It’s no secret that the past few months have been warmer than normal. Most of us are taking advantage of it; planning outings and running outside, coatless, when we’re used to being trapped inside by an angry Old Man Winter. And there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a good thing. My kids keep getting their frisbees stuck up in trees, but I digress. Believe me, I get it - it’s been a welcome change from the usual cabin fever that sets in round about February, and here in Pittsburgh, can last until almost April in a big way. The problem is that the human fingerprints on these warmer temperatures are undeniable. 97% of climate scientists and every science academy in the world is in agreement that burning fossil fuels is the reason for the warmer and warmer temperatures the world is experiencing.
The latest video in the Don’t Just Sit There - Do Something! series, “Staying Warm This Winter,” is a commentary on our continuing warming trend and its impacts, with a recap of fall 2015 news, including the worldwide climate agreement reached in Paris in December. As always, the information comes with easy actions for the viewer to take, and our trademark sense of humor!
The Clean Power Plan is the United States’ most important (and, so far, biggest) effort to tackle a huge chunk of our climate pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency rule, which would cut climate pollution from electricity 30% by 2030, was an important signal of our commitment during the Paris negotiations, and it went through an unprecedented public review cycle. It is also the direct result of Congressional failure to pass a climate pollution bill after the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gases endanger the public health and welfare. The ruling made clear that these pollutants do fall under the EPA’s authority to regulate, because of the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Power Plan is a flexible rule, that allows states to come up with their own plan for meeting target reductions, and gives them a lot of time to make that plan. While 27 states have filed suit against the plan, 18 states have filed in support. The case will be heard in June by the D.C. Circuit Court. It remains to be seen what the ultimate fate of the Clean Power Plan will be, with the vacancy on the court left by the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia. If the D.C. Circuit Court ruling is challenged and the Supreme Court hears the case, there is currently a chance the Supreme Court would be tied, 4-4, on a judgement, in which case the decision of the lower court stands. A tied judgement could be revisited when a new Justice is confirmed. There are a lot of ifs and maybes in the guessing at this point, but one thing is clear - we need to start down the path to transition to cleaner sources of energy, we need to do it now, and it’s the EPA’s job, as determined in 2007, to make sure it happens.
I like the beautiful weather as much as anyone. But softer winters aren’t the only consequences of our fossil fuel habit. Record floods hit the U.S. at the end of 2015. Syria is still in record drought, which has helped to fuel the terrible conflict there. As we’ve covered in many past videos, heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, sea level rise, and changes in spread of disease are all a matter of life or death to people right now. These consequences, not to mention ocean acidification and species extinction, will only matter more and more to all the humans that come after us. I think it would be great if we can make a world where the biggest environmental worry is more on the scale of how best to get your frisbee out of that tree.