A leading world power has been taken hostage by a learning-disabled internet troll who can send civilization to climate ruin. Many are feeling devastated and hopeless.
When Candidate Trump openly promised to take a wrecking ball to the climate by withdrawing from the Clean Power Plan and Paris Agreement, few believed that Americans would go along with such self-destructive harm. But here we are.
Here are some things we can do to mitigate this catastrophe.
1. Lawyer up.
The legal profession is not the most loved of professions, but lawyers will be needed to protect the climate against the promises Trump has made. Lawyers are protecting the Clean Power Plan, the proposed rule under the Clean Air Act compelling utilities to supply Americans electricity using cleaner energy.
While other Obama administration initiatives like higher fuel efficiency standards also play a part, if the Clean Power Plan is killed, then the US commitment under the Paris Agreement is on very shaky ground.
Already, a wide array of citizen groups are battling in court to protect the Clean Power Plan, and thus the Paris Agreement, against states with powerful coal lobbies that are fighting to keep using climate-ruining coal instead.
You can support any of these environmental organizations, acting as intervenor groups and amicus curiae (friends of the court) to add more legal muscle alongside the Obama administration’s Attorney General and its Environmental Protection Agency, working to save us from climate ruin. (In California and other states, you can also become an intervenor as a private citizen against natural gas power plant permits.)
Clean Power Plan intervenors include 60 municipalities, 41 faith communities, 25 business associations, 20 US climate scientists, 18 states, 10 utilities, 8 major corporations, 6 major medical associations and 208 members of congress. The full list of all the environmental groups, the national associations and congress members who are in support of the Clean Power Plan is here. Find your group and add your support.
This battle is now being waged in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and will continue over the next few years — regardless of whatever Trump tries.
Even if Trump’s EPA won’t defend it, the litigation won’t end, experts say. These groups can fight on regardless, as they have standing to defend the rule even if the next administration backs out, according to Jack Lienke, a senior attorney with New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity.
All the groups defending against climate ruin are lawyered up to keep fighting the coal industry corporate lawyers and Attorneys General from 27 Republican-held states in knee-jerk opposition to any legislation that improves lives because it’s undertaken by Democrats.
This is why donating to an environmental law group battling this case like the Sierra Club, NRDC or the Environmental Defense Fund helps protect the Clean Power Plan.
Sierra Club attorneys successfully cut the nation’s portfolio of coal plants in half during their permitting process in the Bush years. The Southern Environmental Law Center is quietly and effectively winning battles against fracking and coal throughout the South.
2. Get involved politically.
There is hope. The Paris Agreement makes it hard to opt out in less than four years. There is an election for congress in two years and for president in four years.
Put congress’ switchboard number — (202) 224-3121 — in your phone to frequently let your congress members know who objects to each new outrage. The operator will put you through to your Senator and Representative if you give your street and state. Ask for your local office too and put that number in your phone. Representatives worry most about voters turning against them back home.
Pressuring the Senate is key. Democrats (currently minority) can potentially halt a bill’s passage through cloture votes. Trump has promised swift moves to ensure climate ruin. So be ready.
“If both chambers of Congress were to pass some sort of bill blocking the Clean Power Plan, and a President Trump wanted to sign it, that would be law, and that would render the litigation over the rule moot,” Lienke said.
Just keep that number handy.
3. Invest in solar or wind farms directly.
You can put money in a clean energy yieldco.
Unlike stocks that bet on a particular company doing better every year, yieldcos pay renewable energy dividends from money earned by an existing solar or wind farm that is getting paid by a utility in a 20–25 year power purchase agreement (PPA).
US utilities are extremely reliable, never defaulting on contracts, so these can be very stable places to stash money to earn dividends and get it back at the end, while helping prevent climate ruin. As someone who knows nothing about investment, don’t listen to me though. Follow someone like Tom Konrad, who I interviewed a while back, who explained the yieldco difference.
“The rationale for investing in stocks is that you’re investing for what you think it will sell for when somebody wants to buy it and it’s worth more later,” Konrad told me then. “But yieldcos are the opposite. They are more like bonds; you’re investing for the dividends.”
These have a better return than a CD. Yieldcos are not bought in order to sell at a better price, like stocks. They act more like dividends, with a low and stable rate of annual returns.
4. Join clean energy advocacy groups.
Lobby to keep solar booming with groups that present the case for clean energy support. Join SEIA, Vote Solar, and other clean energy groups that form the counter-weight to the oil and gas industry to defend clean energy.
“These groups will let you know when your voice will matter most, and they will give you the tools you need to take action,” said Rosalind Jackson, director of external relations at Vote Solar.
“It could be a couple clicks, but it will have an impact.”
5. Live in a clean state.
If you are considering a move to a different state for work or for school, factor in whether the energy supply is cleaner than where you live now. (Check out all states listed by coal dependency.)
Simply by living in the states with the dirtiest energy, your home is running on mostly coal power (unless you go solar of course). The states where you do the most damage by using grid power are West Virginia (96%), Kentucky (93%), Wyoming (89%), Indiana (87%), Missouri (83%), Utah (77%), North Dakota (76%).
You could move to any of the states using virtually no coal — like California, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Idaho — or between 1% and 5% — like Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.
Moves can make a huge difference. Hop the border from 76% North Dakota to 1% Idaho and you’ve got one household off the dirty grid just like that.
6. Go solar and get an EV.
The two biggest climate-impact buying decisions that any individual can make are these two: with solar on your roof and an electric car in your garage, you did your bit to prevent climate ruin.
But I know you knew that already, or you wouldn’t be here.
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