The True Cost of Fossil Fuels
Climate change is already creating more frequent heat waves, droughts, fires, and floods.
Map: USDA Farm Services Agency
Cheap fossil fuels historically have assured continuing growth to our economy, but now their negative impacts are mounting. Nonetheless, our nation's policies, subsidies and tax codes still heavily favor hydrocarbon energy. Oil, gas, and coal remain undeservedly cheap, and their wastes are dumped into our common atmosphere for free, as if it were an open sewer. All of us, and the living systems that support us, bear enormous costs associated with their use.
There are different ways to measure these costs and assess their impact upon society and the environment. A recent report, "Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet," finds the impacts cost the world more than $1.2 trillion, a whopping 1.6 percent of global GDP. It was written by more than 50 scientists, economists and policy experts, and was commissioned by 20 governments.
Social Cost of Carbon
The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is the US government's estimate of how much carbon emissions harm the economy. This is a measure of climate change impacts. US government's 2013 mid-range estimation of the SCC is $35 per ton, revised from 2010 at $26 per ton.
However, the E3 Network (Economics for Equity & Environment), a national group of economists, estimates that CO2 actually costs far more than federal current estimates, contending that the government analysis omits many of the biggest risks of climate change, and downplays the impacts of climate change on future generations. E3 points out that if the SCC were higher, it would bring much more urgency to the value of reducing emissions.
A higher SCC incentivizes efficiencies in appliances and autos; it is not the same as a carbon tax, as it is narrower in effect.
The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) estimates the true cost of a gallon of gasoline is upwards of $15.00 per gallon, by factoring in externalities, such as climate disruption, oil spills, and health impacts from air pollution. Other hidden costs include military defense of oil supply lines, subsidies, and maintaining the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Paul Epstein, with the Harvard School of Public Health, found that coal's hidden costs—climate disruption, public health impacts, pollution, toxic waste—were $345 billion per year (median estimate). The costs are higher than the electricity provided by coal is worth. The public bears the costs of increased asthma, heart attacks, and pulmonary issues. Coal burning releases radiation, heavy metals, and other toxins. It is the largest source of airborne mercury, now seeping into every habitat. Coal ash is our second-largest source of toxic waste.
Fossil fuel extraction impacts (such as CO2 emissions and groundwater pollution) are particularly growing, as producers are increasingly using lower-grade reserves (see Extreme Extraction). Our oceans and marine life are threatened by fossil fuels in several ways: ocean acidification, dead zones, and the plastics crisis.
Including the Costs
If these damages were factored in to the actual prices for carbon fuels, fossil fuels would become unaffordable. We must now find ways to cooperatively and quickly reduce our fossil fuel use, and to downscale the human enterprise.
 DARA and Climate Vulnerable Forum, "Climate Vulnerability Monitor: A Guide to the Cold Calculus of A Hot Planet," Also see: Fiona Harvey, "Climate change is already damaging world economy, report finds," The Guardian, September 25, 2012.
 "The Price of Gas," Center for Investigative Reporting, June 13, 2011.
 Paul Epstein, "Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal," Harvard School of Public Health, February 2011.
No Remaining Carbon Budget
Zero US Carbon In a Decade Is a Must!
There are no such things as ‘allowable carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.’ There are only ‘damaging CO2 emissions’ … The CO2 emissions budget framing is a recipe for delaying concrete action now.
—KEN CALDEIRA, email to Joe Romm, Climate Progress
The mission of the ill-fated voyage of Apollo 13 was aborted after an oxygen tank blew up, which allowed the buildup of carbon dioxide in the spacecraft. For their survival, the astronauts had very limited time to respond. Fortunately, an all-out emergency operation returned them safely to Earth.
Humanity is aboard Spaceship Earth, and its precious, vulnerable atmospheric balance must be maintained above all else. For humanity's survival, we now need an all-out emergency response to stop emitting greenhouse gases, and to restore the proper atmospheric balance.
Photo: Movie still, "Apollo 13"
The notion of a “carbon budget”—the amount of fossil fuels we can safely “spend” or burn without exceeding the 1.5-2°C heat limit—has gained nearly complete endorsement within the climate world. Bill McKibben’s 2012 article, “Global warming’s terrifying new math,” the popularized the concept, stating there are five times more fossil fuel deposits than can ever be burned to stay under 2°C.
“Burnable carbon” budgets that state what can typically be "safely burned" range between one-fifth and one-third of the remaining proven fossil fuel reserves, and assume we have several decades to phase out fossil fuels.
But what if the carbon budget concept is actually a dangerous illusion? Consider this:
- Climate change is already dangerous at just 1°C warming. Major impacts are becoming apparent now (such as polar ice melt and extreme weather) that are severely underestimated in the IPCC’s modeling and are not accounted for in the Paris Agreement.
- We are already committed to further warming, even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today.
- Budgets assume unacceptably high risks of failure, of going past 2°C.
- The budgets state that we have years of carbon left to spend. So we continue spending literally “as if there were no tomorrow.”
1.5-2°C is not a safe target to begin with. At just 1°C warming, impacts are occurring faster and more extensively than expected. While “high impact events” (such as rapid Arctic sea ice loss, accelerating melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, and extreme weather) were thought to have low probability, they are already starting to happen. The IPCC reports, which take 5-6 years to produce, are at odds with the quickly unfolding reality. Kevin Anderson states that 2°C is actually the threshold between dangerous and extremely dangerous climate change.
We are already committed to additional heat increase "in the pipeline"—due to the lag in ocean heating—even if we cut all emissions today. So today’s greenhouse gases levels are already catastrophic.
