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Matt Simmons, EPIC’s New Climate Attorney

My name is Matt Simmons, EPIC’s new Climate Attorney. While this role is new to me, I have worked at EPIC for the past three years on a variety of different fronts. But with the pressing need to engage deeply on climate issues, focusing more closely on climate change is crucial. I wanted to share a few words with you about why this work is so important to me.

EPIC members know that climate change is an existential issue. Because of our global emissions of greenhouse gasses from burning fossil fuels, the world has already warmed 1.2 degrees Celsius. As a result, we are experiencing increased droughts, storms, floods, heatwaves, wildfires, sea level rise, you name it. These impacts are threatening both human lives and entire ecosystems around the globe, and every additional molecule of carbon released into the atmosphere amplifies and accelerates those effects. The chart below illustrates just a few of the impacts that we can expect in the near future if we don’t rapidly curb our emissions. These impacts will only accelerate if we don’t meet the 1.5 degree target established by the United Nations.

Impacts at 1.5 Degrees Celsius and 2 Degrees Celsius of Warming.
Impacts at 1.5 Degrees Celsius and 2 Degrees Celsius of Warming. Figure from the Climate Council.

While climate change is a global issue, the solution must be local. We can’t control what other countries do, or even really what other States and cities do. Our best bet is to demonstrate a successful, equitable, responsible, and exciting clean energy future by implementing it ourselves. If we do that, I believe that places around the globe will be excited to follow suit and we can globally transition away from fossil fuels and other climate pollution.

Here in Humboldt we have some incredibly exciting opportunities. The Humboldt County Climate Action Plan will help us redesign our cities to help people live a lower carbon lifestyle by driving less and using carbon-saving technologies. Tribal nations are leading the way by developing low-carbon microgrids that allow them to reliably provide power even when PG&E’s grid fails. And, of course, there’s the floating offshore wind project.

The Biden Administration and the State of California both see Humboldt’s offshore wind resource and port as essential ingredients to decarbonizing our nation’s electric grid. Once built, a single rotation of a large floating offshore wind turbine can generate enough electricity to power a house for two days. Every single watt of power generated from offshore wind will displace electricity generation from dirtier forms of energy such as coal and natural gas (which is currently burned at the Humboldt Bay Generating Station). That will benefit the global climate, ecosystems, and communities that have been forced to bear the brunt of our fossil fuel-reliant economy for the past century.

Wind turbines don’t come without their downsides, and EPIC is going to push the Humboldt Bay Harbor District and our state and federal agencies to implement robust protections for ecosystems and communities that will be affected by this development. At the same time, I plan to keep global ecosystems and communities in mind, too, because climate change is an existential issue and Humboldt needs to do its part locally to tackle it.


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