Obama’s SOTU, Climate Change, Methane Leaks & More…

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obama quote on climate change

Climate change & clean power: real hope for real commitments from world leaders

Listen to this Green Divas myEARTH360 Report to hear my discussion with Green Divas Meg and Lynn about the Keystone XL pipeline, methane and climate change. Then read on for more, including how Obama addressed climate change in his State of the Union address…


The climate solutions starting gun sounded in late 2014 and President Obama charged out of the gate, leading the pack. He immediately took a commanding lead by announcing an historic deal with China to lower greenhouse gas emissions, thereby setting the stage for other countries to make significant cuts in their emissions as well. Rather then continue the rhetoric on climate solutions bantered about on the international stage for more then 20 years, this agreement generated real hope that world leaders will make real commitments, slashing emissions and protecting the world from the worst economic and security risks of climate change when they meet in Paris at the end of this year.

President Obama’s current race for climate solutions follows his Climate Action Plan announced in the summer of 2013 and the subsequent Clean Power Plan in 2014; both of which have as bedrock the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions, in particular from US power plants – both new and existing.

DrawTheLine_LogoThere’s much at stake and so very, very much to lose.

On the face of it President Obama has taken a commanding lead and we applaud and welcome his forceful announcements on the urgency of the climate crisis. Building on his climate plans, the President surged ahead early in 2015 by threatening in not so many words to veto the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, the proverbial “line in the sand” for many climate activists, Climate Mama include!

In his 2015 State of the Union (SOTU) address, the President pointed to the hypocrisy and obsession that many in the U.S. Congress have with a single oil pipeline as he underscored the need to do more on climate change, based on overwhelming scientific evidence…

New rules on methane leaks

In the lead up to the November 2015 United Nations Paris Climate Talks, President Obama followed his early jump start on climate action by announcing new rules on methane emissions on January 14th. Climate scientists tell us that methane is 34 times more potent of a greenhouse gas then carbon dioxide in a 100 year period, and 86 times more potent over 20 years.

As a reminder, methane is the “main ingredient” in natural gas which has exploded (literally and figuratively) on the American scene in the past 10 years. Natural gas is part of the trifecta of fossil fuels, joining coal and oil as resources that we must keep in the ground if we have a hope of staving off climate chaos. However, natural gas has been put forward by many as a “bridge to a renewable energy future.” It’s part of President Obama’s stated “all of the above energy policy” and is even one of the four pillars for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in his Clean Power Plan plan. Yet with each passing month, new studies are coming out which show us that methane (aka natural gas) is potentially as harmful as coal, and is a significant health risk now.

So, while we welcome President Obama’s stated commitments to address the climate crisis, we must keep pressing him to do more. As Climate Mamas and Papas it’s our job to point out weaknesses in his plans and demand that he make them stronger.

On President Obama’s new methane rules, it’s important to “read between the lines.” Controlling methane leaks and emissions is critical as is the need to move immediately away from fossil fuels of all kinds and towards an energy policy that is based on renewables now; with no fossil fuel bridges.

There are many, many holes in the new proposed methane rules…methane leaks

We need a much stronger message and stronger rules on methane, given the dangers that this greenhouse gas poses.It’s important to note that:

1. The regulations as presented don’t cover existing gas infrastructure. This in itself should be a NON STARTER! There are thousands of existing gas wells and a giant web of gas infrastructure currently crisscrossing our country, including pipelines, compressor stations, and power plants. These MUST be part of any methane rules.

2. The baseline year used for measurement for emissions, 2012 is faulty. Scientists tell us that measurements on current methane emissions are not correct; that they are in all likelihood, GREATLY underestimated.

3. The rules, as currently stated, give a “pass” to industry and allow them to continue what they are doing as long as they “make sure that everything fits tight” moving forward and once the rules come into play.

What about renewable energy?

