Climate Change in the State of the Union

Last night President Obama gave his State of the Union address. Before the speech started environmentalist and others that care about the environment were anxiously waiting to see if climate change would make it in to the speech and how big of a role it would play. Much like last year, there were some good parts that brought cheers throughout social media from the environmentalist and many things that brought a lot of booing as well.

One part that I have mixed feelings about is domestic oil and gas production. Living in Oklahoma, I have spent my life around the oil and gas industry. Chesapeake’s, one of the largest natural gas producers, headquarters is across the street from the Oklahoma City Whole Foods that I sometimes go to, to shop. I have many friends that work for Chesapeake and other oil and gas producers. The oil and gas industry brings a lot of money and jobs to my state.

However, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is an environmental disaster, it pollutes our water and air, and the disposal wells used in the process are likely causing earthquakes. And of course oil and gas are both fossil fuels, not only are they causing environmental harm but they will run out, and many believe they will run out soon. If we don’t stop relying on them soon times will be very hard as we run out of both.

We do have to be realistic though, this part may not thrill some of you but we can’t stop using fossil fuels overnight. I’m typing on a computer largely powered by coal and natural gas, though I do buy wind credits through my energy company. The computer you are using right now is also likely powered by coal and natural gas, most likely the car or public transit you use is powered by a fossil fuel. If we stopped production tomorrow we would all be in a lot of trouble. This is the harsh reality of our situation right now.

So I had mixed feelings when President Obama said that we are producing more oil at home right now than we have in 15 years. The fact that it’s produced at home means we get a higher concentration of the pollution but we also get the economic benefits and more fuel isn’t wasted shipping it here. So there are some pros, environmentally, to greater domestic oil production. But of course we can’t continue down this path! And President Obama did give good news as well,

“We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it…….  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”

And he went on to take a strong stand on climate change. Saying that we must “for the sake of our children and our future” do more to combat climate change. And my favorite quote from the night,

“Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”

He went on to urge Congress to create a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. And had a very strong statement to make to Congress,

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

He went on to say solar energy has gotten cheaper and that we need to drive the costs down even more. And praised the increase we have seen in wind energy and said we must generate even more. Some not so great news did follow,

“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence.  That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.  But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.”

Many gas and oil permits have been issued that aren’t even being used and his administration has been approving more permits non-stop. I do hope that more research is done to make natural gas safer, like I said before we must continue using it for now, it’s not practical to think we can just stop. The problem would just be moved to another country and in my opinion that’s not ethical. He went on to talk about something many of us have been waiting for, conservation and funding research for new technology.

“Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.  I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.  The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”

We lose about 7% of the energy we produce as it transmitted to customers. Our grid is in bad shape and in need of an update. Updating the grid will make renewable energy even more viable and will help bring more jobs to the United States.

“America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts.  I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.”

Overall the speech made me optimistic. However, with the Keystone XL being build just around 20 miles from me, I do still feel we must continue to push for real climate reform. This Sunday many environmentalist will rally in DC for just that, real climate reform. Visit the Sierra Club’s website for more information on the Forward on Climate rally and what you can do to help. We must act and show the President and Congress that we demand real change and that we must act now.

Did you watch the State of the Union, what were your thought? Share in the comments below or on my Facebook page. If you missed the speech you can watch or read it at Politico.

President Obama Calls for Action on Climate Change

inaugural

Climate change was hardly mentioned during the election but it was a big topic in President Obama’s inaugural address today. The President didn’t say we should do something about climate change, he said it’s our obligation to do something about it. If you missed the speech, this is what the President had to say about climate change.

“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.

But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

How true it is that while some deny the science of climate change, no one can deny the devastation it brings? We are all impacted by climate change, for myself in Oklahoma, I have experienced two record breaking summers the last two years, major wildfires, and we are still in the worst drought felt by Oklahoma in 50 years. Oklahoma’s inaction and lack of sacrifices, combined with the drought, has led to a water crisis.

We can try to deny what’s happening but that won’t stop the destruction. And even if climate change wasn’t happening, why would we not want energy independence that will last , clean air, and clean water? Are we not willing to make a few sacrifices for the good of the planet and future generations? If we don’t make these sacrifices we will have to face the consequences of our inaction. Is that a risk we are willing to take?

 Photo Credit: Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Meneguin, U.S. Air Force

 

2012: Hottest Year on Record

For some this may not come as a surprise, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just released that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States. I have to say I’m not surprised, this summer was pretty bad. Though for Oklahoma 2011 was even worse.

Map by NOAA climate.gov team

Map by NOAA climate.gov team

The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 3.2 degrees above normal, 1 degree higher than the previous record in 1998. Every state in the contiguous U.S. had an above-average annual temperature last year. Nineteen states had a record warm year.

It was not only hot, precipitation was down as well. The average total precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 26.57 in 2012. That’s 2.57 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record. In July, 61 percent of the nation was experiencing a drought. The drought fueled many wildfires, burning 9.2 million acres, third highest on record.

2012 was also declared the second “most extreme” on record. Tropical cyclone activity across the North Atlantic was above-average, with 19 named storms. The widespread drought peaked with approximately 60 percent of the nation under the drought. And it was the third worse year for wildfires. Oklahoma was so dry and windy, that the governor had to issue a statewide burn ban.

Map by NOAA climate.gov team

Map by NOAA climate.gov team

One thing was below average though, tornado activity was down with the final county being likely less than 1,000. There was a large tornado outbreak in March and April but the typical tornado season, May and June, had less than half the average number of tornadoes.

The U.S. isn’t the only country with big news due to heat, Australia has been so hot they had to add a new color to the weather map!

As a record-breaking heatwave hovers over many regions and territories (which are in their summer months now), the continent’s  Bureau of Meteorology has added two new colors to the weather map to reflect the rising mercury.- Yahoo! News

The past two summers in Oklahoma have me dreading summer. The heat the last two years has been unbearable at times, the lack of rain can almost make you crazy, and the dust storms bring fears of a new dust bowl. Thankfully as I write this we are getting much needed rain but it will take a lot to pull us out of this drought. How was the weather this past year where you live?

Sources-
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/australia-weather-heats-colors-added-weather-map-195717230.html