Oppose Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative Rate Increase

By Joy Loving
Augusta Free Press, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021

Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative is proposing an unjustified rate increase that will disproportionately harm low income customers, those on fixed incomes, and those whose electricity use is low. If approved, the increases will make it harder for all customers to control monthly electric bills through smart investments in energy efficiency and rooftop solar.

SVEC wants the Virginia State Corporation Commission to approve a 20 percent increase in the basic monthly customer or ‘connection’ charge. Plus, it wants a new ‘demand charge’ that will further increase monthly bills for residential customers. The proposed increase is the latest in recent years for SVEC customers. SVEC’s basic monthly charge went from $13 to $25 within the last 18 months; SVEC now proposes to raise it again to $30.

So, SVEC customers would pay basic connection charges up to three to four times more than their neighbors who have electric service from other utilities. Dominion Energy customers pay a $6.58 basic monthly charge; neighboring Rappahannock Electric Co-op members pay $14/month. Neither has a demand charge for residential customers.

Approval of the proposed increase will mean nearly a third of the average residential monthly bill will be a fixed charge–one a customer can’t reduce through energy conservation or greater efficiency. Higher fixed charges give customers less ability to reduce monthly bills with smart investments in solar or wind energy, which create jobs and build clean, local energy in our community.

Extensive testimony to the SCC reports that about 17 percent (~14,800) of SVEC’s households would qualify as low‑income (meaning an average yearly income of $16,206). These households tend to be lower energy users. SVEC’s higher fixed charge would affect these members most, because their homes use the least energy.

You have an opportunity to stop SVEC’s proposal. If you’re interested in fair electric rates, you can oppose this increase even if you’re not an SVEC customer.

On Oct. 6 at 10 a.m., the State Corporation Commission will hold a virtual public hearing on SVEC’s proposal. Anyone can submit written comments through Sept. 29. If you sign up to testify at the hearing by Oct. 4, you’ll get five minutes to give oral testimony. You do not need to file written comments to speak on Oct. 6.

Are you interested in helping protect low income, retired, and low use SVEC customers? Want to send a message to the SCC about high electricity bills? If yes, ask the SCC to deny this rate increase.

  1. Make written comments at scc.virginia.gov/casecomments/comment/PUR-2021-00054 .
  2. Make a five-minute oral comment at the Oct. 6 hearing. To do that, you need to:
  3. Fill out the Public Witness Form on the Commission’s website at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting ; OR
  4. Send a PDF copy of a completed Public Witness Form obtained from scc.virginia.gov/pages/Webcasting to SCCInfo@scc.virginia.gov ; OR
  5. Call 804-371-9141 during normal business hours.
  6. Learn more—join the Sept. 15 virtual forum at 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Appalachian Voices; register at tinyurl.com/hcfpthbu.

Story by Joy Loving from the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

Action Needed To Combat Climate Change

Daily News-Record, August 19, 2021
Letters to the Editor: Andrew Payton

The release of the International Panel on Climate Change’s 2021 Sixth Assessment Report makes abundantly clear that bold action to address our climate crisis is desperately needed if we are to avoid increasingly strong heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes, as well as crop failures, sea level rise, climate- induced migration, and economic damage. We as individuals and as a community have an obligation to act.

The single most powerful tool we have at our disposal is carbon pricing: this would be a fee applied to fossil fuels when entering the economy, which then provides economic incentive for low-carbon goods and behaviors like renewable energies, building weatherization, public transit, and local foods. Already about a quarter of the world has carbon pricing policies, including major economies like Canada, Japan and the European Union. A recently passed carbon border tax in the EU will increase the price of U.S. goods in Europe, meaning that if we don’t have a carbon price in place, it will become more and more difficult for our businesses to compete abroad.

There are many actions that we can take as individuals to lower our impact on the climate, but we are most effective when we put pressure on our governments to act. The U.S. government must take aggressive action to combat climate change, and carbon pricing is a simple and effective way to do this.

Andrew Payton

Response To Article

Daily News-Record, August 19, 2021
Letters to the Editor: Les Grady

Thank you for the article in the Aug. 16 edition of the DN-R (page A8) about the response of Europeans to the Sixth Assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC). The last part of the article was particularly important because it stressed how our collective actions, while individually small, can have a large cumulative impact on the climate crisis. As we seek to limit global warming, we all will be called upon to make changes in our lives, from reducing how much beef and dairy we eat to replacing our gas or oil furnace with an electric heat pump. How we respond to those requests will determine the kind of world we live in.