In President Obama’s January 20, 2015 State of the Union address he touted the significant advances and U.S. leadership, the job creation opportunities, and the critical importance of wind and solar power. In fact, what President Obama was showing us is that even without huge subsidies like those that the oil and gas industries still commands, renewable energy is growing exponentially.

Bottom line, we must move quickly away from ALL fossil fuels, and towards renewable energy now. We must demand that President Obama and whomever follows him, does more and does it quickly.

Florida sea level riseAs an aside, lets hope that Climate Mama Nicole Hernandez Hammer, an invited guest of Michelle Obama’s at the State of the Union and a Florida leader with Moms Clean Air Force, was not only whispering in Mrs. Obama’s ear, but speaking forcefully and loudly. And let’s hope that Mrs. Obama shares what she heard with her husband as well. Nicole is a Latina climate change researcher with deep roots in environmental justice advocacy. She is also the concerned mom of a 7 year old growing up in Florida, ground zero for climate change in the U.S.

An all-of-the-above energy policy will not allow a livable and sustainable future for our children…

And in the short term is already affecting families in Florida. Having oil and gas as an equal component in our energy mix negates strong climate action, canceling out all the good things that are being done. In his SOTU address President Obama stated that: “No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations then climate change.” We hope that Nicole makes clear to Mrs. Obama, and she to President Obama, that no challenge poses a greater threat to current generations, as well.

Our mantra at ClimateMama:

“Tell the truth, actions speak louder then words and don’t be afraid.”

President Obama has done well at speaking the truth; acknowledging the huge problems we face and telling it like it is on Climate Change. But at the same time we need real action, not band-aids. We need serious plans to drastically reduce our emissions now.

Our children are watching, and all of us, President Obama included, are falling down on the job.

children and climate change

We will continue to cheer the President on. But in order for him to be able to finish the race, we must remove roadblocks and clear his way, and we must demand that he run stronger and faster. This means not letting him rest when his plans are weaker then they should be. It means demanding a clear and defined energy plan that lifts us away from fossil fuels and leapfrogs us to a renewable energy NOW.

It also means electing climate leaders, not climate deniers into office. We don’t have time to “debate” the reality of climate change; it’s hear now and threatening our health, our security, our economy, our future and our very existence.

We need a strong team, committed to actions, not words and we must demand the truth – however difficult it may be to hear.

Yours,

Climate Mama

Take action!

Here are three ways you can take action with Moms Clean Air Force:

1. We must defeat the Keystone XL pipeline. Send a message to President Obama to stop the Keystone pipeline.

2. Tell the Senate that it’s time to end tax breaks for wealthy and powerful oil, gas and coal companies.

3. Thank EPA’s Gina McCarthy for her strong leadership in protecting us from methane pollution. And tell her: this is just the beginning. More needs to be done. 

Bonus:

Listen to the latest Green Divas Radio Show episode! You can also listen to the podcast on GDGDRadio.com (or get the app!) daily at 11am and 6pm ET.

Obama photo via Wikimedia Commons | Gas flare & child in water photo via shutterstock.com
Sea Level Rise Photo: Weiss and Overpeck, University of Florida

About the author / 

Green Diva Harriet

Harriet Shugarman is the Executive Director and Founder of Climate Mama and a long time Climate Leader and Mentor with The Climate Reality Project. Speaker, writer, presenter and "mom-activist," Harriet travels the country educating, informing and rallying audiences around the realities of climate change and how people can feel empowered to take individual and collective action - in their homes, businesses and in their communities. Harriet has worn many hats over the course of her life: ski instructor, orchard worker and even one time skydiver! Harriet spent most of her professional life working as an economist and policy analyst, including 13 years as a representative for the International Monetary Fund at the United Nations. Harriet sits on several boards and chairs numerous regional and local environmental committees, including her New Jersey town's Environmental Commission and works regularly with national, state and local organizations to lobby for legislative change on climate and environmental issues. She is the mother of two teens who are her inspiration and motivation for everything that she does!

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