Can a Public Meeting Catalyze a Tipping Point for Both Accelerated Conventional and Creative Efforts to Address Climate Change?

(This was originally submitted as a comment directly on an article in New Jersey Spotlight. Their automated comment processing system is on the fritz, and threw it out after posting it for a few minutes, calling it “Spam.” With a quick fix unlikely, I, therefore, added to it and posted it as an article here.)

Tom Johnson’s article, “DEP’s First Step Toward Reducing Greenhouse Gases Dismissed as Too Tame by Critics,” on a NJDEP forum on climate change held Tuesday of this week was an incomplete view of what occurred.

While, yes, certainly “critics” thought it was “too tame” to achieve the State’s ambitious carbon reduction goals, and it was, that pretty much was going to be the case. We, and by that I mean all of us, should have started on this decades ago. NJDEP is just one agency; with limited resources; (usually) extremely limited vision, as is true of most organizations; and Air Quality, the host of the meeting, is just one division.

And yet despite this, another perspective is that at the very start of the meeting it was clarified that the usual frame that implicitly determines–and limits–what could and could not be discussed, was challenged and broken. We wound up departing from the nominal boundary: the department’s thinking to potentially just further regulate permittees, such as utility electric generating stations. Instead, it became the most open, creative, out-of-the-box forum for ideas I’ve ever heard from decades of going to these NJDEP things.

As NJDEP Director Frank Steitz stated, “Business as usual won’t get us there.” I’m not sure I’d ever heard “the long term” mentioned before at a NJDEP meeting. So he listened to non-business-as-usual ideas from attendees, non-passively, asking questions as necessary for clarification. The facilitators shushed no one. I, for one, had the opportunity to say several things not usually heard at a state government forum, such as taking advantage of, and building on, the businesses coming around on addressing climate change; linking our state’s recent interest on the latter to the still unrealized need to do the same for biodiversity; and moving much harder on efficiency at the demand level, including bringing in underutilized ideas from psychology to it.

And what was so personally rewarding, I heard urgency and creative ideas from so many around the room, such as market restructuring, putting a price on carbon, looking at advancements in other states to see what we might do, and sequestration. The “practical” interspersed with the innovative. As one environmentalist said to me afterwards, the businesspersons present seem to realize we’re in a different era now and they need to be a part of it.

Seems like an opportunity to me, for business and otherwise. While there were no illusions Air Quality or NJDEP could do all the things suggested, maybe it’s less crazy than it had been to figure out how they could be a critical part of the much larger efforts it’s going to take.

Of course, it was just one day. What happens next is unclear and rests, in part, on many others stepping up. The regulatory issues raised are important. But actually addressing the climate change issue will take many other strategies as well. Actively listening, much better than usual “Stakeholder Participation,” an audience thinking out-of-the-box, are not bad places to start and to continue to practice.

To that end, there are over a dozen articles and reports on ideas for New Jersey on this, as well as the interrelated topic of a green economy, here at GreenEconomyNJ.org that don’t usually come up (although a few did this time, which is why this article was not made “Part 7” of the earlier “What Are We Still Missing” series). For anyone who wants to go even deeper on the green economy in New Jersey, an Appendix in this one summarizes several other reports, etc., done over the decades, but which we weren’t ready for at the time.

For those interested in getting involved in climate change in New Jersey, as we really are going to have to do—and think—differently in what a European field I follow calls a Transformation, this seems like a really good time for your unique contributions. You might just have a piece that others could then build on.

Consider taking NJDEP up on its offer to send your ideas to NJDEP-baqp.dep.nj.gov (using the subject line: “Reducing Carbon Emissions in New Jersey”). Perhaps offer something about implementation as that will be challenging. Hopefully, they’ll consider them, and save the “really too far out there” stuff for a time when we need even those.

Returning to the mundane, I hope when that comments processor gets fixed it at least comes to see the earlier version of this is as “Elite-level” Spam.

Possible Planet Holiday Party & Fundraiser – Saturday, Dec 14, 2019, 2-6 pm

You’re invited to our

 Join us for community, thoughtful discussion, and the opportunity to make a difference.