The carbon budget and probability of success. The budget (vertical axis) is related to risk of failure (overshooting the 2°C horizontal axis) along the blue curve. Emissions to date are indicated by grey box, leaving the available budget as the distance between the blue curve and grey box. As chance of not exceeding the target increases from 33% (green) to 50% (orange) to 66% (red), the budget decreases. At 90% chance of not exceeding the target (black), no carbon budget remains.
Source: Spratt, David and Dunlop, Ian, “Dangerous Warming: Myth, reality and risk management”, and Raupach (2013, unpublished), based on Raupach, M.R., I.N. Harman and J.G. Canadell (2011) “Global climate goals for temperature, concentrations, emissions and cumulative emissions”
Right Level of Risk
Catastrophic climate risk must be approached very differently from current thinking. The buildup of CO2 in our air and water poses many possibilities of civilization-ending calamities, such as sea level rise, death of the oceans, and extreme drought. Why not take a risk-averse approach for staying under 1.5-2°C, when the possible outcome is so dire?
Even the “safest” IPCC budget (RPC 2.6) assumes an unacceptably high-risk of exceeding 2°C, at 33%. No one would board a plane with a 33% chance of crashing.
Even a 10 percent chance far exceeds modern safety standards. We know we would not take these levels of risks with our lives. Rather, we must consider risk differently and adopt a low-risk pathway, such as less than 10% of exceeding the 2°C target.
What isn’t being discussed is this: given the carbon fuels we have already burned, even if we stopped right now, we’d have less than a 90 percent chance of staying below 2°C, without net negative emissions. Planet Earth is our “spaceship-home.” We must stop taking the increasing risk that we will make its near future both “hell and high water” for our children.
There is an unacceptable risk that feedbacks will be triggered before 2°C, such as releasing major stores of carbon and methane. Some feedbacks are already starting. If we trigger unstoppable tipping points of runaway warming, we are in for hell and high water. Given these potentially dire consequences, we need a strong risk-management, low-risk approach.
Taking all these issues into account, with a risk-averse approach for staying under 2°C we have no carbon budget left for burning oil, coal, and gas. We need to heed what Caldeira is saying, that there are only damaging CO2 emissions.
Syncrude tar sands operation, Alberta, Canada. The vast Albertan tar sand deposit is a major carbon bomb that must remain buried for climate stability.
Photo: David Dodge, Pembina Institute
Time to Mobilize
To save our Spaceship Earth, humanity must quickly turn away from hydrocarbon fuels. The US must mobilize to stop fossil fuel use as soon as possible, adopting a mandate of US zero carbon within a decade. This requires an all-out mobilization, involving all of society to radically change our economy, energy policy, and energy systems. The rest of the world needs to quickly follow with global zero carbon within fifteen years.
Climate Mobilization and US zero carbon in a decade is inevitable because it is what must be done. It is time to declare a global emergency and mobilize all available resources, political will, and ingenuity towards the task of confronting climate chaos.
Really Keeping It In the Ground
In spite of all this, governments, corporations, and global markets are currently treating remaining reserves as assets to be burned in the coming decades. Numerous massive hydrocarbon projects, in some phase of planning or development, could significantly push emissions well above 2°C and bring on complete climate destabilization, thus ending humanity. In North America, these include the Alberta tar sands, shale gas reserves, deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and exports from the massive coal deposits in the Powder River Basin, Wyoming.
With so much momentum towards complete self-destruction, the only way to keep these massive carbon stores in the ground is through a massive people’s campaign, which includes personal, face-to-face education and moral conversations, demanding an Emergency Climate Mobilization.
 IPCC’s most stringent budget, RPC 2.6, is 1000 billion tons CO2, or 800 billion tons CO2 when non-CO2 greenhouse emissions are also included. See: IPCC Summary for Policymakers, AR5 Working Group 1, p27.
The Need For The Climate Emergency Coalition
The question we face is simple: will America quickly mobilize against climate chaos on a massive scale, or will we remain stuck in denial and passivity until it is too late to avert impacts that will devastate civilization and our living systems? Unfortunately, few people understand that we are in a planetary emergency, demanding urgent response. Decades of rising emissions, while scientists clearly explained the crisis, have closed the window of non-disruptive, gradual reductions. While an incremental, decades-long emissions reduction scenario (which the world agreed to in Paris) may seem “politically realistic,” it is not “scientifically realistic.”
The US now needs an all-out emergency climate mobilization at wartime speed. The goal must be Net Zero US Emissions within a decade; Net Zero Globally within fifteen years.
Yet in the face of endemic denial and passivity, how do we catalyze an Emergency Climate Mobilization quickly enough to protect a livable Earth? It will be impossible to achieve without public support and pressure. Importantly, it only takes 3-4% of engaged, impassioned citizens—those most concerned—to transform the situation.
We must move quickly to tell the truth and drive a cultural conversation, to achieve a US consensus on an Emergency Climate Mobilization within two years. A broad-based people’s campaign is needed to catalyze the mobilization. To ignite public pressure and build the “Emergency Climate Movement,” the Climate Emergency Coalition warns and motivates groups and citizens.
Climate Emergency Coalition (CEC) is a lead organization creating the national conversation on the current climate emergency to result in an Emergency Climate Mobilization. CEC is creating a campaign of moral conversation events to be hosted in faith communities and civic spaces—to alert, engage, and activate Americans to call for responses to meet the scope, scale, and urgency of the crisis: national climate policies and an emergency mobilization to phase out fossil fuels within a decade.
Cliff Cockerham, National Campaign Director
Cliff Cockerham has a long history of activism, going back to the 1970s. Much of his current work nationally and internationally involves speaking and teaching about climate justice (CJ) and intersectionality.
