By Stephanie Corkran of SanDiego350
Originally published in the San Diego Free Press
Brown’s Last Chance is a campaign demanding Governor Jerry Brown halt the development of unsustainable, polluting, fossil fuel infrastructure and begin an immediate phase-out of fossil fuels in California. If he’s unwilling to do so, a multitude of organizations (environmental, health, justice, community, consumer) are prepared to protest the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit.
This climate summit, held in San Francisco next month from September 12 to 14, was the brainchild of Gov. Brown. It was conceived of in response to President Trump withdrawing the United States from the international Paris Climate Accord. World leaders will be in attendance to continue the work of past international climate conferences to mitigate climate change. There will be numerous affiliate marches and rallies around the world (including San Diego’s Rise For Climate March) to demand a transformation to clean energy and real action on climate change. Gov. Brown and California get a lot of credit for climate change action and certainly market that reputation.
The problem is this state and its government during Governor Brown’s reign neglected fossil fuel production as a target for climate change mitigation. Oil and gas production is declining in California, but not fast enough in light of the severity of the climate change threat.
This is the last year the governor can serve. The idea of the campaign is to hit now, while media is focused on the conference and environmental issues, and when he is not running for reelection. Perhaps he will be less beholden now to special interests that favor fossil fuel production and buy influence with their campaign contributions.
Why the imperative to protest – why a call to action?
HYPOCRISY OF CONTINUED EXTRACTION
Nationwide, oil and gas extraction is increasing. California, with its accolades for leading the climate change fight in the U.S. is, in fact, a major contributor to that extraction. Production of fossil fuels is inconsistent with the state’s mandates to address climate change. On the one hand, state lawmakers are currently considering SB 100 which would move up the schedule of clean energy goals — since interim targets of SB 350 have been met ahead of schedule. On the other hand, California is a major producer of fossil fuels. The state needs to stop fossil fuel extraction to avoid the worst risks of climate change worldwide. The consensus of scientists is that fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground.
Yet, California is ranked sixth in the nation for oil production. And because California has a lot of low-quality oil resources, it takes more extreme, energy-intensive methods to extract it. Indeed, the oil that California extracts is some of the dirtiest on the planet.
The state was also recently ranked 13th in gas production. While California gas production has declined, it is still significant and uses the highly problematic hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) method of extraction.
According to the California Department of Conservation, there were 652 oil and gas wells stimulated using hydraulic fracturing in 2014. In 2015, California had 56,653 active oil and natural gas wells. In addition, there was a 17 percent expansion of offshore oil wells in California state waters under existing leases from 2012 to 2016.All this while the state suffers some of the worst health impacts of fossil fuel extraction and use. California is home to eight of 10 of the cities with the worst air quality in the nation. The poisoning of extreme amounts of water (a resource in short supply in this drought-ridden state) via the list of fracking chemicals used is also a hazard to health.
Current extinction rates on earth are hundreds of times higher than normal evolutionary background rates. These extinction rates are directly related to our fossil fuel addiction and its impact on the climate. Entire ecosystems are collapsing and if too many links in the chain of biodiversity disappear, the systems that support human life go. We will follow the dinosaurs into oblivion – the difference being that dinosaurs did not do it to themselves.
There is a 5 percent chance of cataclysmic climate change by 2050, and a chance of our own extinction. While many will bet on the intellect and industriousness of our species to avoid or survive this threat (humans have gone down to as few as 1000 breeding individuals in our evolutionary past and come back with a vengeance), it will not be possible if we decimate the environment, if we destroy our home. We depend as a species on a functioning biosphere.
Threat to Civilization
The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control have been preparing for the health risks of climate change that are already occurring and will escalate.
The thin veneer of civilization will likely break down as food becomes scarce, infectious disease runs rampant and mass migrations of people — whose homelands will no longer support human life — spawn warfare and further destruction of the environment. Social and political structures in place are insufficient to deal with current levels of disruption. We already see waves of refugees in Europe and the U.S. reacting to degraded environments from prolonged drought and competition for resources. And we can expect more. Both the U.S. and Europe are struggling to process the numbers of asylum seekers. Xenophobia and backlash against migrants are escalating worldwide. What will happen when disruption is on the scale of a climatic apocalypse? We are an overpopulated speciesthat has outgrown the carrying capacity of the earth. Without our technology, mass communication and a worldwide distribution system of resources, we may revert to the savage.
Evidence of Political Corruption / Party Dysfunction
Campaign contributions from big oil impact whether our elected representatives will end fracking in this state. Gov. Brown has strong ties to fossil fuel companies and utilities that may have hampered his ability to take a stand on fossil fuel extraction in the state. Recently the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution stating they will no longer accept donations from fossil fuel companies.
“Fossil fuel corporations are drowning our democracy in a tidal wave of dark oily money; they have deceived the public about the impacts of climate change, fought the growth of clean renewable energy, and corrupted our political system,” the resolution reads. Individual Democratic Party candidates are not required to follow suit, but the example is set. Now it is up to the people (us) to raise our voices to demand this same standard be upheld by candidates running for elected office and those already in elected office.
Where do you stand?
There is no neutral position. To do nothing is aiding the perpetrators of climate destruction. Inaction means you are siding with the polluters who are sentencing all life on this planet to extreme suffering. Do something — and do it now! Join others who are willing to fight for climate justice and be part of the solution. The sacrifices we all must make will seem trivial if we are successful in saving our beautiful home and her inhabitants.
If you intend to fight for life, attend the September 8th Rise for Climate March, San Diego, contact Gov. Brown, and sign Brown’s Last Chance Petition.
Stephanie Corkran, MA, is an anthropologist who works in medical research at UCSD and a volunteer of SD350. She is a Coast Guard veteran who enforced environmental law and responded to oil and hazardous material spills, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill. She supports a vision of social justice that considers the needs of all life, human and non-human.