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July 22, 2014
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editorial

Mired in fossil fuel


It also ranks third (behind Texas and California) for total CO2 emissions (www.eia.gov/state/?sid=PA), and therein lies the problem.

As we at The River Reporter see it, the Commonwealth’s failure to think long-term about its energy future is because its leaders are mired in short-term fossil fuel thinking. The CAP itself concludes: “Pennsylvania CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions have fallen dramatically, in large part because Pennsylvania is generating more electricity with natural gas instead of coal.” It simply ignores research like the 2011 Cornell study arguing that unconventional shale gas, on a lifecycle basis, is even diertier than coal. The result is that, shamefully, Pennsylvania is the only state in the country to include fossil fuels in its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS), a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from alternative sources.

Last week the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publishers of Science, released a new report and initiative to underscore how urgent it is for the public to know that 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is real and that “We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.” (See: whatweknow.aaas.org/get-the-facts/) including the potential for “massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems as global temperatures rise.”

The AAAS report continues: “Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk and foreclose options… The CO2 we produce accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere for decades, centuries and longer… [and] cannot be reversed from one generation to the next until there is a large-scale, cost-effective way to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases.”

The clock is ticking for the world—and, yes, for Pennsylvania—to take meaningful action to mitigate climate change and to plan for how to adapt to its present and future consequences. Pennsylvania is mired in fossil-fuel thinking, and its citizens deserve a far better Climate Action Plan that looks to the long-term and not to the short-term, a CAP that looks to the future, not to our carbon-based past.