Cliff is especially adept at engaging and organizing young people. After a diverse teaching/research career, he began engaging inner-city youth as Sierra Club (SC) activists in 2008. He revived both the SC - Tennessee Chapter's Environmental Justice (EJ) Committee and the SC - Tennessee Chapter's Environmental Education (EE) Committee, both of which he chaired until 2018. Consequently, dozens of students have been awarded SC scholarships to attend national trainings and conferences in addition to participating in seminal activist events and rallies. As Co-Chair of the Environment & Climate Committee of the NAACP - TN Conference he mentors EJ student activists at historically black college and university campuses.
After receiving SC national's Cox Award in 2011 for student empowerment, Cliff served in roles such as: keynote and plenary EJ/EE speaker at over a dozen national and international conferences; SC - TN Chapter Chair 2015-2017; EJ adjunct faculty at Merritt College. He accepted SC’s Bay Area “Emerging Voices” Award with Merritt College President Burns in 2017, owing to his founding role in designing and deploying the college’s San Francisco Bay Area EJ/CJ Education Pipeline. As a Lifetime Member of the Sierra Club, Cliff continues to serve nationally on the Climate Emergency Mobilization Team, the Climate Adaptation & Response Team, and the National Toxics Core Leadership Team; while coordinating the national network of Climate Health Action Teams.
Early retirement in 2014 allowed Cliff to dig deeper, spending six weeks on the Peoples Climate March team that brought 40,000 college students to Manhattan in 2014. This was an exciting prelude to the 2015 convening of COP21 in Paris, where he produced live webcasts of college students to American audiences. He also had the pleasure of organizing an NGO/SC side-event against fracking while participating in the international meeting of anti-fracking activists during COP21.
Cliff’s science background specifically informs his activism. He is a highly engaged Climate Ambassador with Physicians for Social Responsibility [PSR] and a co-moderator of PSR national's Environment & Health Roundtable. He is also a member of the national "Scientists Network" public outreach program of the Union of Concerned Scientists [UCS]; the "Ignite Change" network of the Center for Biological Diversity [CBD]; the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] section on Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering.
On SC’s [https://content.sierraclub.org/grassrootsnetwork/teams/national-toxics-team] National Toxics Team [NTT] and NTT's core leadership, he helps monitor POTUS administrative impacts on EPA’s clean air/water/energy protection. As President of the TN Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility [which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985; http://tennessee.psr.org/] he partners with various organizations on a Connect-the-Dots Campaign to link various environmental issues to the underlying existential problem of climate change. He is a speaker in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps (Vice President Al Gore's Climate Reality Project) and a Climate Ambassador with Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Within TN Cliff sits on the Board of Directors [https://www.tcwn.org/staff-board] of the TN Clean Water Network and the TN leadership teams of the Citizens Climate Lobby [CCL], Elders Climate Action [ECA], and the Global Catholic Climate Network [GCCM]; while representing TN in America's State Carbon Pricing Network (climate-xchange.org). Currently, he lobbies and speaks in Washington several times per year. Except for field studies on Mayan Ejidos in the Central Yucatan, Cliff’s current focus is to teach, write, and continue building the Connect-the-Dots campaign, which seeks to expand environmental activism beyond America's metro hubs.
His formal education includes: B.S. in Genetics and in Communications Arts [double major] with Honors from Cornell University; Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Georgetown University; Faculty Traineeship Certificate from Harvard Medical School; post-doctoral Research Fellowship, Molecular Cardiology in the Department of Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine. While at Emory University he also taught as adjunct faculty in the African-American Studies Program, funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Program in Biology at Emory, and sat on the faculty round-table at the Emory University Center for Ethics & Public Policy in the Professions, which focused on health care reform in America.
Cliff’s research projects have included guest collaborations and workshops at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the National Institutes of Health [NIH], the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Atlanta-VA Medical Center, NASA [National Aeronautics & Space Administration at Goddard, Huntsville, Cape Canaveral, etc.], the Gulf Coast Research Lab [University of Southern Mississippi], and The Bristol-Myers Squibb Institute at Princeton; along with non-degree studies at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences [Bethesda], the U.S. Naval Academy [Annapolis], Ohio State University, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a past member of The Gerontological Society of America [GSA] and served 5 years on its Task Force on Minority Issues in Aging Research; serving on the Committee that wrote the first Minority Health Research Agenda at the NIH National Institute on Aging. He remains an active member of the American Geophysical Union [AGU], the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health [MSCCH], and the Environmental Defense Fund.
In the 1990s Cliff was awarded Emory's Multicultural Faculty-Staff Excellence Award, recognizing his service as Chair of the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities at Emory and his work for Chairperson Coretta Scott-King of the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission in Washington, D.C. As the King Commission's co-chair for Higher Education, Cliff played a central role in nationally defining the King federal holiday as a day of community service, branded by the motto: "A day on, not a day off!"
On the international stage, he served as NGO observer for the UN Conference on Trade & Development (Manila, Philippines -1979); NGO organizer for policy consultations with U.S. Ambassador Stromayer in preparation for the UN Conference on New & Renewable Energy (Nairobi, Kenya -1981); plenary environmental speaker at the summative conference on UN Millennium Development Goals (Vadodara, India - 2014); breakout session moderator at the Climate Convergence Conference in association with the UN Climate Summit (NY, NY - 2014).
