LTE Under Consideration: We need resilient infrastructure and global climate plan now

Re: November 10, Op-Ed “We need resilient infrastructure and global climate plan now”

Thanks to representative Zwiener for co-founding the Texas House Caucus on Climate, Environment and Energy Industry and getting 30 members to join. We need such lawmakers to honestly look at the facts on climate change crisis and take action for health and well- being of their constituents.

The response of the Texas Legislature to the problems of the electric grid during and after the winter storm Uri, has been nothing but disheartening.  Loss of 210 lives, $80 billion plus dollars in damages and unbelievable suffering of Texans was not enough for the Legislature to take strong action. The state climatologist John Neilsen-Gammon has reported that Texas is vulnerable to a wide range of natural hazards, most of which are weather and climate events.

Yes, we need resilient infrastructure, that will figure climate change as part of planning, and that will reduce harmful emissions by transitioning to cleaner sources of energy.

Kalpana Sutaria

Project Manager, City of Austin and Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin

Submitted to the Austin American-Statesman

May 2023

Energy efficiency SB 258 can save us money; it deserves to become law

The Texas House must pass energy efficiency bill SB 258 by Sen. Sarah Eckhardt. It would help Texans save money on utility bills by weatherizing their homes and help Texas prevent blackouts and reduce pollution. Energy efficiency is widely known to be the most cost-effective way to improve our grid’s ability to withstand disasters.

The Senate passed this bill last week but the House may kill the effort since many electrical utilities oppose these bills because, one can assume, they are not a solution to sell more energy.

Energy efficiency goals like this can save us an enormous amount compared to building more gas plants. Texas needs to do something for people, not just corporations. This will only happen if we stand up and tell our elected officials we support SB 258.

Raphael Schwartz

Austin American-Statesman

May 14, 2023

Earth Day 2023

We all deserve to breathe clean air and drink clean water. There is nothing partisan about it. It was because of concerns about clean air and clean water that the Earth Day tradition began. Thousands of students and other groups fought against oil spills, pollution from factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, species extinction and loss of wilderness. The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban and rural dwellers, farmers, business and labor leaders came together demanding better environment.

By the end of 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was created and the U.S. Congress passed environmental laws including the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Clean Air Act and in 1972 it passed the Clean Water Act. These laws have saved lives, improved air quality and health.

For two decades, concerns about increased use of coal, oil and gas were raised by not only NASA’s climate scientists but by ExxonMobil’s own scientists. Increased use of coal, oil and gas added pollutants including carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. In 1988, Dr. Hansen testified in the U.S. Congress expressing concerns of global warming. By 1990, Earth Day was globally celebrated by nations for global action. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activities have produced 40 percent more atmospheric concentration of CO2, from 280 ppm to 414.7 ppm in 2021. Carbon dioxide emissions reached record high in 2022.

Seventeen out of eighteen warmest years have occurred since 2001 according to NASA.

As concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions increase in the atmosphere, extreme weather events have intensified, our climate has destabilized and pollutants and pollen counts have gone up. Austin is known for problems of pollen allergies throughout the year. Pollen allergies have become much worse with increase in CO2, warmer temperatures and tail pipe emissions resulting from traffic congestion. Austin had 25 “Ozone Action Days” in 2022 which tops the combined total for past eight years. Short term measures like reduction in use of gasoline powered vehicles, equipment and manufacturing and long term measures like transitioning to cleaner energy sources are needed to reduce warming and ground level ozone. People suffering from pollen allergies feel the effects of ground level ozone along with increase in pollens from ragweed, grass, mold, trees and other pollutants. Sneezing, headaches, post nasal drainage and general sense of tiredness are the symptoms that I suffer from, even after taking appropriate measures.

Texas is a leader in oil and gas production. A non-profit group, Carbon Mapper has detected methane leaks near drilling sites in Texas. Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 for 20 years after its release. Methane emissions cause 25% of global warming today. Lack of enforcement of permitting rules on oil and gas operations continue to add to global warming by releasing methane into our environment.

