 calls for California to reduce its emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  It will achieve this feat through a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation and land use policies, and a regional cap-and-trade program.

The Air Resource Board reckons that, if all of the mandated carbon-reduction measures are implemented, California’s economy will continue to grow by 2.4% a year, the same rate it would grow without AB32.  And get this:  Implementing AB32 will reduce our fuel costs by 4.9% by 2020 (because we’ll be using less fossil fuels)-this should come as welcome new to anyone who remembers Enron or the sky high oil prices during the summer of 2008 (and to anyone who suffers asthma or other respiratory illnesses made worse by car exhaust and power plant pollution).

Here’s some more good news:  Small businesses (which employ 54% of the state’s workforce) will not bear the burden of AB32 regulation and will suffer negligible net job loss.  Some types of small business (namely energy efficiency and alternative energy) are expected to grow.  We hope to be one of them.

–Erica Etelson

The People’s Petition

350 in a Crowd

What do novelist Barbara Kingsolver, actor Ed Begley, Jr., singer Bonnie Raitt and NASA’s chief climatologist, James Hansen, have in common?  They’re among the first to sign the People’s Petition to cap greenhouse gas emissions at 350 ppm (the upper safe limit of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere).

Be a star, and sign the petition today.  If you really want to be a rock star, forward this post to your friends, family and co-workers, and post it on your facebook wall. As we prepare to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, we need to do more than buy bamboo salad tongs or even solar panels–we need to make everyone understand that 350 is the most important number in the world for polar bears, for our children, for ourselves.

–Erica Etelson

Reason No. 4 Why We Need Solar: Cloud Control

I thought I was done blogging on why we need solar – after all, climate politics, toxic plankton and geopolitical conquest seem like reason enough.  But on Tuesday, Greenpeace released a report called “Make IT Green” about the Dark Side of “cloud computing” (the dreamy new term of art for the internet).

The IT industry has a reputation for striving to be clean and green.  But the truth is, the internet is powered by coal.  That’s because electronic data is stored in massive, energy-sucking server farms and data centers.  Although Google is taking steps to green its power mix by becoming a wholesale electricity buyer, other industry giants tend to site their data centers wherever electricity is cheapest-and that usually means in areas served by coal-fired power plants.

The IT industry generates two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.  With the cloud expected to grow dramatically in the years ahead, Greenpeace calls on the IT industry to reduce its emissions 25% to 40% by 2020 (aka “The Year of the Cloud”).  It can achieve this only if it uses its enormous financial leverage and growing political power to increase the mix of renewable sources of electricity.  As a residential solar installer, Sungevity can’t offer to adorn the roofs of their server farms with solar panels, but we certainly join with Greenpeace in urging these companies to tap the exploding renewable energy sector instead of following a business (i.e. coal)-as-usual model.

And there you have it-Reason No. 4 why we need solar:  As the number of PCs and modems and cell phones explodes, so too must the number of photovoltaics, or all the “smart grids” in the world won’t save us.

–Erica Etelson

Reason No. 3 Why We Need a Solar Revolution

Reason No. 3 is sponsored by VoteVets.org, which has launched a $2 million ad campaign in support of a clean energy and climate bill.  Watch their one-minute ad called “Tough” and forward it to anyone you know who calls themselves a patriot.

The VoteVets ad clarifies a simple truth:  Over the next few decades, we’re going to follow one of two paths.  We will either waste money and lives fighting for every last drop of recoverable oil on the planet and then, when fossil fuels finally run out, witness economic devastation the likes of which we’ve never imagined.  Or we will devote our financial and human resources to a clean energy infrastructure that will help us transition smoothly to a post-carbon economy.  Which will it be?

–Erica Etelson