This IPCC report examined the physical science of climate change. In case you missed it, below are five takeaways gleaned from it by several sources I trust:

• For the first time, the IPCC stated unequivocally that humans are causing the observed warming.
• Our actions have warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in the last 2,000 years.
• Climate change is affecting weather and climate extremes in every region of Earth.
• Limits on average global warming of 1.5° C ( 2.7° F) and 2.0° C ( 3.6° F) in the Paris Climate Agreement will be exceeded this century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
• Although temperatures are likely to continue to increase until 2050, there is still a window in which humans can alter the climate path.

Leslie Grady Jr.

Earth Day A Time For Reflection

Daily News-Record, April 20, 2021

Open Forum: Cathy Strickler

Earth Day 2021 is a time of reflection for me. Fourteen years ago (May 29, 2007) the Daily News-Record printed “Stopping Global Warming” that I wrote. Since then, many people have worked hard to bring about the changes that are making a stable future more likely. What’s happening nationally and internationally is well publicized. Lesser known is that in Virginia, just last year, the Clean Economy Act was passed and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was stopped. This year the electric car bill was passed, which positions our state to be in the front of the parade of positive progress.

Locally, we are leading, too. New groups like Renew Rocktown, Solar Co-ops, Earth Day Every Day, 50by25, Give Solar, as well as Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and Sierra Club, have given muscle to action. This year Harrisonburg City Council adopted the city’s first Environmental Action Plan (EAP) and passed the resolution in favor of Harrisonburg’s transition to renewable energy by 2035. The Rockingham County Board of Supervisors is deciding how to best use land for solar farms. So much good has happened that it’s a time to celebrate, too!

We have all had time to reflect on the pandemic and how an invisible virus has changed us and the world at large. It has brought home so vividly how we are all connected. Climate change is parallel to COVID, with illness being passed on between all of us. A slow response lost lives to COVID and the same is true with climate change. Some of us have already died from extreme weather worsened by climate change. As Froma Harrop pointed out in Viewpoint (DN-R March 15, 2021) “Stopping Climate Change Is Ultimate Moon Shot,” much still needs to be done. When we went to the moon it was an “all-in” effort with enough expertise, teamwork and money to get the job done. Now, we are making progress with climate change and some elected officials are saying we need to go slow, be careful, maybe do some more studies. This sounds totally reasonable and is true in most situations. But some situations call for bold action that is already proven to be effective. Climate change is one of those situations, a moon shot. To quote Bryn Baker, director, Policy Innovation at Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance: “This is an important time for non-incremental action.”

Where do our reflections lead us? For me, first it’s the challenge to feel connected to the rest of the world, knowing there is one tribe, one team, Team Earth! Second, it’s the challenge of moving faster. When we see a toddler veering into traffic we run to grab them. The toddler is climate change and we are moving in slow motion, too slow to give the needed action that saves. Climate change is headed, in real time, for disaster.

What we do counts. Our elected officials need to hear: We want change — bigger, bolder, faster. Go Team Earth!

Cathy Strickler lives in Harrisonburg.

Apply To Become A Member Of EPSAC

Daily News-Record, December 1, 2020
Letters to the Editor: Jo Anne St. Clair

As chair of Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, I thank the Harrisonburg City Council members for their unanimous approval of the resolution to pursue a 100% renewable energy goal for the city’s electric grid by 2035.

Council member Richard Baugh worked with residents and stakeholders to craft this resolution. Its passage is a first step in making Harrisonburg a leader in achieving vital carbon reduction.

Now the “ real work” begins, and city staff cannot accomplish this challenge alone. They need the community’s help and creative ideas for solutions. CAAV expects the city to create a diverse stakeholder group. We need many community voices, heads, and hands, to achieve this goal.

I encourage residents wanting to participate to apply to become a member of the newly constituted Environmental Performance Advisory Committee EPSAC (www.harrisonburgva.gov/boards).