Texas faces many water issues including groundwater pollution, aging infrastructure, drought and flooding. Abandoned oil and gas wells are polluting Texas farms, ranches, and underground water. Texas Railroad Commission (TRCC) which oversees orphan wells in Texas, has reported 140,000 inactive wells. Until these wells are plugged, water contamination is likely to get worse affecting health of humans and cattle.

Clean air and clean water are critical and so are reductions in polluting emissions. There are policy proposals introduced in the U.S. Congress to transition towards clean energy sources but we need a political will and bipartisan approach to drive this transition for improved quality of life for all.

Kalpana Sutaria

Project Manager, City of Austin and Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin

April 20, 2023

Action Requested Today and How to Join the Texas State Lobby Team

We had an outstanding lobby day at the Texas State Capitol two weeks ago. Please help us leverage that momentum to pass good bills and stop bad bills (or at least make them less bad), and for the next month and a half.

We ask you to:

  • Sign up to receive weekly Action Alerts, the week’s most important action to the Texas Legislature selected by our Citizens’ Climate Lobby Texas State Lobby Team (click on the link to reach the team webpage on the national website).
  • Take action this week (today) on HB 2502 on building energy efficiency.

Once you join the Texas State Lobby Team, you will receive an alert to take the most important action each week. The action alert will require little time and allows you to be fully effective. It will include a link to an Action Alert we write or one written by a partner organization. It will have instructions with a sample email for you to slightly customize.

Submit Written Online Comments to Support HB 2502 Today!

HB 2502 would establish a program to issue or guarantee loans for energy audits, upgrades, or retrofits to increase the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and residences. It would include requirements for emissions reduction cost-effectiveness criteria and utilize funds available from the U.S. Department of Energy and private capital or state resources. The comments should be sent by midnight today, April 12. Apologies for the late notice and for an extra email if you’ve already taken this action. To easily take this action, follow this link.

In addition, please ask other CCL volunteers across Texas to join the Texas State Lobby Team public group on the national community website, so that they can receive future Action Alerts for outreach to state legislators.

Thank you to Larry Howe and team for leading this effort.

Bob Hendricks
Texas State Lobby Team Co-Coordinator

Click on the photograph to reach LegisScan for the text of HB2502.

Texas Lobby Day March 28, 2023

Enthusiastic, committed and hardworking volunteers of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) from across Texas held 66 meetings with 47 Republican representatives and 19 Democratic representatives. They also left behind educational information at 116 other offices at the Texas State Capitol.

Texas is a leader in generating solar and wind power. But due to inadequate transmission lines, generated renewable power is wasted. In 2022, power worth 2.9 billion dollars was wasted.

Our Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers conveyed a primary message to representatives to take action improve the transmission lines that will generate jobs, make our grid more resilient, save money for rate payers, reduce emissions and therefore improve the environment.

You can reach out to your representatives and ask them to take action, too! Thanks again to our amazing volunteers and to our elected representatives. We deeply appreciate your taking the time to visit with us.

Additional Information

This post was generated by Kalpana Sutaria and Carolyn M. Appleton on behalf of Citizen’s Climate Lobby Austin Metro Chapter.

LTE Under Consideration: Ask lawmakers to support policies to promote clean energy to reduce CO2 emissions

Re: March 3, 2023 article, “Carbon dioxide emissions reached a record high in 2022”

Scientist Charles Keeling started taking measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at Mauna Loa every day since 1958. His laboratory provided a continuous record showing the upward trajectory. Consumption of fossil fuels drives up the CO2 emissions every year. The only exception was in 2020 due to reduction in travel during the Pandemic.

Once added, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 300 to 1000 years. CO2 emissions reached a record high in 2022 despite increase in solar and wind power generation. CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions block the heat from escaping causing global warming. Climate scientists have shown how warming intensifies extreme weather events which devastate our lives and livelihoods in different ways. Allergies and pollution have affected me greatly.

