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

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

Opinion: World Economic Forum Helps Our World Move Forward

I was inspired by watching a few of this year’s World Economic Forum proceedings online. I believe those involved are charting a positive course forward for the world at a high level, contrary to some public figures who have recently decried its usefulness.

As noted in Wikipedia,

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international non-governmental and lobbying organisation based in Cologny, canton of Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded on 24 January 1971 by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab. The foundation, which is mostly funded by its 1,000 member companies – typically global enterprises with more than US$5 billion in turnover – as well as public subsidies, views its own mission as “improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.”

Such a safe meeting format does need to exist for productive dialogue to occur amongst industrial, political, and social leaders. To make true change sink deeply into corporate and governmental systems, lighting cars on fire, throwing soup on priceless paintings, and smashing small business storefronts will not create a deep and lasting positive impact. But it will certainly scare everyone, at all levels of society. A quiet and secure environment for meaningful dialogue among those who can have significant impact on global systems – particularly those related to climate change – makes perfect sense.

I believe peaceful protest is a human right. “Nonviolent resistance has been shown empirically to be twice as effective as armed struggle in achieving major political goals,” notes the United States Institute of Peace. Yes, let us continue to protest, but peacefully. And I think we need to let go of the idea that everyone can participate in high level meetings like those of the World Economic Forum. WEF has made video recordings of its meetings available for remote viewers, and it publishes information about its accomplishments online routinely. Social media allows every human being with access to it, the opportunity to share opinions online. Let us all continue to share our opinions and concerns in this way, respectfully.

As the third Monday of January is celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought it would be appropriate to share MLK’s approach to nonviolence.

King did not experience the power of nonviolent direct action first-hand until the start of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. During the boycott, King personally enacted Gandhian principles. With guidance from black pacifist Bayard Rustin and Glenn Smiley of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, King eventually decided not to use armed bodyguards despite threats on his life, and reacted to violent experiences, such as the bombing of his home, with compassion. Through the practical experience of leading nonviolent protest, King came to understand how nonviolence could become a way of life, applicable to all situations. King called the principle of nonviolent resistance the “guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method” (Papers 5:423).

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Center at Stanford

Returning to Austin as I conclude, I was delighted to learn during this year’s WEF meetings, “World Economic Forum Launches the Centre for Trustworthy Technology.” The new Centre in Austin will “promote responsible production and use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, virtual reality and quantum computing.” People everywhere are rightly concerned about how their data is used. “Societal trust in and acceptance of technology is dependent on the technologies in question being designed in an inclusive, ethical and responsible manner.” What better place to establish the new Centre than Austin, Texas!

Carolyn M. Appleton

Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin Chapter

Photograph of the Kings is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Remarks exemplify why we’re not able to address the climate crisis

Re: Feb. 12 letter to the editor, ‘Liberals’ goal of implementing deal would drive up energy costs’

The chairman of the Railroad Commission exemplifies why we are not able to address the climate crisis. He needs to listen to what Texans want:

  • Climate change is not a liberal or conservative issue; it is a major crisis for humanity.
  • Republicans and Democrats who look at scientific facts without a bias realize that harmful emissions from coal, oil and gas are warming the planet.
  • A majority of Texans want sustainable energy path that would not harm our state or the U.S. and that would reduce intensity of extreme weather events.
  • Texas has shown leadership in renewable energy production and can continue to maintain that without sacrificing health and well-being of people if investments in clean energy were accelerated
  • We need to stabilize the climate, which is not possible with current policies.

Kalpana Sutaria

Austin American-Statesman

February 16, 2022

Texas’ best last chance to fight climate change and its disasters

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and that’s been true of climate-related weather disasters as well. According to NOAA, since 1980 Texas has experienced 140 climate-related disasters that caused at least $1 billion dollars in damage, more than any other state.

As climate change continues to make weather events more frequent and severe, that price tag is only expected to rise.

That’s why it’s time for Sens. Cruz and Cornyn to support strong policies to reduce carbon pollution. The climate provisions of the Build Back Better Act would provide incentives for utilities to switch to renewable energy sources. It’s an approach previously proposed by Republicans and one that would bolster Texas’ wind and solar sectors.

This is our best last chance to protect Texans from more floods, hurricanes and crop-withering droughts. If we act now, maybe we can say to the next generation, when it came to fixing climate change, we did it bigger in Texas.

