Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Letter from Gaia

 Oil Change International - California Hypocrisy

Last week, as leaders from across the world gathered for the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco, hundreds of people, with Indigenous and frontline leaders out front, took to the streets outside the convention center, marching right up to the entrance to demand real climate leadership, not half-measures.

It was fitting that the summit took place in California, a state that has done a lot to incentivize renewable energy, yet continues to also be a substantial oil and gas producer. While California’s Governor Brown talks a good game on climate change, he’s resisted any effort to take on the state’s oil and gas producers.

The rationale for tackling California’s oil and gas production couldn’t be more clear, and now with a new video that Climate Truth Org created with our partners at Oil Change International, the logic is plain to see for anyone with a minute to spare.

Inside the summit, elected officials, celebrities, and business leaders patted themselves on the back for their work on renewable energy programs and other efforts to reduce fossil fuel demand. But a critical half of the conversation was missing: Standing up to the fossil fuel industry to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

While the eyes of the world were on GCAS, we teamed up with our partners in the Brown’s Last Chance coalition to reframe the definition of what real climate leadership looks like. And we were successful! We made it clear: If decision makers like California’s Governor Jerry Brown aren’t working to keep fossil fuels in the ground, then they cannot consider themselves climate leaders.

If Governor Brown really wants to be the climate leader he claims to be, he must put California on a path of managed decline of fossil fuel production in the state. With just about 100 days left in office, this is Brown’s Last Chance! We know what’s necessary from our elected leaders like Gov. Brown: political courage, not more talk. We know that climate action that ignores people and gives Big Oil a pass is unacceptable.

Together, we’re going to keep making noise, keep making headlines, and keep changing the debate. With your continued support we’ll continue to make a real impact. 


David Turnbull
Sept. 22, 2018

Many environmentalists have been tracking the efforts by the Brown administration in California with respect to its climate change policies as well as the international cap-and-trade agreements put into place a decade ago, and have spotted the actions that failed to follow the talk. The fact that he's been relying on oil revenue to balance the state budget was no secret, and Brown replied to the criticism at the summit by saying "politics runs on money".

This kind of fossil fuel activism can reach to the federal level with highly focused actions and programs:

"The Paris Agreement was watered down at the behest of the Obama administration compared to a more rigorous treaty, with common base year and targets, recommended by the European Commission (Spash, 2016a). Obama made clear his commitment to protect American jobs over the environment and specifically over any need to address human induced climate change. In this logic, environmental policy is justified if it creates jobs and growth, which always come first despite the inevitable contradictions. Obama’s administration massively expanded domestic oil and gas exploration to make the USA the worlds largest oil exporter (Spash, 2016a: 70). Non-conventional oil has been part of this strategy, despite the world already having over 6 times the reserves it could possibly burn and still have a ‘likely chance’ of the 2°C target (Spash, 2016b). Obama boasted that under his administration enough oil and gas pipelines had been built to ‘encircle the Earth and then some’ (see full quotation in Spash, 2016a). He ignored the associated ecological and social harm, not least that to indigenous communities. In 2016, Native American protestors at Standing Rock opposing construction work on the Dakota Pipeline that, now operational, transports fracked oil, were brutally suppressed by the combined efforts of the construction corporation’s security forces, riot police and the national guard. All that was before the election of a climate denialist with personal investments in fossil fuels."

As an example of how this environmental policy action develops, here is the Climate Silence Case Study from Action, which is a program of Oil Change USA, a nonprofit organization. It shows how it forced President Obama to address Federal responsibility for climate action policies.

Update 12/15/18: Big polluters get help from the state, renewing doubts about California’s climate goals.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

California Climate Policies

This video from CalMatters looks at what happens when a state responsible for about 1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases goes all-in to fight climate change. Leadership involves some missteps, too.

Can a nation, or indeed the world, bring its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero? An analysis of this goal will be issued on October 8, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes its Special Report on the 1.5ºC target.

Governments commissioned this report at the Paris Summit in 2015. The rationale was that until that point, scientific and technical analysis based on the 1.5ºC target was sparse; the agreed political target had always been 2ºC, and so this was where academics had focussed their attention. Since then, scientists, economists and the technical experts who map possible emissions reduction pathways for various industries have been getting to work – and the IPCC report will be the distillation of their work.

