Column: Climate change rally to focus on reduction of carbon
"Paris to Prescott - Bringing Climate Justice Home" is the theme of the Prescott Climate Change Rally at 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 29, at Courthouse Square. The rally is in solidarity with the Global Climate March, more than 2,000 international events demanding serious action from world leaders at the Paris Climate Change Conference. The Paris climate summit is the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP21) where nations will try to work out a system of accountability for reducing carbon emissions.
The Prescott Climate Change Rally is sponsored by the Yavapai Climate Change Coalition: Sierra Club, Prescott Chapter Veterans For Peace, Grandmothers For Peace International, Granite Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Quad-City Interfaith Council, Yavapai County Democratic Party, League of Women Voters of Central Yavapai County, NoKXL Pledge of Resistance, Slow Food Prescott, and Prescott College Sustainability Club.
World leaders in Paris are urged to follow the lead of Pope Francis celebrated encyclical, Laudato Si, and to seriously consider the morality of leaving an inhospitable and, quite possibly, an uninhabitable planet to future generations. At Prescott's climate change rally last year, Rev. Jackie Ziegler declared, "climate change is the most critical moral issue that humanity as a whole has ever faced." This is even more true today as Pope Francis focuses worldwide attention on climate change as a basic question of justice for developing countries, the world's poor, and for young people today. "We may well be leaving to future generations, debris, desolation, and filth," admonishes Francis, who challenges us to accept accountability for the environmental destruction resulting from "our notion of progress."
President Obama goes to Paris with a commitment from the United States to reduce its carbon emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Compared to the international standard using 1990 emissions levels, the U.S. would be reducing its emissions by only 14 percent. The Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development calculates that a carbon reduction of 55-65 percent below 1990 levels would be a more fair share for the U.S. Kevin Anderson of the UK's Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research concludes the U.S. and EU need to cut emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
President Obama's Clean Power Plan (CPP) is a modest first step to reducing America's carbon pollution. The CPP requires Arizona to reduce its coal plant emissions by 34 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. About a third of Arizona's electricity comes from burning coal. Arizona representatives Paul Gosar, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema oppose the CPP, and Arizona has joined in a lawsuit to stop the CPP. According to a Yale University poll on November 16, 64 percent of Arizona respondents support strict CO2 limits on existing coal plants. Citizens and elected officials must recognize that continuing to subsidize the burning of coal makes renewable alternatives less competitive and we should demand Governor Ducey and state legislators withdraw their money-wasting lawsuit against the EPA and direct the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to immediately implement the Clean Power Plan.
World leaders at the climate summit in Paris recognize the urgency to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and realize that we must rethink the paradigm of economic growth based on burning fossil fuels. Even energy companies are realizing that fossil fuels are becoming a liability for their investors and are beginning to accept that two-thirds to 80 percent of their fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground to meet the world's emission reduction goals. In the film Do the Math, 350.org's Bill McKibben explains that extracting fossil fuel reserves of 2,795 gigatons is five times more than can be burned to keep the planet's temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, a temperature to which life on Earth is adapted (a gigaton is one billion tons). Carbon pollution of the atmosphere has already surpassed safe limits of 350 parts per million for a livable planet.
The long-term consequences of extreme weather events from an overheated planet, like fires, droughts, flooding and food and water shortages, will happen worldwide, but ultimately have local solutions. The Yavapai Climate Change Coalition suggests several local actions to reduce carbon pollution, such as urging city government to develop a climate change action plan, build a green-powered mass transit system, improve waste recycling and reduce emission of greenhouse gases by 8 percent a year. Sacred Heart Parish's Energy Retrofit is an example in our community how an investment in energy efficiency has reduced electricity expenses by 69 percent and will reduce carbon emissions by 3,000 tons over 25 years. Sacred Heart asks us all to take the "St. Francis Pledge" to confront climate change.
The goal of the Prescott Climate Change Rally is to transfer momentum from the Paris conference to Prescott, speak up for future generations, encourage personal and political action, and send a strong message to decision-makers that climate change is a serious situation demanding serious action. Together citizens of Prescott can "Bring Climate Justice Home" on Nov. 29.
Dennis DuVall is a Veteran For Peace and climate justice activist.