Letter to Mark Herring & Next Steps

Earlier this month, CAAV signed onto a letter to Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring:

Dear Attorney General Herring,

Thank you for standing up to protect our Commonwealth from the current administration’s attempts to erode our democracy and pollute our environment. In July you filed a lawsuit to challenge the current administration’s undermining of the Clean Water Act. Now we need you to protect Virginia’s water and endangered species at risk within our borders by considering taking the following actions:

● Suing the Trump administration for rolling back the protections Congress passed in the Endangered Species Act.

● Providing guidance to the State Water Control Board to add the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) update to their September 24 meeting agenda. The board needs to address MVP’s pollution of Virginia waterways that provide habitat for endangered fish. It is the board’s responsibility to enforce the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act regulations.

See the complete letter as a pdf here.

Freeda Cathcart, Leader for the Gas And Pipeline Coalition, who helped organize this effort sent this follow-up on September 21, 2020:

“Thank you for signing onto the letter for AG Mark Herring. Thirty-three organizations signed the letter, representing over 335,000 people! 

It’s already bringing results! I received confirmation today that it has been forwarded to the State Water Control Board. Previously the staff at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality had ignored repeated requests for information about MVP’s continuing pollution of the waterways that are the habitat for endangered fish to be forwarded to the board. 

The next step is an easy one thanks to Mothers Out Front’s portal for individuals to be able to send an email directly to the State Water Control BoardIt only takes a couple of minutes and people can add to or change the suggested text. Please use this social media post to encourage others to sign and share. 

Working together we will defeat the Mountain Valley Pipeline while protecting our water and endangered species!”

From Mother Out Front – Roanoke and New River Valley:

It’s easy to send an email to the State Water Control Board to demand they protect our water and endangered fish from MVP’s continuing pollution. Just click on this link to a portal that will generate one for you:

CAAV Mourns Loss of CST to the Pandemic

On the announcement of our downtown Court Square Theater’s need to close as of July 1, 2020, CAAV steering committee member Joni Grady let the Arts Council of the Valley know how important it has been to the work of our organization. Excerpted from Joni’s letter:

“The news of Court Square Theater (CST) closing has shocked Les and me, as it has the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), the Rockingham Ballet Theater (RBT), and many others. We feel as though the heart has been ripped out of the area, not just downtown Harrisonburg. CST has been so much more than just a performing arts space, although that, of course, is extremely important. It has been a space where organizations of all sizes can draw in the public in support of their causes. For example, the support CST has provided for CAAV and the whole environmental movement of the Valley is irreplaceable. This has ranged from fundraisers like the one CAAV held in January 2014 in support of the Great March for Climate Action participant Jerry Stewart that raised $2340.00 to Wild Virginia’s annual film fests and all the films and activities CAAV has put on or co-sponsored at CST over the past 12 years.”

Thank you CST and especially CST manager Mark Finks for being there for us all these years! We’ll hope you’ll be back soon.

CAAV and allies fundraiser for Jerry Stewart’s cross country Great March for Climate Action was held at Court Square Theater in January 2014. This venue has been integral to CAAV outreach efforts for many years. Photo credit: Valerie Serrels.

Clean Energy For All

Daily News-Record, February 28, 2020
Open Forum: Tom Benevento

Clean Energy For All

Silvio reached out to shake my hand as he untied his donkey. I could feel years of hard work on his weathered fingers. He is one of thousands of farmers eking out a living in this remote mountain region of the Dominican Republic where I assist reforestation efforts. After a short greeting, Silvio motioned to follow him to his field. The crunching sound of dry leaves under feet was a sure sign of extended drought in this tropical zone. Across the ravine he pointed to his corn, the basic staple for his family. It was 2 feet tall and shriveled dead. We sat in a moment of silence. He then carefully pulled out a mango from his tattered backpack to share and said, “ Over the last six weeks, the only thing I have to feed my children are mangoes from abandoned trees.”

It struck me hard, more than the facts of science. A warming planet is real, and targets vulnerable people like Silvio first and worst. I had a sinking feeling knowing that my lifestyle, along with millions like me, is causing climate warming around the world. And that is why, today, I am part of the Harrisonburg 50 by 25 Clean Energy for All campaign to help our city transition quickly to renewable energy and greater levels of energy efficiency. It’s compelling. It helps solve several problems at once — reducing greenhouse gases, reducing energy costs for low- income households, and increasing jobs and well- being.

Despite that unsettling feeling I experienced in the DR, I now know that we have solutions and we can join with others. Already, 1 in 4 people in the U. S. live in places transitioning to 100% clean energy.