California isn't waiting to take action on this. In response to the state's Fourth Climate Change Assessment, Governor Brown was the principal organizer and reluctant star of the Global Climate Action Summit in September 13-15, a high-octane gathering of lawmakers, executives and scientists working to beat back global warming. But even as he sought to rally other politicians to the cause, Governor Brown’s conference underscored the limits of what politicians can do to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change — even the politician who leads California, the wealthiest state in the country and the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Can California realistically do it? Nearly all of the remaining 44 percent of the state's electricity is currently generated by burning natural gas, and virtually none comes from coal. Going completely zero-carbon would require phasing out the state's natural gas power plants. The new law actually sets multiple targets rather than just one. It commits California to draw half its electricity from renewable sources by 2026, a share that would rise to 60 percent by 2030.

To take the next step, rather than mandating that all power be renewably sourced, state lawmakers established a 100 percent "zero-carbon" goal. They did not define this term, but it is understood as including wind and solar power, big hydropower plants, and other sources of electricity that do not generate carbon dioxide.

The timeline for these significant actions in California originate with the August release of its Fourth Climate Change Assessment document, which outlined the very extreme impacts that arise from carbon emissions even below the most-desired outcome of the agreed-to 1.5ºC temperature increase in the Paris Agreement of December 2015.

Sept. 14, 2018: With the Global Climate Action Summit underway in San Francisco, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced its commitment to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60 percent or more below 1990 levels.

Sept. 12, 2018: Governor Brown signed a package of climate-related bills. Among them were three bills supporting building decarbonization. AB 3232 directs the California Energy Commission to assess the potential for California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from residential and commercial buildings by 40 percent by 2030; SB 1477 will establish an incentive program for low-carbon space and water heating equipment; and AB 2195 directs the California Air Resources Board to track GHG emissions from natural gas leakage and venting during the production, processing and transporting of natural gas imported into California.

Sept. 12, 2018:  LA Times op-ed from Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg. They are two of the six co-chairs of the Global Climate Action Summit. They are also part of the America's Pledge coalition.

Sept. 10 2018: Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation that requires California to generate 100 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2045.

Contrary to the conservative mythology that clean energy slows economic growth, the state is already reduced its greenhouse emissions by 13 percent, even as the economy has grown by 26 percent. Clean energy also creates more jobs than fossil fuels and more people already work solar than coal, gas, and oil extraction combined.

Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug.28, 2018. 
Right-click the image and "save as" to your computer to read at 100 percent size

California is moving into the forefront of environmental action and climate change issues. The legislature just passed a truly transformative bill, SB100. By setting the marker at 100% clean energy by 2045, California stands to cultivate and capture a huge slice of the domestic renewable energy market and again lead in innovation.

Governor Brown also signed an executive order (B-55-18) to make California carbon neutral by 2045. Full carbon neutrality is now on the table for the world’s fifth largest economy.

Sept. 4, 2018: Los Angeles County

 The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, on Tuesday Sept. 4, 2018, joined other counties, states and cities in support of the goals of the Paris Climate Accord.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis recommended registering the county with the We Are Still In coalition, saying impacts of human-driven climate change will include less frequent but more intense rainstorms, more frequent and longer droughts, increased wildland fires and urban forest die- offs, more vector-borne disease, rising seas, lower air quality and longer and hotter heat waves.

August 2018: The California Natural Resources Agency just released its fourth Climate Change Assessment, a call to action on rising global temperatures — the state’s first in six years. Takeaways from California’s New Climate Assessment: water is a critical issue.

Update 9/21/18: Southern California just saw its longest streak of bad air in decades

Update 11/20/18: The public should not have to pay to protect or rebuild mansions on sites that will inevitably burn every 20 or 25 years.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Down and Dirty

NASA has been mapping underground water reservoirs with its Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite, which has been operational since 2002. This gives us a picture of the state of the underground aquifers that have been tapped by agriculture. It's used to determine the extent of water resources and how much has been drawn down by pumping and extraction. Quite a lot, it turns out, and the aquifers in the western United States are becoming badly overdrafted.

Jay Famiglietti, head of the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling, and member of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, has been using these maps to point out the need for management of this groundwater depletion. In 2014, he made the point that "In the future we're going to see big inequities. As the water table drops, it becomes more expensive to pump. You may have to dig a deeper well, which is very expensive. As you get to lower levels of groundwater, the quality degrades so there's that treatment cost. Smaller farmers may go out of business. That's the future."

Well, now it's 2018 and the future has arrived. A major investigation of the impact of dwindling aquifers in Arizona by the New York Times has made it abundantly clear that the overdraft of these aquifers is unsustainable and possibly unrecoverable. It's a long story that's critically important, and it's unfolding all over the planet.

This overdraft is the direct result of industrial farming that has grown in Arizona, which is causing local wells to go dry for residents and small farmers. The big industrial farms can afford to build deep wells with large pumps to supply their crops - generally very water-intensive crops. This is known as "groundwater mining", which is going on in all of the western states that are extracting groundwater to the point that the ground has sunk by many feet in Arizona, but especially in California's San Joaquin valley which is the vast agricultural central valley that grows thirteen percent of the nation's produce.

