Climate Change

Climate Change Anxiety Got You Down? Join Our Webinar!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

Does thinking about climate change give you a sinking feeling? Does the Anthropocene keep you awake at night? Me too. Join EPIC, Friends of the Eel River, Humboldt Baykeeper, and the Northcoast Environmental Center on Tuesday, May 5 from 7-8pm for a special discussion with HSU Professor Sarah Ray, author of the new book, “A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool on a Warming Planet,” to learn how to become a more resilient person and a more effective activist. Register for the online webinar today!

Caring about the environment can be emotionally difficult. An environmental education has costs, including an acute awareness of what is wrong with the world. Or, as the ever-eloquent Aldo Leopold put it, “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” To many, climate change is anxiety producing—and for good reason. How we deal with this anxiety is important. Do we burn out or burn brighter?

Register for the webinar today!

 Want to pick up a copy of A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety? Help support local bookstores! Eureka Books and Northtown Books have the book in stock for curbside pickup or delivery. If you live outside the area, you can also find the book online here.

 Based on Ray’s decade-plus of experience as a college educator and program leader, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety is not just another self-help book: it draws on research in psychology, sociology, cultural studies, mindfulness insights, social justice movements, and the environmental humanities. The result is an accessible and relatable resource for anyone struggling with climate anxiety. Chapter themes include:

— How to identify the signs and symptoms of climate anxiety, and where they come from;

— Finding your place in the climate movement;

— Parsing journalism and sensational media representations of environmental crises;

— Resisting the urge to argue and be “right”;

— Allowing yourself to have fun and experience joy despite the state of things.

Register Now!

Linking Habitat Requires Crossing Political Aisles

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Due to the current climate and biodiversity crisis, there has been a surge of policy promoting the need to establish and protect wildlife corridors. Scientists estimate that globally over 1 million species are at risk of extinction. In the United States, it is estimated to be 1 in 5 animal and plant species and, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, well over half of California’s fish, amphibians and mammals and nearly half of all birds and reptiles are “at-risk.” Habitat protection and connectivity allows for species to migrate freely across large distances and is key to their survival. 

To adequately address landscape connectivity, politicians must cross aisles. This can be done. In 2019, New MexicoOregon and New Hampshire passed landmark wildlife corridor legislation and California could do the same. In February, Wildlife corridors and connectivity: Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection and Movement Act of 2020 (SB-1372) was introduced in the California legislature and has progressed to the Committee of Transportation. 

This bill would require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate, study, and identify impacts to wildlife corridors from state infrastructure projects, including transportation and water and large-scale development projects. It would prioritize wildlife movement and habitat data development in areas of the state that are most essential as habitat linkages. Enacting the Wildlife and Biodiversity Protection and Movement Act of 2020 would require the state to build off of existing programs and plans, including the State Wildlife Action Plan, to proactively protect and enhance wildlife corridors and design infrastructure to maximize wildlife connectivity.

Nationally, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 (S.1499) was introduced in the Senate last year. The purposes of the act is to: establish National Wildlife Corridors to provide for the protection and restoration of certain native fish, wildlife, and plant species; to provide long-term habitat connectivity for native species migration, dispersal, adaptation to climate and environmental change, and genetic exchange; help restore wildlife movements that have been disrupted by habitat loss, degradation, fragmentation, or obstruction; facilitate coordinated landscape- and seascape-scale connectivity planning and management across jurisdictions; and to support State, Tribal, local, voluntary private landowner and federal agency decision makers in the planning and development of National Wildlife Corridors.

Connecting wild places will stave off extinction, while providing landscape connectivity, whether it is through intact habitat or road crossings, will benefit people, plants and animals. Positive action for the good of nature is possible across political party lines. We are living proof that when we are faced with a crisis we can, and must, unite to make change.

Action Alert: EPA Suspends Industry Regulations During COVID-19

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

We need your help! During this crisis, the Trump administration is silently sneaking through more and more environmental rollbacks that bolster industrial profits over environmental and human health. On March 13th, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order to indefinitely suspend enforcement actions for companies normally regulated under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While facilities such as refineries and chemical plants continue to operate during the pandemic, they are no longer required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water.

From the order itself:  “In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.”

This gives a free pass to companies to pollute in violation of environmental laws for an indefinite period. This is unacceptable, especially given that many industrial hotspots are centered in already vulnerable at-risk communities.

Please take a moment to let EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler know how you feel by sending him a letter expressing your disappointment with him for relaxing industry regulations instead of safeguarding the environment and our communities.