Here’s how the 50 by 25 campaign works. First, we empower our City Council to require our electric utility to provide 50% solar and wind energy into our electric grid by 2025. This alone provides big carbon reductions, and parallels the governor’s commitment for Virginia state agencies. Second, we urge council to commit to a 25% increase in energy efficiency by 2025 for public schools and government buildings. Roanoke is already doing this, saving the city nearly $ 1 million a year in energy costs. Third, we request City Council to create incentives for weatherization and energy efficiency for residents and commercial operations. Successful state programs like VEEP, On- Bill Recovery Loans, and C- PACE benefit low- income households, renters, and businesses.

In addition, we can help each other take steps, like eating less meat, riding a bicycle or walking when possible, growing gardens, and installing solar.

The benefits from this would be tremendous. Our youth will look at us with pride knowing we did something for their future. And, farmers like Silvio and his family will have enough to eat.

So Harrisonburg, let’s join the movement. Voice your support for the 50 by 25 campaign and create a better future for all. www.50by25Harrisonburg.org

Tom Benevento lives in Harrisonburg.

Copyright © 2020 Daily News-Record 2/28/2020

Kirk Becchi LTEs for the Climate

CAAV members have been impressed with local attorney Kirk Becchi’s consistent messaging for the climate through letters to the editor in the Daily News-Record over the past two years. With his permission, we thought we’d share the collection here.

A Tale Of Two Red States
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
December 9, 2019

Some may be tempted to dismiss the climate change- driven wildfires in California as a liberal state problem. But climate change doesn’t discriminate based upon political persuasion. Rather, it hurts us all.

Republican leaning Alaska and Florida are located in opposite corners of North America. In addition to being geographically distant, those states are known for divergent attractions. Alaska is pictured largely as an unspoiled winter wonderland and many people view Florida as a tropical paradise. But these diverse states share a tragic commonality. They are each on the front line of climate change.

According to the International Arctic Research Center, Alaska is warming at approximately 2.5 times the rate of the lower 48 states. Sea ice cools Alaska. A recent study found that sea ice volume Arctic- wide is about 47% lower than the average from 1979- 2018. Alaska’s permafrost is melting, which in turn is undermining the structures and roads built upon it. Melting permafrost releases even more carbon into the atmosphere. Die- offs among sea birds, gray whales, seals, mussels and krill are being reported.

In Florida, studies have shown that climate change increased the amount of rainfall during hurricanes and caused hurricanes to stall out, i.e. hover, instead of moving through, resulting in greater damage to the affected places. Florida’s coral reefs are being attacked by coral bleaching, ocean acidification, disease, and pollution. Algae blooms, like red tide, cost Florida counties $90 million in 2018. Miami is experiencing tidal flooding on sunny days. Sea water is creeping toward the Biscayne Bay Aquifer, which supplies 90 percent of South Florida’s drinking water.

The threat is global. For people who find scientific journals long, boring, and loaded with wonky jargon, in November 2019, a document entitled “ World Scientists’ Warning on a Climate Emergency” was published. The paper succinctly stated “ We declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” Admirers of plain speakers should appreciate the scientists’ directness.

Also in November, the medical journal The Lancet published a report stating that if climate change is left unabated it will adversely and disproportionately affect every child alive today and those yet to be born. Those children will live to see a planet which will be 7.2 degrees warmer than today. While that may not sound like much of a change, they will “ experience more heatwaves, stronger storms, the spread of infectious disease, and see climate change intensify mass migration, extreme poverty, and mental illness.”

The Lancet report doesn’t say that our children are condemned to suffer the adverse effects described. Instead, the report states that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change if we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, commit to decarbonization, encourage healthier lifestyles (i.e. biking and walking), invest in evidence- based climate change surveillance and adaption, and improve resilient infrastructure and preparedness.

The time for ignoring climate change for reasons unrelated to the science, or pretending it’s someone else’s problem, are long past.

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2019 Daily News-Record 12/9/2019

So You’re A Conservative? Then Conserve
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
June 24, 2019

In the 20th century, Republicans and conservatives advocated for conservation. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said “Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”

Republican President Richard Nixon, founder of the EPA, said “Our physical nature, our mental health, our culture and institutions, our opportunities for challenge and fulfillment, our very survival — all of these are directly related to and affected by the environment in which we live. They depend upon the continued healthy functioning of the natural systems of the Earth.”