"Dr. Jay Famiglietti and his team noticed that many of the most significant sites of water loss were actually below ground. Of the planet’s 37 major aquifer systems, they discovered, 21 were on the verge of collapse. In the Great Plains, farmers had exhausted a third of Ogallala’s potable water in just 30 years. In California, the Central Valley aquifer was showing signs that it could drop beyond human reach by the middle of this century. But the worst declines were in Asia and the Middle East, where some of the planet’s oldest aquifers were already running out of water. “While we are so busy worrying about the water that we can see,” Famiglietti told me, “the water that we can’t see, the groundwater, is quietly disappearing.”

This has resulted in the loss of many small family farms, to the extent that some of them are now facing the prospect of being turned into residential developments, which use far less water, but demand tremendous amounts of energy and fuel use. And land that is paved over no longer absorbs the water necessary to replenish the aquifer. So the problem isn't getting solved, but merely kicked down the road. Multiply this scenario all across the planet, and we can now see that water is becoming more and more scarce as these aquifers dry up, along with the shrinking lakes, rivers and glaciers due to climate change.

As the water disappears, the ecosystem disintegrates and fades into dirt. And that's when our human existence faces its inevitable trajectory, which no amount of energy can reverse.

Update 9/3/18: Most ecosystems risk ‘major transformation’ due to climate change

Update 9/4/18: California water wars face Federal intransigence

Update 9/7/18: The sinking of California - subsidence in the central valley

Update 9/21/18: Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) will need to avoid six specified “undesirable results

Update 9/25/18: Oil industry threatening the state's limited groundwater.

Update 11/23/18: The Central Valley is sinking: drought forces farmers to ponder the abyss

Update 11/29/18: U.S. groundwater supply is smaller than originally thought

Update 12/1/18: Scientists reveal substantial water loss in global landlocked regions.

Update 12/10/18:  Dry wells and sinking ground as California struggles with groundwater crisis

Update 12/21/18: The Central Valley Tulare Lake Basin has dried out and sunk 30 feet due to over pumping (pg. 7)

Update 12/24/18:  The Colorado River is drying up, and 40 million Americans depend upon it.

Update 2/11/19:  California’s Groundwater Library Resources

Update 4/24/19: Can Sensor Data Save California's Aquifers?

Update 5/20/19:  Sinking land, poisoned water: the dark side of California's mega farms

Update 6/9/19: California's Central Valley has one of the worst subsidence crises in the country.

Update 6/12/19:  Can California Better Use Winter Storms to Refill its Aquifers?

Update 6/14/19: With floods and droughts increasing, communities take a new look at storing water underground

Update 6/17/19: THE DREAMT LAND Chasing Water and Dust Across California  By Mark Arax

Update 7/25/19: Sustainable groundwater management is inherently connected to the long-term survival of the Bay Delta

Update 8/25/19: We ate ourselves alive until the system collapsed, thus California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act goes into effect in 2020.

Update 9/20/19: Subsidence worries the California Department of Water Resources. Think of shutting down water for 30 million Californians.

Update 9/23/19: California's chronic water overuse leads to sinking towns, arsenic pollution

Update 10/5/19: Almost 20 percent of the catchments areas where groundwater is pumped suffer from a flow that is too low to sustain freshwater ecosystems.

Update 1/9/20: Extreme ag pumping threatens California’s main water artery

Update 2/19/20:  Subsidence of the California Aqueduct in the San Joaquin Valley - MWD findings

Update 3/9/20: California’s 'Salad Bowl' Recharges Depleted Aquifer

Update 4/1/20: As temperatures rise, Arizona sinks

Update 4/2/20: WESTERN GROUNDWATER CONGRESS: Quantifying surface water depletion from groundwater pumping. Western supply is decreasing and demand is increasing.

Update 4/16/20: California has launched a landmark effort to save its groundwater.

Update 5/14/20: Groundwater: The charge to recharge needs to be data driven

Update 8/21/20:  State Must Analyze Practice of Dumping Billions of Gallons of Wastewater Into Sea

Update 9/3/20: California has started to implement its Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) with a goal of reaching groundwater sustainability in over-pumped basins by 2040 or 2042.

Update 9/4/20: Groundwater over-pumping is breaking and sinking the land on which thousands of people and families farm, work, and play.

 Update 9/14/20: What Does Groundwater Have to Do with the Delta? A Lot.

Update 9/15/20:  GROUNDWATER 101: The basics