1. OVERSEEING NATIONAL ENERGY PLANNING
As Rick Piltz repeated in hundreds of telecasts, “the fossil fuel industry has no expectation of being phased out, and in fact is seeking to bring about the development of a new era of expanded extraction, domestic consumption, and export.” Moreover, it appears abundantly evident that the White House and federal agencies are not seriously incorporating the threat of global climate disruption into decision-making on such developments. Science-based climate policy development will be opposed at every step by powerful economic interests and anti-regulation ideologues. GAP’s CSW program was founded on action to counter such efforts, whether they come from inside government or from external pressure. We will continue to work with allies to expose and counter the global warming denial and disinformation campaigns. As Rick set forth to GAP before his passing in the fall of 2014, the central focus of his expanded vision in CSPW is to hold the current and future administrations accountable for reconciling stated goals with policies that can effectively accomplish those goals. This effort therefore includes but is not limited to our overseeing of the following critical policy initiatives:
- The 2014 National Climate Assessment: A hallmark CSW issue, Rick regarded the jettisoning of the 2000 Assessment, and of the communication process it had initiated, as the central climate science scandal of the George W. Bush Administration. The 2000 Assessment, like the current 2014 Assessment, was a threat to the global warming denial machine because it took projected global warming seriously and focused on the implications of climatic disruption, region by region and across socioeconomic and natural resource sectors. CSPW will be conducting a thorough review of the initial Assessment undertaken during the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration’s “deep-sixing” of the 2000 Assessment, the largely ignored 2009 Assessment (due to what Rick called the “climate silence” enveloping the White House at the time), and the merits and shortcomings of the 2014 Assessment – providing a substantive analysis of what needs to be in the report and how climate change will indeed actually affect real people in real places. We will also push the administration to make significant enough progress in implementing the Assessment’s findings before the Obama presidency ends and a new, and potentially hostile, administration can roll back the progress made in this centrally important effort.
- Quadrennial Energy Review (QER): We will also be critiquing the QER – a major strategic planning exercise to develop government policy for the next generation of energy infrastructure. We are currently analyzing the QER and will be strategically exposing the inconsistency between the report’s stated goals through 2030 and the President’s commitment to reduce US emissions by more than 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. While the U.S. commitment to natural gas may help achieve near-term targets like the one set forth by the QER in 2030, the expanded use of natural gas will only undermine emission reduction efforts in the long-term. For example, the administration has fully supported a massive expansion of shale gas fracking, with some studies – as recent as July 7, 2015 – estimating large fugitive methane emissions from the natural gas system “potentially offsetting the climate benefits of natural gas” with potential estimates of the greenhouse gas having “a global warming potential over a 100-year time frame as high as 34 times that of carbon dioxide.” The only way we can meet or exceed the President’s 2050 goal is by rapidly ramping down fossil fuel use. Therefore, we will draw attention to the tremendous cost to the environment and waste of investing in a natural gas infrastructure through 2030 – which will then only be abandoned in the subsequent two decades if the 2050 goal is to be made. We will be engaging a strategic blogging campaign exposing these issues, culminating in a White Paper to be released in late 2015 which will serve as CSPW’s clarion call for the national need to hold the administration accountable for reconciling stated goals with policies that can effectively accomplish those goals.
- The President’s Climate Action Plan & National Preparedness: Ever since its creation in 2005, CSW has been ahead of the curve in championing climate change “preparedness.” We believe that CSW’s efforts and the work of our allies played a significant role in the concept of “climate preparedness” rising to the level of public discussion it required. The long virtual ‘climate silence’ in the White House that we argued against between 2009 and 2013 was finally broken, and a Climate Action Plan containing first steps was finally issued. A presidential Executive Order was issued in November 2013 as part of implementing the Climate Action Plan (CPA), establishing adaptive preparedness and resilience to disruptive climate change impacts as an essential national priority. Thus, the “National Climate Change Preparedness Initiative (NCCPI)” that we proposed in 2008 and have advocated for since then has become part of mainstream policymaking. Consistent with our recommendations, the plan identified a set of preparedness initiatives aimed at building stronger and safer communities and infrastructure, protecting the economy and natural resources, and using science to manage climate impacts. However, the Plan specifies 52 action items and has many moving parts – spanning a wide range of federal agencies, jurisdictions, budgets, missions, issues and decisions. There is also no specification of how progress will be documented and reported, whether those actions will be transparent, how the results will be communicated, and if this will be done in a way which will allow independent assessment. Furthermore, there are other issues which must be addressed. For example, while the Plan addresses the problem of coal-fired power plants by pledging to develop rules to regulate emissions, it fails to address the problems of coal leasing, mining, and export. We will therefore be working with allies, inside sources and experts to call strategic attention to these problem areas in the Plan. We will be promoting our findings and analysis through a strategic blogging campaign culminating in a White Paper on the Climate Action Plan with a projected public distribution of late 2015.