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

U.S. can lead in transition away from fossil fuels

Re: May 17 article, “The climate tree has fallen.” It is refreshing that the Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is able to present facts: “The Earth’s climate is changing. Temperatures are rising, snow and rainfall patterns are shifting, and more extreme climate events … are already happening. Many of these observed changes are linked to the rising levels of carbon dioxides and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, caused by human activities.” All of us have experienced the effects of major disasters. Pollution kills 100,000 Americans every year and many others experience health impacts. I suffer from seasonal allergies which are getting worse.

We need to cut down emissions by pricing carbon and transitioning away

from fossil fuels. Our dependence on fossil fuel would require large amounts of carbon-free power that is lower priced than fossil fuels. Innovations in renewables and nuclear power are ongoing. The U.S. can lead the way, collaborate with nations, and invest in research and development of such power.

Kalpana Sutaria

Austin American-Statesman

May 22, 2021

A national climate plan needs a Texas component

With spring’s emergence, memories of winter’s Polar Vortex begin to recede and lose their sting. Unfortunately, we know that these weather disasters will continue to occur with increased frequency and magnitude due to climate change. Texas needs a plan to address climate change and we have one — the Texas Climate Plan.

About two years ago, I decided to use my office to examine what Texans could do to impact climate change — it turns out, we can do a whole lot. Texas is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the country and a major emitter of methane. Carbon dioxide and methane are the primary greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. If Texas were a country, we would rank 7th in the world for our carbon dioxide emissions. Major sources of these greenhouse gases are the vehicles we drive, and the oil and gas industry.

After examining the data, we concluded that any national plan to combat climate change must have a substantial Texas component. I collaborated with several House Democrats to develop the Texas Climate Plan as a roadmap to reduce emissions.

The plan consists of four parts, beginning with: “Texas Jobs for a Changing Economy.” The clean energy economy is here, and we have a huge opportunity to benefit from this growth sector.

Since 2017, clean energy added jobs two times faster than national employment and 60% faster than fossil fuels in Texas. Our state is already a leader in electric and hybrid vehicle manufacturing with Tesla, Peterbilt Motors Co., Navistar, Toshiba Heavy Industries, Ayro, Volcon and Hyliion all located here. Major auto companies continue to announce an end to manufacturing gas-powered cars as they transition to electric vehicles. Clean energy job growth in Texas already outpaces fossil fuels, and provides higher paying wages – about 25% more than the median wage statewide. The “future” economy is already here and ripe for prosperity.

Part two of the plan is “Preserving Texas Resources and Industry Accountability.” Texas possesses a wealth of natural resources that have served as a source of economic strength for our state, but these resources must be preserved through responsible stewardship. For example, much of the methane that comes from the oil and gas industry comes from wasteful, routine venting and flaring of natural gas. In 2018 alone, Permian Basin oil and gas producers flared off enough to meet the entire state’s residential demand. Even the UT System can minimize venting and flaring on university lands to reduce the ecological footprint of oil production on public lands and maximize profits by directing this wasted gas to the market instead.

Part three of the plan provides for “Transparency to Empower Texans.” Our staff worked countless hours to unearth the data needed to build the Texas Climate Plan. Details on Texas’ environmental status should be readily available. Texans need transparent information to effectively engage policymakers and provide public oversight.

Part four of the plan, “Resiliency in a Changing Climate,” comes full circle to address the nightmarish “Texas Power Fail” in February. This man-made catastrophe could have been averted had we prepared for the effects of climate change. An estimated 200 Texans lost their lives during the Polar Vortex and damages are estimated at $195 billion — the costliest disaster in Texas history. To save lives and livelihoods, we must prepare for and prevent future extreme climate-related disasters.

As a Texan, I am proud of our energy dominance and the prosperity it has generated for our state. At the same time, we must recognize the negative byproducts of a fossil fuel economy. Texas will continue to be a leader in energy if we take advantage of new technologies that will power our homes and our economy without devastating our environment. We must confront a warming planet so Texans can continue to thrive. Texans are innately suited for this challenge because Texans do not fear the future. We lead it.

State Representative Gina Hinojosa

Austin American-Statesman

April 8, 2021

Texans should demand action from lawmakers on Earth Day

This letter was published in 2018, but the discussion remains relevant today.

Each year, the world celebrates Earth Day on April 22 after its creation in 1970, when a large oil spill occurred on the California coast off Santa Barbara.

Concerns about the environment were increasing at the time in the U.S., and Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970.

Humankind has been using fossil fuels for a long time — and its use has helped modernize transportation, manufacturing and agriculture. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activities have produced 40 percent more atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, from 280 ppm to 406 ppm in early 2017. This increase has happened despite the absorption of the gas by oceans and forests.

These trapped emissions have severe consequences for humankind. They act as a blanket around Earth, allowing global temperatures to rise. The American Meteorological Society has been keeping records of weather since 1919, allowing scientists to understand the changing climate.

Thirteen of the 15 hottest years in last 100 years occurred between 2000 and 2014.

Researchers found that there is some certainty that human activities are responsible for warming of the Earth.

As temperatures rise, evaporation increases, which causes more water vapor, a potent greenhouse gas. These conditions create more intense storms. We saw the likes of them in 2017 in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Harvey started as a tropical depression, grew into a Category 1 hurricane and continued to gain strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and churned towards Texas.

It became a Category 4 hurricane, covering a huge area from the coast to Central Texas and dropping 51 inches of rain over Houston. The estimated damage is $198 billion.

Total damages from natural disasters in 2017 alone are estimated between $300 billion to $400 billion. Victims are still waiting for help. In comparison, the damages were just $46 billion in 2016.

The list of climate change impacts is large: Heat waves, floods, wildfires, melting glaciers, rising sea level, droughts, severe storms, off-the – charts high temperatures in the Arctic, crop destruction and deforestation are just a few.

Earth Day is especially crucial for Texans this year. We must reverse warming of the planet by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and developing clean sources of energy. The longer we wait, the harder it will be.

The Montreal Protocol signed by 197 countries to discontinue ozone-depleting chemicals was a success story in 1987 for the global community. It has worked hard for years, and 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Accord in 2015 to limit global temperature rise. But President Trump announced his intention to withdraw in 2017, making us the only country to disengage.

A Yale survey of 36 congressional districts in Texas shows 67 percent of adults are concerned about global warming — and 75 percent believe in funding research into renewable energy sources. Millennials are broadly convinced human-induced climate change is real and deserves action. Industries, businesses, universities, cities and states are addressing it.

A carbon fee and dividend is proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which would put a fee on oil, coal and gas. The money collected would be returned to American households.

This rebate would stimulate the economy and make clean energy cheaper. The Climate Leadership Council is proposing a similar solution.

On Earth Day 2018, let us demand actions from our lawmakers to find solutions. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. House are working on it. Let us support them and ask others to join for a livable world for all.

Kalpana Sutaria

Austin American-Statesman

April 21, 2018