Saturday, December 14
2-6 p.m.
@ 8 Revere Drive, Basking Ridge, NJ

Bring something to share / BYOB
Bring your voices, instruments & holiday songs!

Meet people who care about restoring our communities and the climate.

Can’t Attend But Want to Support Us?

At the party, we’ll share our mission and initiatives, and you can contribute to the “mother ship,” Possible Planet, or earmark your donation to one of our initiatives:

Global Carbon Reward 
Ecovillage New Jersey 
Ecovillagers Alliance
New Jersey PACE / Regenerative Financing 
Possible Planet (General Fund)

 

Attend the Party

“Carbon Neutral” is Not Good Enough in Energy Master Plan

Jeff Tittel, Senior Chapter Director, NJ Sierra Club

(Reprinted from App.com with the author’s permission.)

The climate crisis is here and already impacting New Jersey. Greenhouse gas emissions globally set an all-time high last year. Our oceans are warming 40 percent faster than previously believed. The IPCC has given us 12 years before the worst climate impacts will become irreversible.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s state Board of Public Utilities recently released its Draft Energy Master Plan dealing with many issues affecting climate change and green energy. There is a growing sense of urgency to do more in combating climate impacts, but the EMP does not address natural gas.

There are things to like in the draft EMP, especially in electrifying the transportation sector and dealing with home heating. There is also a lot that’s missing, including any mention of a moratorium on fossil fuel projects.

What’s really troubling is the plan redefines clean energy as carbon neutral. This is a cynical move with major consequences. Clean energy is usually defined as wind, solar, energy efficiency, hydro and geo-thermal. Carbon neutral, by contrast, means that carbon will still be released. The definition includes natural gas, fossil fuel plants with carbon sequestration, nuclear power plants, incinerators, biomass, carbon credits and offsets. Redefining clean energy as carbon neutral will include a lot of dirty fuels. This is an Orwellian approach that sells out renewable energy by promoting natural gas and nuclear power.

Continue reading ““Carbon Neutral” is Not Good Enough in Energy Master Plan”

New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: A Climate Vision for Montgomery County, Maryland: Should We Be Doing This in New Jersey?: Part 6


It’s January 1, 2030.

Montgomery County, the most populous county in Maryland, was recognized today – Day 1 of the International Decade for Emergency Climate Action – by President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congress and the United Nations as the first Post Carbon(P-C) community in the United States and the largest jurisdiction on the planet to reduce its net Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to zero, while also removing millions of tons of GHGs from the atmosphere.

The county government in partnership with its one million residents achieved this ‘moonshot’ goal through the transformation of its energy, transportation, building and agricultural systems, while strengthening the ability of its residents and businesses to withstand the increasingly frequent and severe physical and socio/economic shocks resulting from accelerating climate change.

Join me as I share how Montgomery – a wealthy, highly diverse, well-educated majority-minority community [2] – got to be a P-C community and what it now looks like. Continue reading “New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: A Climate Vision for Montgomery County, Maryland: Should We Be Doing This in New Jersey?: Part 6”

The Green New Deal is Now Every State’s Call to Action

Bringing the Green New Deal home

Writing in the Janesville, WI GazetteExtra, John Imes writes:

The Green New Deal resolution introduced in Congress calls for a massive U.S. mobilization over 10 years to achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions while creating millions of high-wage jobs and sustainable economic growth. Unfortunately, while the science and need for federal action on climate change are clear, we can’t expect serious policymaking on the topic to come out of Washington until 2021 at the earliest.

Fortunately, it’s a new day in Wisconsin and the state is well positioned to make headway on many of the goals and objectives as outlined in the Green New Deal. For example…

Well, it’s also a new day in New Jersey, and indeed in every other state, and since we’re here, let’s do the comparison.
Continue reading “The Green New Deal is Now Every State’s Call to Action”

New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: Focus State Support for a Carbon Tax at the Federal Level: Part 5

By Mike Aucott[1]

The idea of putting a broadly-applied price on carbon dioxide emissions from combustion of fossil fuels from all major sectors of the U.S. economy is gaining traction. Several national organizations are actively supporting a carbon tax, including Citizens’ Climate Lobby[2], the Climate Leadership Council[3], the Carbon Tax Center[4], and PUTAPRICEONIT[5].

