Climate Change and Clean Energy

image_4044Climate Change is real and immediate. The Paris Agreement adopted on December 12, 2015 is a great step forward in committing countries to pursue efforts to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the Paris Agreement is a beginning rather than a solution. It consists more of aspirations than firm commitments and lacks effective enforcement mechanisms.

Jan is a strong advocate for accelerated transitions to clean and renewable energy sources, reduced American and global dependence on fossil fuels and consistent implementation of the “polluter pays” principle. It is past time to stop new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Six years after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Gulf is still suffering grave environmental aftereffects. Jan has for decades opposed drilling in the Arctic, especially in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), one of the last pristine wildernesses. She continues to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline, Phase IV of the Canada-U.S. Keystone Pipeline system, which was rejected by the Obama Administration in late 2015.

Jan opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for its lack of environmental as well as labor protections. In the 6,000 pages of the TPP, neither “climate change” nor “global warming” is mentioned. Worse, the TPP has the potential to add fuel to the climate crisis. The Sierra Club has pointed out several problems in this regard. The TP would, among other problems, allow companies to attack climate policies in private tribunals, require the U.S. Department of Energy to approve all exports of liquefied natural gas and thereby increase dependence on a fuel with high greenhouse emissions, increase emissions that cause global warming and even restrict government efforts to combat climate change.

Particularly for Floridians, it is important to add that Jan is a staunch opponent of fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Fracking involves pumping a toxic cocktail of water and potent chemicals (some known carcinogens) underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas.  It poses grave risks to human and animal health and water supplies. Jan seeks early repeal of the “Halliburton loophole” in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that exempts fracking fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act. More generally, she urges an immediate halt to fracking on public lands and would support a nationwide fracking ban by Congress.

Manatees

A manatee is photographed head on in Florida's Homosassa river.

Protection of manatees or “sea cows” is an issue on which opposing candidates in this Congressional district agree. Jan Schneider commends our Congressman for the position he has taken. Manatees should not be downlisted from an “endangered” to a “threatened” species.

Manatees were among the first species to be classified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as endangered back in 1967. There are practical consequences to the different classifications in terms of required degrees of protection. At present manatees benefit from, among other things, special speed limits in boating zones and restrictions on dredging and other disruptive activities.

The Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposed downlisting in January 2016, and it is scheduled for early next year. The Service has cited estimates and studies showing that the number of manatees in Florida has risen from a little over 1,000 in 1991 to more than 6,000 today. It is therefore deemed unlikely that the manatee population “will fall below 4,000 total individuals over the next 100 years, assuming current threats remain constant indefinitely.”

The main problem is with the last part of the assessment, the assumption that current threats will remain constant. The human population in Florida is growing rapidly, as are watercraft sales. Meanwhile, n the last few years there have been several incidents of deaths of large numbers of manatees from unexplained causes. Also, warm-water discharges from power plants, on which manatees depend in cold weather, are declining with increased energy efficiency.

In short, while it is encouraging that the manatee population has grown significantly over the past half century, the threats to manatees are also escalating. The proposed downlisting seems unwarranted or at best premature.