He bridges his work on environmental justice to climate justice globally, serving as Director of Curriculum & Instruction at the Maya Environmental Education & Research Center [MEERC in Tres Reyes & Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico; https://www.facebook.com/MEERCenterMexico/], guiding American college student volunteers on environmental fieldwork projects and their collaborative STEM education of indigenous students pursuing sustainability studies. He also leads both workshops and spiritual retreats on the message of Laudato Sī, the Papal Encyclical on climate change, as well as artist residencies in the Yucatan. In January 2019, Cliff served on the volunteer support team for the half million pilgrims that journeyed to Panama to see Pope Francis, working with the Franciscan presence in Latin America to support messaging on the climate change encyclical. In addition to leading the Global Catholic Climate Movement [GCCM] in TN and working with several churches across the State on "Care for Creation," he serves on the Earthbeat advisory panel for the National Catholic Reporter [https://www.ncronline.org/earthbeat/advisory-panel], America's foremost news outlet in the Catholic world.
Much of his current work also involves bringing science into art galleries and promoting art that addresses the existential problem of climate change [https://www.earthday.org/take-action-now/]. Previously he published over 100 photographs in print media, illustrated 2 books, and was executive producer on a documentary. Building on that background he now also paints, organizes gallery exhibitions, and delivers gallery talks on climate change messaging in arts and performing arts; also using climate change art as a means of focusing meditation during retreats he leads on the writings of Pope Francis and the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
Cliff is a founding member of the "Artists for the Earth Collective" [A4E] within the Climate Emergency Coalition. https://www.cecoalition.org/a4earth
With A4E and through MEERC's Education Partnership with the international Akumal Arts Festival [AAF; https://www.akumalartsfest.com/support-us] he collaborates on the promotion of climate change messaging in conjunction with the themes of sustainability and community resilience in the developing world, in solidarity with indigenous peoples. For Cliff, protecting the most vulnerable people on the planet from the "globalization of indifference" is a moral imperative that ultimately drives his dedication to climate mobilization.
Jean Arnold, Development Director
Jean has been raising awareness about global warming and the threats posed by fossil fuel use for over a decade through writing, lectures, graphics, websites, visual art, and organizational development. She has organized community events, actions, and guest speaker engagements. Over time, Jean's focus has shifted from the local to the national level, and towards the need for policy change, system change, and cultural transformation. Prior to her founding work with the Association for the Tree of Life and Climate Emergency Coalition, she founded and served as coordinator of Post Carbon Salt Lake.
CLIMATE EMERGENCY COALITION CAMPAIGN
We as a country and as a planet face a fundamental threat. … Until we start with that conversation, it's very hard for me to see how we ultimately lead to the national policies that are going to be required, much less the international policies that are also going to be required.
Director, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
This outline proposal shows how a modest sum—$500,000 for a one-year demonstration—can prove the necessity for a national “emergency climate mobilization” and build a Climate Emergency Coalition with partnering organizations. Following demonstration, the US can be quickly galvanized into a consensus on Emergency Climate Mobilization within the timeframe required to stabilize the climate, while including a justice and equity framework.
To respond effectively to the climate crisis, we need an all-hands-on-deck climate mobilization to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions at wartime speed. Because of the nature of the looming climate crisis, the fate of civilization and of our living systems hinges on a Climate Mobilization response. The over-determined data shows that there is actually no remaining carbon budget, therefore we must phase-out fossil fuels now!
Informing, Engaging, and Galvanizing Americans
Relating for Real Change
It is through our web of associations and relationships that we best develop understanding and emotional response—by arriving at a social interpretation of the data. Sociologist Robert Brulle, Drexel University, says that engaging people face-to-face is "the only way to achieve real, lasting change [for the climate]." We are relational creatures, and we get involved when people that we know and respect are involved. Explaining climate change must be personal and interactive—virtual or social media are insufficient for organizing citizens and expanding the movement.
Photo: Julie Nerbonne, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, climate conversation event.
A consensus on US Climate Mobilization must come quickly. If achieved within a couple of years, the US can achieve the target of Net Zero Carbon within a decade. To achieve the degree of transformation required—even including the conservative Congress—we only need 3-4% of the population joining the call for mobilization with us. That means recruiting enough mobilizers through an Education and Advocacy Campaign that provides personal, face-to-face dialogue, and moral conversations. There are already tens of thousands of faith social halls and civic auditoriums ready to host this cultural conversation. The initiative galvanizes those most concerned about the climate threat, thus building a decisive Climate Coalition with partner organizations. Change of this magnitude can only happen through organizing while raising and deepening public awareness.
Citizens need to understand how quickly and effectively we must respond to avert climate chaos. They must appreciate the details of the encroaching climate crisis, the necessity of an all-out mobilization, the advantages of a carbon price and its affordability, climate justice issues, and why US leadership is crucial. We explain the scope, scale and urgency of the crisis; in addition we explain why the Coalition is the necessary response to uniquely meet these daunting challenges.
The curriculum is riveting and inspiring. It is designed to catalyze action and precipitate appropriate responses.
First Phase of the Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign
The First Phase of the Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign will employ the existing southwest network of Interfaith Power and Light to coordinate the necessary personal conversations and education at their disposal through the thousands of venues available: congregation social halls, civic auditoriums, and public meeting places across those states. The states include Utah (convening), Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, and Tennessee.
The $500,000 budget includes salaries for a Project Coordinator and six State Coordinators, and consulting fees.
The Demonstration will quickly lead to the adoption of the full CEC Campaign nationwide to achieve consensus on mobilization within a two-year period.
 Anthony Leiserowitz interview with Bill Moyers, Making People Care About Climate Change, Moyers & Company, January 4, 2013.
 We are already committed to an inevitable heat increase "in the pipeline"—due to the lag in ocean heating—even if we cut all emissions today. So today’s greenhouse gases levels are already very dangerous.
 Robert Brulle, From Environmental Campaigns to Advancing the Public Dialogue: Environmental Communication for Civic Engagement, Environmental Communications, March 17, 2010, pp. 82-98.
