Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues
Under the veil of a tryptophan-tainted Black Friday, our government released the Fourth National Climate Assessment. If the climate deniers in Washington, D.C. who played out the timing of the report’s release were hoping our brains would be so mesmerized by the prospect of great shopping bargains, or still substantially hung over from Thanksgiving feasting for us to pay attention to the document, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Here we are in the week after the release of the assessment, and it is still getting plenty of play. Why might that be? Despite the report’s piercing truth in calling out the profound impacts on specific communities, and the straight line it draws between climate impacts and the ultimate toll it will take on our economy and livelihoods, the real reason the report is alive and vibrant is that the people of our country care deeply about this issue, and its impacts are hitting home, and frequently.
I believe in the last week the window for climate action has been thrown open wider and we will see an acceleration in climate action, and very soon. I believe that long time clarion climate champions and warriors – including remarkable individuals associated with PennFuture such as our board member and renowned scientist Michael Mann, past-president Larry Schweiger, and our current chair Char Magaro, who is almost singularly focused on helping communities address climate – will soon be joined by new champions. I am hoping newly re-elected Governor Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman will emerge with a vision and plan to take on climate here in Pennsylvania and will move stronger policy solutions. I see climate-forward businesses with interests in our state, such as NextEra Energy Resources, Mars and Dansko stepping up even higher. They are being joined by myriads more to lead the private sector. Climate leaders in Pennsylvania’s legislature like Leanne Krueger-Braneky and members of the Climate Solutions caucus, are being joined by newly elected pro-environment candidates, including Danielle Friel Otten, Lindsey Williams, Sara Innamorato, Summer Lee, Chris Sappey, Melissa Shusterman, Tim Kearney, and Steve Santarsiero.
This week, PennFuture was proud to support and sign onto the Clean Air Council’s petition to the Environmental Quality Board to limit carbon pollution. This petition offers a pathway towards our climate goals and is a backstop to legislative inaction.
Earlier this month, the PA Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with PennFuture and a team of facilitators and stakeholders, released Pennsylvania’s Solar Future Plan to realize more potential for solar energy generation in-state. The plan was crafted and shaped with very significant public participation and presents a viable path forward. Several elements of the plan have already been implemented, including enabling commercial property-assessed clean energy (C-PACE) and encouraging in-state solar development, but there is more that can be done. The work continues on, enabling community solar in Pennsylvania and renewing and strengthening our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards.
Climate must be further attacked and on multiple scales. Beyond energy, we need to be looking at transportation, agriculture, methane, and other sources and causes. Pennsylvania is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas in the country and for far too long, we have turned a blind eye to that fact. It is our obligation and responsibility—now, without further delay—to each other and future generations to make things better here. Fossil fuel extraction in Pennsylvania—oil, coal and now gas—are embedded in our geology, and in the DNA of our communities and economy. The industries associated with extraction have enjoyed primacy here for over 100 years and many elected officials have served at its pleasure. Now, that must begin to change. We must make the hard decisions to diversify our economy, regulate pollution, protect our water, improve our air, and address the climate catastrophe among us. I feel a shift and emboldening and it is long overdue.