Even Republican President Ronald Reagan, who was not an environmentalist, spoke of the importance of environmental protection. “If we’ve learned any lessons during the past few decades, perhaps the most important is that preservation of our environment is not a partisan challenge; it’s common sense. Our physical health, our social happiness and our economic well-being will be sustained only by all of us working in partnership as thoughtful, effective stewards of our natural resources.”

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a panel with members from 132 nations including the United States, issued a report in May. The report was prepared by nearly 150 authors, from 50 nations, working over a three-year period. Representatives of all 132 member nations signed off on the findings.

The report concluded that 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival, due to man-made climate change and other human activities. The authors noted that more plants and animals are threatened with extinction now than in any other point in human history. The panel’s chairman noted the “decline in biodiversity is eroding ‘the foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.’” The report found that the natural world is collapsing around us, but also that it’s not too late to make a difference. However, that difference will require more than 100 nations to work together, including the United States.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and the four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014. For people who seem not to trust scientists who are unknown to them, hopefully Bill Nye the Science Guy will be compelling. He recently noted on a TV talk show that climate change is an actual crisis.

Through a combination of intentional disinformation, misinformation, shortsightedness, and mistrust too many people have been lulled into inaction, and worse hostility, toward responding to the climate crisis. We’re decades late to the fight, but not too late to attempt to stem some of the worst effects of climate change. The wolf is at the door. And the future is not ours to squander.

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2019 Daily News-Record 6/24/2019

The Future Is Now
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
January 31, 2019

Nature just fired a major climate change warning shot. For example, in 2018 Virginia experienced 190 days of measurable precipitation, for a record setting 63.5 inches of rain, the second highest total since 1889.

In early 2019, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a report to Congress stating that climate change is a national security issue and that dozens of military installations are vulnerable to floods, droughts and wildfires.

On Black Friday 2018, the Trump administration released the 1,500 page Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), which was prepared by 13 federal agencies, including DOD, EPA and NASA. Key findings of the NCA4 include: “More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities. … With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. … Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security. … Climate change is also expected projected to alter the geographic range and distribution of disease carrying insects and pests, exposing more people to ticks that carry Lyme disease and mosquitoes that transmit viruses such as Zika, West Nile, and dengue. … [C]lean air and water, protection from coastal flooding, wood and fiber, crop pollination, hunting and fishing, tourism, cultural identities, and more will continue to be degraded by the impacts of climate change. … Climate change presents numerous challenges to sustaining and enhancing crop productivity, livestock health, and the economic vitality of rural communities.”

Climate change isn’t a future problem. It’s an immediate and urgent threat. However, for decades, interested parties have acted to confuse and trivialize the issue. For example, one senator from a fossil fuel producing state even tossed a snowball on the Senate floor, in an attempt to demonstrate that climate change isn’t real. Despite such efforts at disinformation, Americans are now regularly seeing the effects of climate change in the news and out their windows.

Sometimes leaders have to lead. Politicians must disavow the misinformation spread in the past, explain the urgency of the situation (so we are willing to do what is necessary to address the problem), listen to the scientists and implement their recommendations as best we can. The likelihood that this will involve sacrifice is not a reason to fail to act. No war, and this is a war, has been won without sacrifice, and the costs of inaction will far exceed the costs of seeking to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, while there’s still time.

Americans don’t sit idly on the sidelines. Instead, we lead, fight and win. The world needs our leadership, moral clarity, and technological and industrial prowess to confront.

Mr. Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2019 Daily News-Record 1/31/2019

Preserve Our Traditional Outdoor Way Of Life
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
December 12, 2018

Many Americans love the outdoors for hunting, fishing or even just backyard grilling. Climate change can rob us of those pleasures. According to the National Wildlife Federation “[c]limate change poses an immediate and specific threat to hunting and fishing in America.” A 2015 NWF publication entitled “Climate Impacts to Our Hunting and Fishing Heritage” predicts that climate change may cause shifts in major ecosystems in up to 20 percent of North America. The article notes “[s]hifting ranges for pests and disease-causing pathogens may have some of the most devastating impacts for wildlife and habitats.” Among the threatened species are white-tailed deer, ducks and brook trout, which are described as being “severely threatened” and having lost half their historic habitat in Virginia.