 A response to a request for proposal can provide extensive detail and justification.
Climate Emergency Coalition
I heartily support the Climate Emergency Coalition and its work to shift philanthropy to organizations and initiatives fighting the threats to humanity brought by climate change.
—PAUL R. EHRLICH
The Climate Emergency Coalition furthers the public conversation so the need for mobilization is quickly perceived; additionally, it creates a pathway for organizations to shift their missions to mobilization. Critically, the CEC provides coordination, talking points, and curriculum for groups who understand that only an emergency mobilization can suffice. The CEC seeks to dramatically expand the size and urgency of the existing Climate Movement, while focusing its efforts on Net Zero US Emissions within a decade. The Climate Emergency Coalition Fund attracts more funding opportunities than groups might find separately. Join by taking the Climate Emergency Coalition Sign-On (organizations / individuals).
A core program of the CEC is a Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign that will offer personal, face-to-face engagement and moral conversations in tens of thousands of faith and civic spaces across the US—to awaken, galvanize, and organize citizens. Explaining must be personal and interactive, not only virtual or social media. The Campaign ignites those 3-4%, the “trailblazers” who will join and fuel the CEC.
Sign-On (organizations / individuals) and join the action. Then ask others to join in.
National Campaign Director: Cliff Cockerham
Climate Emergency Coalition has 501c3 sponsorship through Association for the Tree of Life.
Download PDF: Climate Emergency Coalition flyer
OUR EMERGENCY CLIMATE SITUATION
We must phase out fossil fuels as quickly as humanly possible for a livable climate.
ExxonMobile Refinery, Torrance, CA. Photo: Michael Light.
WE MUST PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS NOW!
Few people, even in the global warming movement, understand the scope, scale, and urgency with which we must now operate to protect our livable planet. A pervasive pluralistic ignorance keeps people from admitting we are in a crisis. We now need a compelling multi-faceted Climate & Ecological Emergency Campaign to inform and activate a critical mass of Americans, so we can: (1) achieve US leadership in an Emergency Climate Mobilization, (2) set standards to reduce carbon-based fuels and eliminate their subsidies, (3) keep fossil fuels in the ground, and (4) correctly assess the viability of renewable energy.
The gravity of our situation is clear and convincing. Our task ahead is clear: we either phase-out fossil fuels now or we end civilization and humanity. Here is the tough reality: we have an emergency and we must mobilize now. All hands on deck!
We must build a large Climate Emergency Coalition to demand an immediate emergency mobilization as an over-riding US priority. The aim is Zero Net Carbon within a decade in the United States, feasible with an all-out mobilization.
The Paris Agreement won't save us
Importantly, the Paris Climate Agreement itself makes the case for emergency response. With its 1.5-2.0°C target, the Agreement merely gives the impression that the crisis is being addressed. But the deal allows nations to pollute for decades, leaving us on a course of over 3.5°C warming, threatening humanity and most life. There is no requirement to upgrade commitments before 2030.
So what gives? The Agreement is counting on miracles and magic to save us. Really. Rather than requiring dramatic reductions starting now, the Agreement assumes that unproven technologies (Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage) will down the road “suck carbon” from the atmosphere. Pollute now, clean up decades later. The idea: grow lots of trees and biomass to absorb carbon (an area 1-3 times the size of India annually), burn it in special power plants that capture the carbon emissions, compress the CO2, and pipe it long distances to then bury it. Read more about the absurdity of these proposals.
Bottom line: Paris’s target can only be possibly met with an immediate carbon phase-out, and with reality-based carbon reduction methods of regenerative land practices, while understanding current drawdown limitations.
THE EMERGENCY CASE:
- We are exploding past Earth’s Planetary Boundaries (the nine boundaries within which humanity has a viable future). Crossing boundaries risks abrupt and irreversible system change for the whole of Earth-Life.
- Warming is already dangerous at 1.2°C increase above preindustrial levels, as seen with escalating fires, droughts, floods, and hurricanes.
- CO2 is a more powerful greenhouse gas than previously understood. Better climate models have revealed that we are in for a greater heat increase than we realized (in looking at “climate sensitivity”, the heat produced by a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere).
- Clouds provide far less cooling than assumed. New research shows that clouds contain more water and less ice than previously thought. This discovery suggests that temperatures will rise faster from greenhouse gas pollution than previously forecast.
Carbon dioxide stays in our atmosphere for centuries, so it is a cumulative problem.
Chart: Scripps Institution of Oceanography
- CO2 emissions are irreversible on any human timescale—it takes centuries for CO2 to be re-absorbed back into the earth. So CO2 is a cumulative problem. At current emissions rates, each decade adds another 0.25°C / 0.5°F, increasing our risk of runaway heating.
- We are already committed to further inevitable warming even if we quit all fossil fuels today. Two reasons: (1) Particulate pollution (another pollutant from fossil fuels) actually masks some warming—so when we DO eventually quit fossil fuels, an estimated 0.5°C more warming is coming. (2) Further warming will come from the oceans, called “thermal inertia,” when they finally give their absorbed heat to the atmosphere, adding an estimated 0.6°C. Added to the 1°C existing warming, we may already be past Paris’s target.
The 2016 off-the-charts temperature spike even alarmed climate scientists. Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research responded: "We are in a kind of climate emergency now."
Chart: Stephan Rahmstorf
- Warming is in overdrive. Like a broken record, global heat records are being repeatedly shattered, year after year. 2016 was the hottest year, and 2019 comes in second.
- Sea-level rise will swamp coastal cities. New research on sea-level rise portends complete catastrophe if we do not slash fossil fuels now. James Hansen has warned that without “emergency cooperation among nations,” Greenland and Antarctica could melt ten times faster than formerly known, “resulting in sea-level rise of at least 10 feet in as little as 50 years.” Irreversible ice-melt thresholds are being crossed now.
