EarthBeat Weekly: Elections remind us that climate issues are also local | earth beat
Amid the tumult and uncertainty surrounding this week’s US presidential election – which has reverberated around the world – it’s easy to lose sight of that famous saying: “All politics is local.”
This is not to say that political decisions made in the United States do not have an impact far beyond the country’s borders. Earlier this week, religious leaders from Central and South America, Africa and Asia spoke to me about the implications of the US presidential election for climate issues in their regions.
But it’s a reminder that many decisions about energy — how much should come from renewable sources and what kinds of incentives are offered for greater efficiency, for example — are made at the local or state level. The same goes for transport, especially public transport, such as the bus and train systems. And local governments can help reduce food waste. State and local policies on all of these issues have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
In fact, despite the lack of national leadership on climate policy over the past three-plus years, many states are continuing their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keeping the country somewhat on track. the goals it originally set for itself under the Paris Agreement, as biologist Thomas Lovejoy told NCR environmental correspondent Brian Roewe and me during a NCR Facebook Live Chat September 30. The United States officially withdrew from the Paris Agreement on Wednesday.
So how did some of these climate issues play out in local and national elections across the country on Tuesday, particularly as they relate to energy and transportation policy? Here are some examples.
In the gubernatorial races, Montana elected pro-coal Republican Greg Gianforte, while in North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who won a second term, is likely to keep the state on the well on its way to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050 through the expansion of renewable energy. E&E News provides details of these races and energy issues in eight other states.
In Nevada, voters gave final approval to a constitutional amendment requiring that at least 50% of the state’s energy comes from renewable sources by 2030. The measure has been criticized by some who think the target is too high and others who say it is not ambitious enough, reports David Roberts for Vox.
Residents of Austin, Texas approved funding for public transportation improvements to reduce carbon emissions, while voters in Denver agreed to a 0.25% sales tax increase that will pay off $40 million for programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, as well as other climate change. – related programs, according to a statement of the non-profit network US Public Interest Research Group.
Public utility commissions and other state and local regulatory agencies also play an important role in developing energy policy.
In a tight race, the Arizona Corporation Commission appeared poised to win two Republicans and a Democrat as members, which would give the body – which regulates electric, water and gas utilities – a 3-2 Republican majority. While past members did not necessarily vote along party lines, the change could affect the final vote on new rules aimed at stimulate renewable energy and energy efficiencyreports Courtney Holmes to ABC15 Arizona.
In Louisiana, outgoing Civil Service Commissioner Edward Skrmetta, who has been charged with corruption, faces a second round of elections in December to determine whether he will retain his seat, reports New Orleans-based WDSU News. Mother Jones’ Rebecca Leber posted a pre-election roundup of that race, as well as similar races in Nebraska, Montana and Texas that could be decisive to shape local energy-related climate policy.
In Texas, the Railroad Commission regulates the state’s huge oil and gas industry, and environmentalists across the country were watching the race between Republican Jim Wright, owner of an oil waste disposal company, and Democrat Chrysta Castañeda, an engineer and lawyer specializing in energy issues. But despite strong financial backing from his challenger, Wright – who was fined in 2017 for breaking waste disposal regulations – won the seat on the three-member board.
Many water issues are also decided locally, and there was some understated good news this week in Orange County, Florida, where residents voted overwhelmingly to granting local waterways the right to exist and be free from pollution. The measure includes the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee rivers. Brett Walton of the nonprofit Circle of Blue has details of that vote and the water issues that were on the ballot in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and California.
These races highlight how local decisions about energy use can have a global impact by increasing or decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. So how interested are your neighbors in these topics? You can get an idea on this mapprepared by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Overall, more than three-quarters of people in the United States want to know more about the actions being taken in their local communities, as well as by government and businesses, to address climate change. Interest varies greatly from place to place, however, and the map allows you to zoom in to your own county to help you understand how the views of people in your area fit into the bigger picture. .
Here’s more new to EarthBeat this week:
- Severe storms have wrought destruction and death in countries across Asia and Central America this week. In the Philippines, where Super Typhoon Goni’s winds reached up to 174 mph, Catholic News Service reports that churches have offered refuge to hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes.
- And in Central America, Hurricane Eta moved from Category 2 to Category 4, with winds of 110 mph, making it the strongest storm in the region since Hurricane Mitch in 1998, writes David Agren for Catholic News Service. Climate models predict that global warming will lead to more frequent and stronger storms, and will also lead to a faster increase in storm intensity.
- The twin crises of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic provide opportunities for interfaith action to care for our common home, say leaders from diverse faith traditions. NCR Environmental Correspondent Brian Roewe reports on a virtual seminar that explored interfaith responses to Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical, “Laudato Si’on the care of our common home.”
Here are some of what’s new in other climate news:
- Saudi Arabia is rely heavily on “green hydrogen” — fuel created by extracting hydrogen from water, using a system powered by wind or solar energy — for a futuristic city is planning. Other countries are also adopting the technology, but some experts remain skeptical. Jim Robbins explains why at Yale Environment360.
- Umberto Bacchi of Thomson Reuters Foundation News talks about a group of Swiss pensioners, Senior Women for Climate Protection, who are taking their government to the European Court of Human Rights for do not protect them from heat waves which are intensifying with the worsening of the climate crisis.
- Royal Dutch Shell, one of the oil companies that has contributed the most to greenhouse gas emissions since 1965, polled his Twitter followers on what they were willing to do to reduce emissions – a public relations failure that elicited a flood of pointed responses, writes Damian Carrington in The Guardian. Respondents, including Greta Thunberg, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, tweeted that they were ready to hold to account the company which, one respondent said, “turned the gas on in gaslighting.
Events to come:
In the third and final session of the Lutheran World Federation’s webinar series, “Visions for Transformative Climate Action,” on November 10, participants will share stories of hope in action from faith communities around the world. The panelists are Fr. Salesien. Joshtrom Kureethadam of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Khulekani Sizwe Magwaza, youth representative of the Lutheran World Federation of South Africa; and Sister Jayanti Kirpalani of Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.
You can find more information about this and other activities on our Upcoming Events page.
It’s been a stressful election week cliffhanger. But if you take a moment to look back, has positive action been taken on climate issues in your city, county or state? Have you or your faith community taken a position on them? Or has the election made you think differently about local or global climate issues? If so, write and tell us about it at [email protected]
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NCR Climate Editor