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Some Climate Lessons From COVID-19: Can Working From Home Reduce GHG Emissions?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

COVID-19 has shaken up the way America works. In response to the threat, offices across the country are locking their doors. Millions of workers are learning to work from home, having staff meetings by video and figuring out how to juggle conference calls and crying kids. This unplanned experiment has already yielded a helpful finding: millions are discovering that teleworking not only works, but often we are more productive. This realization holds significant potential because teleworking is one way we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Transportation is Humboldt’s largest category of greenhouse gas emissions. Commuting to and from work represents 30 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Overwhelmingly — 76 percent of the time — we drive to work to work alone. And the average commute distance is 16 miles each way. Cumulatively, these trips represent a significant amount of carbon emitted. To reduce the environmental impact of transportation, we not only need to quickly switch to electric vehicles, we also need to reduce the total vehicle miles traveled.

Telecommuting, even if just a day or two a week, would cut a substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that, based on this data, individuals would save on average of over 1,300 kg of carbon dioxide emissions — about one-twentieth of an average American’s total emissions. (Again, this is all based on averages and the individual savings could be lower or higher.)

Working from home can provide more time with family members!

Working from home has advantages beyond carbon savings. For employees, working for home gives more time for the worker. Teleworking is an excellent example of a sustainability initiative that also sustains people. I’m not speaking to the oft-spoken (and true) narrative, “if we take care of the planet, it will take care of us.” I’m speaking to the fact that people are happier when they have more quality time to spend with their loved ones. Most Americans spend more time with their coworkers than with their families. The average American commute involves 30 minutes in the car each way — an hour of unpaid life away from family, away from hobbies, away from the other parts of life that we work to support. If working from home means we get more work done in less time, then we have more energy to dedicate to our non-work relationships and non-work passions. Teleworking gives inherent flexibility to a schedule, allowing for you to, say, get dinner on the oven on your break or flip the laundry between emails. (I have a loaf of bread in the oven as I write this.) The ability to work from home is especially important for individuals with disabilities or for others who find travel difficult.

For employers, the benefits are also stark. Workers are actually more productive because they are able to better concentrate. Workers take shorter breaks and more hours are spent working. Job satisfaction rises and worker retention rises. Sick days drop.

Interested in teleworking? Your employer may already have a policy. It is California state policy to encourage telecommuting and each state agency is directed to have a policy in place. Humboldt County likewise permits teleworking and is looking to further ease the paperwork required because of the pandemic. Check out your HR manual for more on how to petition to work remotely. For private businesses, Humboldt can’t mandate more flexible working arrangements but you can always ask your employer. (Remember: they benefit too. And a quick Google should give you all the facts to muster a strong argument in favor.)

An office is often a nice place. We can form friendships over copier errors and find a sense of shared purpose. I often work at the conference table because I love those little interactions in the course of a day. But what we have found in “social distancing” is that we can still be social from a distance. Telecommuting is one little way that we can change our behaviors to improve our lives and the climate. After the facemasks seem out of fashion and our hands are no longer pruney from washing, let’s hope that teleworking stays around.

This article was originally published in the Times-Standard on March 18, 2020. 

Humboldt County to Consider Climate Bond To Fund Renewable Energy

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

EPIC’s Executive Director, Tom Wheeler, commenting on the considered bond at the March 3rd Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the Board directed staff to begin work towards a municipal bond to fund renewable energy and other efforts to combat climate change. A municipal bond would need to be approved by voters on the November 2020 ballot. The Board’s actions are in response to a public call for public financing of renewable energy development after the Humboldt Wind Project was denied by the Board in December.

“Humboldt County continues to lead on renewable energy development. By publicly financing renewable energy development, we can ensure that money stays local and that projects are broadly supported by the public,” said Tom Wheeler, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Together with the forthcoming Climate Action Plan, 2020 will be a big year for climate action in the county.”

The exact projects to be financed through a municipal bond have not been identified yet. County staff are directed to work together with experts from the Redwood Coast Energy Authority to identify the highest priority projects that could be immediately funded. Projects could include: advance work to prepare for offshore wind development, like necessary upgrades at existing terminals; establishment of solar microgrid systems around critical infrastructure; and efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions from other sectors, like transportation.

“Renewable energy development is not only good for the climate, it is good for jobs—developing the clean energy economy here in Humboldt. And by supplying power locally, it is good for our security in the case of a natural disaster or another power shutoff, helping the county or critical infrastructure ‘island’ from the larger grid,” said Mr. Wheeler.

At the hearing, the Board heard from many citizens concerned about climate change and eager for the county to take bold and immediate steps to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Letter To Planning Commissioner John Ford: Reaching A CAP Emissions Target

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

This letter was submitted by email to Planning Commissioner John Ford on the forthcoming multijurisdictional Climate Action Plan in response to the recent Eureka presentation regarding the matter:

Dear Director Ford,

On behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center and the Friends of the Eel River, please accept this letter on the forthcoming multijurisdictional Climate Action Plan.