- Methane “natural gas” use is a catastrophic bridge to climate tipping points. Its greenhouse gas impact is far stronger than previously realized: over 100-times more potent than CO2 when first released. Massive methane leakage across the US in recent years coincides with the fracking boom. So this methane increase matters a lot. All fossil fuels must be kept in the ground, methane included.
- Oceanic threats await marine life. If we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere, the oceans will collapse. Even if we could magically pull CO2 out of thin air in the future, it would still acidify our oceans, poisoning marine life (explained here and here). Ocean warming causes two major threats to marine ecosystems: (1) coral bleaching and (2) deoxygenation. Only dramatic emission reductions starting now will save the oceans. No ocean life, no us—it’s that simple.
- The fossil fuel industry is on life support, and there is no viable energy replacement. The COVID economic crisis has burst the debt-driven fracking bubble, and net energy from fossil fuels is in serious decline.
- Renewable energy cannot power our growth-based Industrial Civilization. We face a reckoning, in terms of what renewable energy can and cannot do. A massive buildout of renewables will trigger a CO2 burp, which our climate cannot afford.
- Plastic pandemonium is filling our oceans and soil with waste.
- Accumulating toxins are interfering with life. Insects and amphibians are disappearing. Diminished sperm counts are slashing birth rates.
- We have eliminated nearly all mammals (except for humans, our pets, and livestock).
- Infringement on the natural world has unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of these systemic crises are interrelated, and all are symptoms of human overshoot. In essence, overshoot means too many of us taking too much. These crises will interact and multiply their overall effects.
The over-determined conclusion one would have to draw from these best-expert sources would be that YES!, we must dedicate ourselves to completely phase out fossil fuels in the US within ten years, and realize that the route toward such a radical transformation of our culture is an Emergency Climate Mobilization.
For a more in-depth examination of the climate emergency case, see David Spratt’s “Climate Reality Check” report.
No Carbon Budget Left
The stated function of carbon budgets are to provide an amount of "burnable" carbon, while maintaining a likelihood of staying under the 2°C heat ceiling.
Yet the carbon budget concept is a dangerous illusion:
- Major impacts are becoming apparent at just 1°C warming.
- There is an unacceptable risk that feedbacks will be triggered before 2°C.
- Budgets assume unacceptably high risks of failure.
For more details: No Remaining Carbon Budget: Zero Carbon In a Decade Is a Must!
Image: Jos Hagelaars, adapted by Breakthrough - David Spratt / further adapted by Climate Emergency Coalition
SIGN PETITION: DECLARE A GLOBAL WARMING STATE OF EMERGENCY
See the petition and notable signers below
We, the citizens of our nation and of our Earth, are endowed with certain rights, powers, and obligations, which demand we act both individually and collectively to protect and preserve the ongoing evolution of life on Earth, including our future generations.
Based upon a preponderance of scientific evidence we recognize our global climate is rapidly warming and becoming increasingly unstable due to human-caused carbon pollution from the burning of fossil fuels. If we do not change course before global warming tipping points are crossed, this destabilization of our climate will continue to cause ever-increasing suffering and potentially
We further recognize that rapidly escalating global warming and its consequent climate destabilization is the greatest currently active threat to the security of all nations, comparable in scope of impact to global nuclear war. Escalating average global temperature rises will lead to destabilization affecting first millions, then billions of people forced to deal with ongoing climate catastrophes, food and other resource depletion, and mass migrations.
Nearly all of the major problems our world faces today worsen and multiply due to escalating global warming. All of the ecological, economic and political problems listed below will cross-intensify and therefore worsen as average global temperatures rises.
- Food and resource depletion
- Severe droughts, floods, and wildfires
- Rising sea levels
- Water pollution and water table loss
- Desertification and deforestation
- Ocean fish stock depletions
- Growing economic inequity, poverty, and instability
- Political instability and injustice
- War and regional conflicts
- Increasing potential of pandemics and other health crises
Despite 30 years of education, study, and discussion about the possible irreversible effects of human-caused carbon and methane pollution of our atmosphere, global warming temperatures have escalated to levels that may have already passed or be close to passing global warming tipping points with impacts that are irreversible. We must immediately reverse the continued rise of average global temperature by decreasing human-caused production of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.
Failure to resolve global warming for ourselves and future generations is simply not a survivable option.
As global citizens of every nation on Earth, we ask you, our national leaders, to initiate the necessary steps to formally declare a national and international global warming State of Emergency, calling for the immediate allocation of the needed research, resources, personnel, and interventions to quickly resolve this State of Emergency and sustainably protect, preserve, and advance the continued evolution of humanity and life on Earth.
By signing this petition, I pledge to act together with others as one human family to acknowledge and resolve the escalating global warming-caused climate destabilization crisis.
When we reach the required number of petition signatures for each area, we will submit the petition with all signatures to: (1) the Office of the President of the United States and the members of both houses of U.S. Congress, as well as (2) governing bodies of other nations (if you provide your nationality). Our priority is to make the case to members of both houses of the U.S. Congress that this is the most urgent place to draw a line between themselves and the Trump Administration, in addition to being potentially the most politically defensible. This is true insofar as withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement abdicates America's role in international leadership on the number one issue of the century, isolating the U.S. in a marginalized triad with Syria and Nicaragua, and in opposition to the overwhelming other 193 world nations. We gain nothing by withdrawal except appearing less scientific, rational, and committed to world peace than North Korea and similar rogue states.