In May 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a report stating “Climate change will force hundreds of ocean fish and invertebrate species, including some of the most economically important to the United States, to move northward, disrupting fisheries in the United States and Canada.”

It’s not just wildlife that are threatened. The meat we buy at the grocery store, and toss on the grill, is vulnerable. A Jan. 19, 2017, EPA publication entitled “Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply” casts a dark shadow over barbecues. The article projects that climate change driven-heat waves, droughts, parasites, and diseases will directly endanger livestock.

The wildlife many Americans hunt, the fish we catch, and even the farm animals Americans eat are endangered and will be disappearing. The outdoor life those species historically enabled Americans to enjoy will vanish with the threatened animals and fish. Unless we swiftly and effectively act, future generations, including our children, will be deprived of their outdoor heritage.

After the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor, only the most unpatriotic Americans would have dared to say “we shouldn’t enter the war because fighting might hurt the economy.” Instead, our grandfathers enlisted and our grandmothers took their places in the workforce. Americans led the way and endured whatever hardships were necessary to get the job done and win the war. The doubters were rightfully ignored. Combating climate change is a true world war. The coasts and island nations are suffering hardest first, but no place on the planet is safe. Also, people of all political beliefs need clean air and water, and a temperate climate.

We don’t own the Earth. Rather, we just borrow it for a very short time from our kids, our grandkids, and everyone else who follows us. It’s our moral responsibility to turn the planet over to those who follow us in at least as good a condition as we got it. If we want the next generations to be able to enjoy the same outdoor experiences we had, we need to demand immediate and decisive action from politicians, and join the fight. Our children are watching. How will we answer when they ask “what did you do during the war to save the environment?”

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2018 Daily News-Record 12/12/2018

Conservative Policy, National Security And Climate Change
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
November 7, 2018

Some people try to dismiss climate change as a liberal or Democratic issue. That position is incorrect and unsupported by history. Conservative politicians and institutions have recognized the need to protect the environment and the threat presented by climate change.

In 1970, Republican President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1988, Republican President Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol, which banned ozone-depleting fluorocarbons.

On July 29, 2015, the Department of Defense issued a report on climate change. The report identified climate change as a “security risk … because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges.”

In February 2017, a group of Republican elder statesman — including former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz, and former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson — called for taxing carbon pollution produced by burning fossil fuels, which the trio referred to as “a conservative climate solution” based on free-market principles.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued an updated report on July 11, 2018, entitled “Climate Change and Risk Disclosure.” In part, the report reads “Munich RE [a reinsurer] found that weather related losses have increased nearly fourfold in the United States since 1980. According to a study by Munich Re, extreme weather events (such as prolonged droughts, hurricanes, floods, and severe storms) led to $560 billion in insured losses from 1980 until 2015. Experts predict climate change will continue to intensify the frequency and severity of these types of weather events.”

In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued an urgent call to action in the form of a report stating that we have only a dozen years to prevent global temperatures from increasing 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7º F). If we go above that mark, the scientists say the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people significantly increase. This isn’t a problem only for future generations. The wolf is at the door.

Those persons concerned about security at our southern border should imagine the masses of starving and thirst-crazed people who will arrive there, if Central and South America are ravaged by crop failures, droughts and/or severe weather. It’s not hard to envision governments collapsing in those regions and their populations fleeing north to the United States.

We need to stop pretending the problem isn’t real and immediate. We need to listen to the scientists and do what Americans have always done in times of crisis. Roll up our sleeves, stare the danger straight in the eye, and fix the problem. We need to lead other nations, from the front, in the fight. Battling climate change now is a truly conservative, national security and economic imperative.

Kirk Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2018 Daily News-Record 11/7/2018

Facts And Faith Dictate Climate Action
Open Forum: Kirk Becchi
October 5, 2018

A May 1988 Shell Oil confidential internal memorandum, entitled “The Greenhouse Effect,” states “[m]an-made carbon dioxide, released into and accumulated in the atmosphere, is believed to warm the earth through the so-called greenhouse effect. The gas acts like the transparent walls of a greenhouse and traps heat in the atmosphere that would normally be radiated back into space. Mainly due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased. … Mathematical models of the earth’s climate indicate that if this warming occurs then it could create significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather.”