Ask your lawmakers to support policies to promote clean energy to reduce CO2 emissions. It indeed is a monumental task but sorely needed to improve our health and wellbeing.

Kalpana Sutaria

Project Manager, City of Austin and Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin

Submitted to the Austin American-Statesman

March 2023

Carbon fee and dividend still needed in the climate war 

Published as, “Opinion: More legislation needed in the global warming fight”

Climate activists celebrated the August 2022 passage of the Inflation Reduction Act for its many provisions dealing with climate. True, those provisions were watered down in order to secure passage, and they are far less than what is needed. But that it passed at all was a big surprise, after previous hopes for legislative climate action had been dashed.

However, more comprehensive climate legislation is still much needed, as we are badly losing the war on global warming. In the Paris Accords of 2015-16, 196 nations pledged to pursue efforts to limit earth’s temperature increase to no more than 2.7°F (=1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels — with a fallback ‘in case we fail’ goal to limit warming to less than 3.6°F (2°C). Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) are at their highest atmospheric concentrations and emissions levels ever recorded, and they are projected to continue rising for at least several years. Virtually no climate science expert believes we will achieve the Paris 2.7°F goal.

There is no question that the U.S. cannot resolve the global warming problem by itself. All nations (especially China) need to take immediate action to slash their greenhouse gas emissions. But this should not dissuade the U.S. from taking responsibility to deal with our own emissions. As leader of the free world and historically the highest emitter of greenhouse gases, we bear a special responsibility to lead by example.

Granted, compared to previous decades, recent U.S. progress in switching away from fossil fuels seems impressive. It is simply not fast enough. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (all greenhouse gases, not just CO2) decreased by only 2 percent from 1990 to 2021. We need additional federal policy to accelerate reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions.

What is needed is a ‘carbon fee and dividend’ policy, which places a fee on greenhouse gas emissions and returns those fees to taxpayers. This approach has been endorsed by a large number of businesses (including Exxon-Mobil), prominent individuals and organizations (e.g., the Climate Leadership Council, whose members include 27 Nobel Laureate economists, and over 3,000 U.S. economists). Carbon fee and dividend has the benefits of being the climate policy that involves least government intrusion in the affairs of business and brings a positive cash flow to most taxpayers (both of which should make it the least objectionable option to members of Congress), and it will have a net positive long-term impact on the economy and jobs creation. The most important benefit is that, if crafted properly, it can be effective enough to achieve U.S. climate goals.

The wise man Yogi Berra purportedly said ‘It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.’ It is indeed tough to determine precisely how hot earth will end up getting because the answer depends almost entirely upon decisions we humans might or might not make: take immediate drastic action; do little or nothing; do something lukewarm in between. It is still possible we could limit warming to 2.7°F – but extremely improbable. All nations would have to take the immediate drastic action path; it won’t happen. The world is now on the ‘lukewarm’ path, one expected to lead to a 4.5-7.2°F rise by century’s end.

Yes, this is a wide range of uncertainty. But even if warming ends up at the low end of this range, it will be disastrous for humans and many other of earth’s plant and animal residents. There is zero uncertainty that we need to take more powerful action now to halt the warming. A carbon fee and dividend policy is the best option for the U.S. to address our greenhouse gas emissions problem.

Mark Warren

Member, Citizens Climate Lobby Austin Chapter

Austin American-Statesman

March 2023

LTE Under Consideration: Support the Bi-partisan RISEE Act

Re:  Dear Senator Cornyn and Cruz – Please support the bi-partisan RISEE Act

The Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems (RISEE) Act was introduced in the 118th Congress by Senators Whitehouse (D-RI) and Cassidy (R-LA). Sea level rise, storm surge, increase in ocean temperatures and acidification from climate change are harming coastal communities and will continue to do so unless emissions are dramatically reduced. 25 million Americans including Texans are vulnerable to coastal flooding.