NOTABLE PETITION SIGNERS*
Vinit Allen, Founder & Executive Director, Sustainable World Coalition
Paul Allen, Project Co-coordinator, Zero Carbon Britain
Steve Bhaerman, Co-author of "Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here" and political satirist
Philip Bogdonoff, Director, Washington DC Chapter of Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Russell Brockhurst, Project Team Leader, Caterpillar of Australia, Ltd
Gerardo Ceballos, PhD, Senior Researcher, Institute of Ecology, UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico], Districto Federal, Mexico
Karen Cisler, Secretary-Treasurer, PSR-TN [TN Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility]; member, Air Quality Board, State of TN Department of Environmental Conservation
Cliff Cockerham, PhD, Director, PSR-TN [TN Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility]
Siobhan Colombo, Faculty of Science & Engineering, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
John Cooksey, Writer/Director/Producer, "How to Boil a Frog"
Raymond Cummings, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Villanova University
Kathy Dervin, Senior Consultant, Center for Climate Change & Health
Rev. Michael Dowd, Pro-Future Evangelist
Soumya Dutta, National Convenor - Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha (translates to - India people's science campaign) and Convenor - Climate & Energy Group, Beyond Copenhagen collective, India
Hans Ehrbar, PhD, Professor of Economics - retired, University of Utah
Duane Elgin, Author of "Voluntary Simplicity"
Dave Ewoldt, Co-founder & Senior Analyst, Coalitions for Mutual Endeavor
Karen Feridun, Founder, Berks Gas Truth [fighting shale gas development]
Peter Fiekowsky, Founder, The Healthy Climate Project; Lead Volunteer & Founder, CCL's 100-Year Planning Group
Len Finegold, PhD, Professor of Biophysics - retired, Drexel University
Dr. Katherine Forrest, MD, MPH, Co-Founder & former President, The Commonweal Institute; Board Member of The Peninsular Democratic Coalition [PDC] and founding member of PDC's Climate Action Group
Len Frenkel, Author of "Will We Survive Climate Change?: One Last Chance"
Victoria Furio, Convener, The Climate Justice Initiative at Union Theological Seminary
Valerie Gardner, Founder & Executive Director, Climate Coalition
Gisele Giorgi, PhD, Biosciences Faculty, Merritt College
Russell Greene, President, PDA-People Demanding Action & is the leading climate activist of Progressive Democrats of America who is credited with securing the Climate Mobilization plank in the 2016 Democratic Presidential platform, saying: "There is time left for gradualism. That window has passed. This is a climate emergency — the moment to make a stand for the future. For each other. For our children."
Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director, Earth Ethics and Earth Action, Inc.
Heidi Harmon, Co-Organizer, "Up to Us Caravan" to the DNC
Dr. Mary Headrick, MD, Board Member, PSR-TN
Harold Hedelman, Director of Engagement - Business Climate Leaders at Citizens' Climate Lobby
Bill Henderson, Freelance Climate Journalist
Cynthia Flores Hernandez, PhD, former Researcher, Institute of Ecology, UNAM, Districto Federal, Mexico
Ken Hickson, Author of "Race for Sustainability" and "ABC of Carbon"
James Hilgend Video Producer & Author of eleven books, including: "A New Myth for America", Forever Here", "The Great New Emerging Civilization"
Michael Hoexter, PhD, Research Scholar, Binzagr Institute for Sustainable Prosperity and Campaign Volunteer for Bernie Sanders 2016
Allen Johnson, PhD, Professor of Geology - retired, University of West Chester
John Jorgensen, Biologist-turned Activist/Marcher, Great March for Climate Action
Hannah Kaminsky, Author of "My Sweet Vegan", "Vegan Desserts", "Vegan a la Mode", "Easy as Vegan Pie"
George Paul Kemp, PhD, Associate Research Professor, Center for Coastal, Energy and Environmental Resources, Louisiana State University; Co-founder & former Executive Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
Rev. Earl Koteen, Environmental Justice Minister and Board Member, Unitarian Universalist Earth Ministry
Felix Kramer, Founder, Beyond Cassandra and the of Congressional Climate Project
Mark Lichty, Documentary Film Producer of "Groundswell Rising"
Natalie Lucas, Executive Director, Care About Climate; member of U.S. student delegations to the UN's COP 18 (Doha), 19 (Warsaw), 20 (Lima), & 21 (Paris)
Cynthia Lukas, Producer, "Heaven on Earth Creations'" and upcoming film "Ghandi's Gift"
Chloe Maxmin, Co-founder, Divest Harvard
Bruce Melton, PE, Executive Director, Climate Change Now Initiative
Debbie Mytels, Associate Director, Acterra: Action for a Sustainable Earth
Jim Newell, PhD, lobbyist & government relations professional & CEO, ELS, Inc and TCM [The Climate Mobilization] Lead Organizer - Washington, DC Chapter
Terry Patten, Founder, Bay Area Integral
Dr. Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH, Co-Director, Climate Change and Public Health Project, Public Health Institute
Vanessa Rule, Co-founder, Mothers Out Front - Mobilizing for a Livable Climate
Dr. Pouné Saberi, MD, MPH, National Board of Directors, PSR; President, PSR-Philadelphia; Clinical Faculty, University of Pennsylvania; Section Chief for Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Philadelphia VA Medical Center
Adam Sacks, Executive Director, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Paul Severance, Chair, Elders Climate Action
Ezra Silk, Co-Founder and Director of Policy and Strategy, The Climate Mobilization
Mariana Garcia Solana, Executive Director, The Friends of the Maya Foundation and Climate Mobilization Volunteer Lead Organizer for Mexico
Susan Soleil, Former Executive Director, Utah Interfaith Power & Light
Maria Luisa Tasayco, PhD, Emeritus Professor, Biochemistry & Biophysics Graduate Center, City University of New York
Kristina Turechek, Adjunct Faculty, SUNY College at Oneonta
Brian von Herzen, PhD, Executive Director, The Climate Foundation
Cassandra Wardle, Conservation Researcher, School of the Environment, Griffith University, Australia
Tom Weis, President, Climate Crisis Solutions
Lawrence Wollersheim, Director, Job One for Humanity
Elizabeth Woodworth, co-author of "Unprecedented Climate Mobilization"
"I heartily support the Climate Emergency Coalition and its work to shift philanthropy to organizations and initiatives fighting the threats to humanity brought by climate change."