Unless one assumes Shell scientists are smarter, or more observant, than, e.g., Exxon-Mobil scientists, it is safe to assume that the whole industry has likely known of the dangers of climate change for three decades.

A NASA article entitled “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s climate is warming” states studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate warming over the past century is extremely likely to be due to human activities.

The scientific organizations concurring include American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Medical Association, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, The Geological Society of America, 11 international academies, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and an additional 200 worldwide scientific organizations.

A 2016 Papal ecumenical states, “To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.” The “sins” to which the Pope was referring include causing changes to the environment.

According to Interfaith Power & Light, the churches and religions recognizing climate change and the need to care for creation include Baha’i, Buddhist, Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Brethren, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Hindu, Interfaith, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist.

Today, we are seeing the effects of man-made climate change, including here in the Valley. We take for granted our temperate climate, which allows for inexpensive and abundant food; the infrequency of severe weather; and the relative freedom from insect borne, and tropical, serious diseases; but all of that could change.

Due to our denial and inaction, we’re decades late to the fight, but there may still be time to minimize the damage for the benefit of our children, grandchildren and everyone else yet to be born.

Instead of dismantling environmental protections, we should (i) acknowledge the urgency of the problem, so the deniers can no longer claim there is no problem or a lack of scientific consensus; (ii) listen to the scientists and implement their suggestions, which almost certainly will involve sacrifice and regulation; and (iii) as a country assume a leadership role in this fight, so other countries won’t be able to use our inaction as an excuse for theirs.

Preserving the planet is the fact-based, faith-based, and pro-life thing to do.

Mr. Becchi lives in Rockingham.

Copyright © 2018 Daily News-Record 10/5/2018

Editorial Missing Point On Climate Change

Daily News-Record, December 31, 2019
Open Forum: Leslie Grady Jr.

The headline of the Dec. 7 editorial was “China Biggest Climate Change Culprit.” While it is true that China is currently the single largest emitter of carbon dioxide ( CO2), is it really the biggest culprit? One definition of culprit is “the cause of a problem.” The severity of climate change is directly proportional to the cumulative human- caused CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. By the end of 2018 the U. S. had emitted 24.8% of that CO2, whereas China had emitted 13.5%. Thus, on the basis of what is actually driving climate change, we are about twice as responsible as China. Of course, there is no single culprit; we are all responsible, although those in developing countries are much less so.

China is a paradox; it is both the largest emitter of CO2 and the leading market for solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. As of the end of 2018, China had installed 175 GW of solar photovoltaic capacity, or 32.3% of global capacity, versus 62.2 GW ( 11.5%) for the U. S. Also, China had installed 211 GW (35.7%) of wind power capacity, versus 96.7 GW (16.3%) for the U. S. Finally, 2.24 million plug- in electric vehicles had been sold in China by the end of 2018, whereas 1.13 million had been sold in the U.S. While it is unfortunate that China is still building coal-fired power plants, one can’t argue that it is ignoring the need to address the climate crisis.

U. S. CO2 emissions indeed dropped by about 14% between 2000 and 2018, although the reduction was primarily the result of the fracking revolution, rather than policy. Economics led many utilities to close aging coal-fired power plants and replace them with gasfired plants, thereby cutting their emissions in half.

Regarding the Paris Climate Agreement, the editorial states: “… while this country was to be held to strict limits on carbon emissions, China’s commitment was virtually voluntary.” In fact, all commitments under the Paris agreement are voluntary and set by the countries themselves. Furthermore, the agreement is not legally binding and does not penalize nations that fail to meet their commitments.

The U. S. agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25% below 2005 levels by 2025, while China said it would peak its emissions by 2030 at the latest. Because of the emissions reductions due to the natural gas boom, the U.S. could have easily made significant progress toward its commitment had not the Trump administration withdrawn from the agreement. As it is, because of our withdrawal, Carbon Action Tracker rates our progress as “Critically Insufficient.” the lowest rating. China’s commitment is rated as “Highly Insufficient,” the next to lowest, primarily because it is not consistent with holding warming to 1.5 degrees C. Indeed, China needs to do much more, as do we.

Rather than blaming China for the climate crisis, the author of the editorial needs to ask: Why doesn’t the U.S., the world’s strongest economy, do more to help solve a problem that it played a large part in creating?

Leslie Grady Jr. lives in Harrisonburg.

Copyright 2019 Daily News-Record 12/31/2019