In setting a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, the county needs to be in line with the best available science, in line with state-mandated goals, and provide sufficient benchmarks that the public and county can gauge progress. We recommend that the Climate Action Plan set a goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2045, with a benchmark of 50% emission reductions from 2015 emissions levels by 2030 (hereafter “zero net target”).

A zero net target is in line with the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change, which found that to limit warming to 1.5°C implies reaching zero net emissions by 2050 and approximately 50% net reductions by 2030. (Rogelj 2018 (“In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range).”).)

A zero net target is likewise in line with existing California state law. California has set various targets for global greenhouse gas emissions and the county is obligated to set a target that conforms with state requirements. Given multiple potential emission targets, we recommend that the county set the target in line with the most ambitious target yet issued and the most recently issued target. In 2018, Governor Brown issued Executive Order B-55-18 which ordered the state to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045 and maintain negative emissions thereafter. Our proposed zero net target builds off Governor Brown’s order by providing clearer intermediate direction of 50% emission reductions compared to 2015 emission levels.

Our climate crisis demands bold and immediate action. We are committed to working with you and the county to address this existential threat. Thank you for your leadership on this issue.

Sincerely, Tom Wheeler Executive Director, EPIC

See Full CAP Emission Target Letter Here.

A Humboldt Solution To The Terra-Gen Aftermath

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Terra-Gen’s Humboldt Wind Project was flawed but it would have offered this: a large and sudden pulse of low-carbon energy, enough to fill approximately 56 percent of Humboldt’s total electricity needs. With its demise, our odds at reaching our global climate goals become more distant while our challenge to achieve 100 percent clean, renewable energy from local sources is markedly more difficult. Its rejection now raises a new and more pressing moral imperative that we act, and quickly. If not this project, how will we meet our clean energy needs? We face a climate crisis that demands bold action now. We can’t wait.

There is a Humboldt solution: locally-created, locally-financed and locally-owned power. We can and need to invest as a county in our own energy production. Humboldt County is a bondable authority. Our county is underleveraged in terms of its debt-to-asset ratio and this project is capable of generating revenue that can pay off the debt incurred, two important criteria that would make Humboldt well-suited and attractive for a municipal bond. After our bond obligations are paid, we also have something special: community-owned energy that generates revenue that could be used to reinvest in more renewable energy production.

What would this project be? We will need to diversify our electric portfolio to provide a responsible and stable grid mix. This means investment in all of the renewable energy technologies as appropriate, including solar, new biomass systems, run-of-the-river hydro, and, yes, large-scale wind energy. In an age of information at everyone’s fingertips, it is easy to find fault in virtually any project. We must embark on a community project with the understanding that compromises will need to be made. That said, as the county would ultimately develop the project, compromises can be made deliberately and democratically. As we learned from the Humboldt Wind Project, energy development projects need to come from the community, be good for the whole community and include the community in the planning process.

During the public dialogue, many raised the need to invest heavily, if not solely, in distributed solar microgrid systems, such as the one installed at the Blue Lake Rancheria. These systems, while an important tool, are not sufficient to meet our energy needs. While the PG&E planned power shutoffs have demonstrated the need for more microgrid systems to support the necessary civil infrastructure that we are reliant upon — hospitals, wastewater treatment facilities, government offices, etc. — microgrid systems are currently too expensive to provide affordable power on a large scale.

We face a climate crisis and it is our moral imperative to do something about it. Decarbonizing our energy infrastructure is the lowest hanging fruit. Carbon emissions associated with energy production account for approximately 13 percent of Humboldt County’s emissions. These emissions are mostly attributable to those from the Humboldt Bay Generating Station, our large natural gas energy plant. By producing new renewable energy at scale, we can begin to depower the plant and eventually mothball the facility when we provide sufficient reliable energy to the larger grid.

Decarbonizing our energy infrastructure is also critical to reducing emissions in other areas. Far and away, Humboldt’s — and the nation’s — largest emission category is transportation, at over 50 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Here, achieving emission reductions is more challenging and involves both reducing total vehicle miles travelled by car and plane and electrifying transportation. Of course, however, electrifying our transportation fleet will only achieve the necessary emission reductions if that energy comes from low-carbon sources.

Humboldt is well suited to develop the kind of renewable energy projects we need to meet future energy needs. We are blessed to have local renewable energy experts at Schatz Energy Research Center, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and in the private sector. Local investment in renewable energy will also provide new opportunities to pursue the green tech jobs of the future.

The Humboldt Wind Project electrified the passions of individuals on both sides of the debate. It is my hope that all of the energy put into the consideration of that project will now come forward to support a locally-produced clean energy future.

This article originally appeared in the NCJ’s “Letters and Opinions- Views” section as: “Terra-Gen Electrified the Conversation. What Now?”.