Elaine Robbins

Austin American-Statesman

February 6, 2022

These are the results of humans heating the Earth

Re: Dec. 29 article, “Five things worth remembering about Austin’s weather in 2020”

An interesting article about Austin’s 2020 weather. I couldn’t help notice the words “climate change” and “global warming” never appeared – interesting because record-setting heat waves and droughts, permanently escalating “average” temperatures, increasing number of hurricanes and severe weather events, and the general “weirder” weather you mentioned, are all results of humans heating the earth.

One might be tempted to think this isn’t so bad, it’s just the weather; and indeed, if the warming stopped dead in its tracks right now, we could live with the results, albeit at high cost. The problem is, the warming is still escalating rapidly, and will continue to do so unless we take immediate, vigorous measures to stop emitting greenhouse gases.

We have the technology and resources, and even the proposed legislation (HR763), to slow and ultimately stop the toasting of our planet. Let your government representatives know you want it done, now.

Mark Warren

Austin American-Statesman

January 4, 2022

Opinion: We all must rise to the challenge of climate change

We’re feeling the impacts of climate change all around us. Rising temperatures are changing our landscapes and livelihoods. The Great Barrier Reef is suffering from thermal stress that contributes to coral bleaching — more than half of the reef’s coral cover was lost between 1995 and 2017. In July, several European countries were severely affected by floods. Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast. And in the United States, almost 40% of the population lives in coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding and land erosion.

Nowhere are climate stressors more obvious than in Texas. Our population is expected to nearly double by 2050, and most of the state has warmed between 0.5 and 1.0 degree Fahrenheit during the past century. We are seeing new diseases spread from tropical areas, and we’re experiencing more extreme weather events such as the winter storm that left two-thirds of Texans without power and almost half without water for an average of more than two days in February.

We need to urgently decrease emissions. And Texas needs a statewide climate adaptation plan.

Rising temperatures are caused primarily by an increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. CO2 levels have been rising steadily for more than 100 years due mainly to the burning of fossil fuels, trapping more heat in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

A special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which includes climate scientists from around the world, has said that human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of global warming above preindustrial levels. And global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

This is precisely one of the goals of the United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26, which brought world leaders together to tackle climate change. Countries are being asked to set ambitious 2030 emission reduction targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century.

We all need to do our part like a true phase-out of coal, accelerating the switch to electric vehicles and investing in renewable energy. There are positive examples around the world of countries that are heading toward a low-carbon future by embracing solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. Texas produces the most wind energy of any state in the United States. The U.S. as a whole has the second-highest installed wind energy capacity in the world after China. A clean energy revolution must continue to happen across America, underscored by the steady expansion of the U.S. renewable energy sector.

Not only will setting ambitious emission reduction targets help with climate change, it will also lead to cleaner and more resilient cities and infrastructure systems. Energy systems with high percentages of renewables — or even ​​decarbonized power grids — are better able to resist shocks than those heavily dependent on fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal.

Extreme weather events such as this year’s winter storm are expected, and we need to adapt our infrastructure to withstand such stressors. And we especially need to take into consideration vulnerable communities, those that already suffer from chronic stressors related to toxic pollution, poverty, food insecurity, mixed immigration status and gentrification. States and communities around the country have begun to prepare for climate change by developing their own climate adaptation plans; we have many examples to follow.

Our world leaders need to leave COP26 with actionable goals and with concrete, meaningful and realistic deadlines. And policymakers and leaders in Texas must do their part and adopt and accelerate measures to combat climate change, addressing energy infrastructure and equitable resilience. Only then will we rise to the challenge of climate change.

Leite is an associate professor and the John A. Focht Centennial Teaching Fellow in Civil Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas. She serves on the leadership of a university wide grand challenges initiative, Planet Texas 2050.

Fernanda Leite

Austin American-Statesman

November 26, 2021

Bill puts price on polluting and returns the revenue

One of our six local members of the U.S. Congress, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, deserves a huge thank you for agreeing to co-sponsor House Bill 2307, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in the U.S. Congress.

This bill would put a price on polluting and return the revenue to American households, accomplishing two good things at once: curbing carbon emissions and putting more money in our wallets.

Thank you, Rep. Doggett! I hope we will now see one of the other five join in as well. What do you say, Reps. McCaul, Williams, Roy, Carter and Sessions?

Anna Graybeal

Austin American-Statesman

July 6, 2021