A number of nations and other jurisdictions already have some form of carbon pricing.  A group of Princeton University students, the Princeton Student Climate Initiative[6], is exploring ways to strengthen New Jersey’s effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including development of a state-level carbon tax.

While state-level programs to price carbon could be effective, carbon pricing approaches will be more effective if they are national and, ideally, international in scope.

Continue reading “New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: Focus State Support for a Carbon Tax at the Federal Level: Part 5”

Green Economy Podcasts — New!

Jim Cox

James A. Cox

We recently came across a series of podcasts by our personal Financial Advisor, Jim Cox. Jim focuses on sustainable investments, but we had no idea he was actively interviewing experts and activists from across the country on a variety of topics related to the emerging green economy. Jim writes, “Sometimes it feel like I’m a voice in the wilderness…” which led us to the idea of posting his podcasts for a wider audience.

James Cox is a financial advisor with FFG Advisors. He focuses on wealth and risk management for clients of the firm. He is on the board of several organizations. James joined FFG/DFP in January of 2012. Many of Mr. Cox’s clients are entrepreneurs and business owners. His practice helps individuals manage risk within their finances, even as they are striving toward creating successful companies. To learn more go to http://jamesacox.com.

The first one that came to our attention was the conversation with Janet Kirsch, a physician and public health specialist, who is devoting her life to climate mobilization.

Mobilizing for Climate Disruption (September 21, 2018)

Janet Kirsch is a physician and speaker with 350 Bay Area. We had initially talked days before hurricane Florence made landfall. We chat today about the need to approach climate disruption with increased vigor and commitment.

And here are some other selected podcasts from James Cox, available on iTunes and elsewhere.

New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: Why We’re Not Talking About What We’re Not Talking About: Part 4

By Matt Polsky

Image result for pie of knowledge image

Image by Claire Bryden[1]

Introduction and Importance

Why are we not talking about the things we don’t usually talk about that need to be involving climate change? Why is it so hard to talk about or hear certain things like a carbon tax, a zero carbon emissions goal, or the many other steps we can or may have to take to address this immense problem, or it’s taking decades which we no longer have?

Mindset barriers or traps are a big part of the reason. They overlap to various degrees with many other concepts, such as world view, mental models, obsolete paradigms, cognitive biases, cognitive sticking points, blind spots or blinders, myths, ideology, stories, narratives, unquestioned assumptions, dogma, mantras, emotionalism, faith, group think, and certitudes. Some of these can have a positive or neutral side, or are necessary in some way.

We also can include unquestioned beliefs about business-as-usual practices—and not just in business, or “that’s just the way it is” shrugs. In certain contexts we can add references to someone’s “mentality,” “psychology,” “temperament,” or “the way the person is wired.” There are also language, framing, and communications issues.

Continue reading “New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: Why We’re Not Talking About What We’re Not Talking About: Part 4”

New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: “From Government and Really Helping”: Part 3

By Matt Polsky

Image result for Texas National Guard aid residents in flooded areas from Hurricane Harvey daily kos

Photo by Army National Guard/Lt. Zachary West

The first two articles of this Series, see here and here, discussed ideas and gave recommendations about opportunities to address climate change about which we’re not hearing enough of in New Jersey. We continue to provide more of these in Part 3.

Two historians of science, Oreskes and Conway, responding recently to the latest IPCC report, and invoking the “transformation” concept, both discussed in Part 2, tell us that “Major transformations can happen in a generation. But not without government help.” So, we’re going to have to talk about State Government yet again, because it is that important.

They also rebut the conventional wisdom that the technological advancements many are counting on to address climate change are going to come solely from the private sector.

Continue reading “New Jersey Now “Gets” Climate Change. What We Are Still Missing: “From Government and Really Helping”: Part 3”