The RISEE act would create an offshore revenue sharing model and would direct portion of revenue generated by off-shore wind projects toward vulnerable coastal communities who must use it for coastal restoration, conservation or infrastructure. The RISEE act ensures that National Offshore Coastal Security Fund and Gulf of Mexico energy Security Act funding are protected from sequestration.

Future is bright for offshore wind energy which grew 24% from early 2020 through early 2021. Ask our senators to support this bi-partisan RISEE Act and help coastal communities of our state.

Kalpana Sutaria

Project Manager, City of Austin and Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin Chapter

Submitted to the Austin American-Statesman

March 2023

LTE Under Consideration: Adaptation decisions and financing adaptation increasingly essential

Re: February 19, 2023 article, “How climate change can impact your finances?”

As climate impacts accelerate, adaptation decisions and financing adaptation become increasingly essential to all communities, developed or developing countries. Property damages from hurricanes, floods, droughts, sea level rise, hail, wind, tornadoes and wildfires can devastate families when insurance companies are not able fully cover them. People with means could manage to withstand damages and even support funds that use environmental, social and governance factors. Others have to rely on government help.

Inflation Reduction Act passed by the U.S. Congress has allocated funding if our state would take necessary steps. It would expedite electrification, fund climate-smart agriculture including conservation and reduce Methane to help lower harmful emissions that intensify climate disasters impacting our finances.

We want state leaders to phase out fossil fuels subsidies and invest in clean energy instead of punishing financial institutions who support such transition. Our leaders can and should improve finances of Texans by addressing climate change.

Kalpana Sutaria

Project Manager, City of Austin and Member, Citizens Climate Lobby Austin Chapter

Submitted to the Austin American-Statesman

February 2023

Opinion: Republican-controlled House Blows the Doors Open for Conservative Climate Action | March 28 and 29, 2023

With many years of hands-on work experience with nonprofit organizations focused on protecting the environment – many of those groups having influential conservative backers – I know there is conservative interest in protecting our shared natural resources. The way conservatives choose to accomplish that goal differs from some of our more progressive advocates for environmental protection, however.

Without an alternative approach to environmental policy, conservatives can feel boxed in, forced to claim environmental problems either are a “hoax” or not as serious as environmentalists claim. This is, indeed, sometimes the case. But where there is real pollution or other problems of environmental degradation, the standard conservative line of defense is untenable. Lacking effective policy alternatives, each fight over environmental issues that conservatives lose necessarily means more government expansion. For those who believe in the American ideals of freedom and free enterprise, the path ahead is one of slow but inevitable retreat.

A conservative approach to environmental principles, R Street Institute

Citizens’ Climate Lobby understands this well.

How is the fight against climate change conservative? Through policies that avoid big government overreach, CCL advocates for legislation that spurs the economy, makes the country economically competitive, aids the military, provides resources to agriculture, and preserves the great American outdoors.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Citizen’s Climate Lobby supporters are organized into local chapters like ours, and each chapter works with their members of Congress to enact climate change solutions. Conservative CCL supporters hail from all over the country and from different religious backgrounds, but all share Conservative principles. If you are so-inclined, you might consider joining the CCL national Conservative Caucus Action Team, and attend its online meetings!

And consider attending the March 28 and 29, 2023 conference in Washington, D.C., which is focused specifically on conservative solutions to alleviate the negative effects of climate change.

Be in the room where conservative climate action happens. Come to the Conservative Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. (yes, in person), to connect with right-leaning CCLers, eco-right orgs, and members of Congress to discuss solutions that address climate, the economy, and U.S. competitiveness. You’ll become an expert on the conservative merits of CCL’s policy agenda and be ready to talk to House Representatives and Senators on day two, our lobby day on the Hill. This conference is designed for politically right-leaning attendees.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Carolyn M. Appleton

Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin Chapter