Mark’s COP21 Climate Testimony to the EPA

Yesterday I took some time to give testimony to the EPA on their Clean Power Plan. I’ll let my spoken (and written–below) words speak for themselves…

Full Text: Testimony by Mark Dixon
Pittsburgh Resident, Speaking on November 12, 2015
RE: Proposed Federal Plan Requirements for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Electric Utility Generating Units Constructed on or Before January 8, 2014

Docket ID No. ID HQ-OAR-2015-0199

I’ll be attending the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris this December, where the world’s eyes will be focused on America and a few other major industrialized nations, urging them–urging US–to put in place an agreement sufficient to hold our global temperatures below 2°C, and maybe even 1.5°C if we’re lucky. The “Clean Power Plan” under review today is an integral part of our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) –our negotiating position–at this climate summit. Some would say your plan is visionary, powerful, or a “good start.” I say that it is pathetically insufficient. The United Nations itself has determined that the combined INDC’s leading into COP21 are only sufficient to keep temperatures below 2.7°C above pre-industrial levels, and other smart analysts think those commitments may only limit warming to about 3.5°C. And NASA’s own scientist, James Hansen, has even called the 2°C target “catastrophic.” He advocates for less than 1°C of warming. It’s like you’re designing a space shuttle that gets halfway into orbit before falling back to earth, exploding, and killing large portions of humanity in the process. And you’re asking us to comment on this plan. Sure, getting halfway into orbit is a good start, you could say we’re even “headed in the right direction,” but if, by design, the ship is doomed to failure, then I think you need to go back to the drawing board and come back with a plan for an orbit-ready spacecraft.

And in the meantime, while we wait for you to figure out how to politely ask businesses to remove the CO2 from their climate-destroying energy facilities, we in Pittsburgh suffer with some of the worst air quality in the country, and I’m stuck using this homemade air filter fan to try to clean my air. Here again my description of your plan as “pathetically insufficient” seems relevant.

Indeed, at times it feels like I’m talking to a very polite wall. Begging for those in power to hear my cry. It reminds me of the refugees in Europe, pleading with walls of administrators, and sometimes just pleading with brick walls, desperate and aching to be heard by anybody who will listen and help. It turns out that your very own National Academy of Science has done a bit of research into the sea level impacts of climate change, and Climate Central built from those numbers to determine that at 3°C above pre-industrial levels, which your plan helps us accomplish, we will see between 250 and 600 million people displaced by sea level rise. And you think that we have an illegal immigration problem now? If we took one second of silence for each climate refugee we could very well be here for 19 years. But I have five minutes, so in my remaining time, I would like you to simply reflect on some of the many climate refugees that your plan creates. A family that loses everything. A farmer forced to leave family land. A teenager forced to steal to keep from starving. A child with no home. With no country. Multiplied by millions. But for now, imagine one such refugee. Now two. Three. Four. Five. Six…

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