- Paul R. Ehrlich
People who have worked with us on earlier breakthrough initiatives beginning in 2014:
Turner Anderson, Project Engineer at Siemens Energy, Inc.**
Duncan Callaway, PhD, Associate Professor of Energy & Resources, Division of Electrical Engineering/EECS, University of California - Berkeley**
William Christopfel, PhD, Director of Scientific Affairs, Bell Pharmaceuticals**
Simon Dalby, PhD, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies and CIGI Chair in the Political Economy of Climate Change, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada**
Robert Dello-Russo, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Anthropology & Director, Office of Contract Archaeology, University of New Mexico**
William DeMott, PhD, Professor of Biology, Purdue University**
Paul R. Ehrlich, PhD, Bing Professor of Population Studies and President, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University
Daniela Gioseffi, Editor & Publisher of Eco-Poetry.org & PoetsUSA.com; American Book Award-winning author of 16 books of poetry and prose***
Sebastian Groh, PhD, CEO at ME SOLshare Ltd; Assistant Professor at North South University, Bangaldesh**
John Harte, PhD, jointly appointed Professor in the Energy & Resources Group and the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the College of Natural Resources, University of California - Berkeley**
Donald Hnatowich, PhD, Professor of Radiology - retired, University of Massachusetts Medical School; Presenter, Climate Reality**
Andy Hoffmann, PhD, Office of Sustainability working group, University of Utah**
Daniel Kammen, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Energy, Energy and Resources Group, University of California - Berkeley**
Rik Leemans, PhD, Professor of Environmental Systems Analysis Wageningen University, The Netherlands**
Michael Mann, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology & Director of the Earth System Science Center Penn State University**
Trae Menard, Director of Forest Conservation, Hawaii Chapter - The Nature Conservancy**
Sergio Pacca, PhD, Research Fellow, University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems; Associate Professor of Energy & Sustainability, Sao Paolo University, Brasil**
Robert Strom, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Lunar and Planetary Lab. and Dept. of Planetary Science, University of Redlands**
Anders Wijkman, PhD, elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for outstanding services to the environment; Co-President, Club of Rome**
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, PhD, Fellow, Energy and Resources Group, University of California - Berkeley; Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society, Austria**
* Institutional affiliation listed for identification purposes only
** Signers of preliminary sign on letters leading up to the emergency petition.
Your actions and volunteerism are crucial for building the Emergency Climate Movement and getting the emergency into the national conversation.
- Read "WHAT CAN WE INDIVIDUALS DO?".
- Read and discuss the new book “BRIGHT GREEN LIES: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It” by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, and Max Wilbert.
- Support resistance to the proposed lithium mine at Thacker Pass, Nevada.
- Download and read CEC's free e-book: "Climate and Ecological Delusions and Contradictions That Will Rapidly End Humanity…Unless...". The e-book provides the basis for why we need to trigger an emergency alarm and how we can achieve it.
- Further emergency information: (1) watch climate scientist Kevin Anderson's lecture "Climate's Holy Trinity," and (2) read and discuss William Ophul's short book "Apologies to the Grandchldren: Reflections on Our Ecological Predicament, Its Deeper Causes, and Its Political Consequences."
- Sign the petition: "Declare a Formal Global Warming State of Emergency" to be delivered to our President, Congress, and world leaders.
- Join the Coalition to receive timely action alerts: Individuals / Organizations.
- Spread the word personally: discuss these issues and our campaign with friends, family, teachers, students, colleagues, and your networks.
- Spread the word online through social media.
- Donate to the Climate Emergency Coalition - a tax-deductible donation - with 501(c)3 sponsorship through the Association for the Tree of Life.
Goals and Strategies
- Awaken, educate, and galvanize the public to the Climate Emergency and then organize citizens, journalists, and influencers to push for effective responses.
- Create a national conversation about the Climate Emergency.
- Build a strong, unified national “Emergency Climate Movement” in the United States with a broad coalition of groups and members, calling for a Declaration of Global Warming State of Emergency and effective policy responses leading to an Emergency Climate Mobilization.
- Awaken philanthropy to a Paul Revere role and to supporting the Emergency Climate Movement.
- Achieve a Declaration of Global Warming State of Emergency.
- Have an Emergency Climate Mobilization underway in the US as soon as possible, whose goal is to achieve Net Zero US Carbon Emissions within a decade, and worldwide within fifteen years.
- Inform journalists, bloggers, and influencers of the Climate Emergency, and ask them to amplify the call for a declared Climate Emergency.
- Engage activists to push on influencers and philanthropy.
- Bring significant parts of the public to understand the present Climate Emergency through a face-to-face, personal, and interactive educational campaign in the US, to demand policies that can bring us to zero carbon ASAP. The CEC is proposing a Climate Emergency Coalition Campaign, with moral conversation events in tens of thousands of faith social halls and civic spaces. Event participants will be invited to sign the petition, join the coalition, and build the movement.
- Gather petition signatures to achieve a Declaration of Global Warming State of Emergency.