June 2023 Newsletter

350 Contra Costa Action logo in orange, aqua and teal

Local Action for a Better World

Stop burning fossil fuels. Period.

“Carbon dioxide levels measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked at 424 parts per million in May, continuing a steady climb further into territory not seen for millions of years…”

So starts the latest report on atmospheric CO2 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For millennia, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere was 350 parts per million or below, and this level created the ideal conditions on earth for us to thrive. Scientists warn that levels above 430 parts per million of carbon would mean catastrophe for the web of life that all humanity depends on.

The report quotes NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, PhD: “Every year, we see carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere increase as a direct result of human activity. Every year, we see the impacts of climate change in the heat waves, droughts, flooding, wildfires and storms happening all around us. While we will have to adapt to the climate impacts we cannot avoid, we must expend every effort to slash carbon pollution and safeguard this planet and the life that calls it home.”

Why are carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) still going up, and why so fast? Simply put, emissions are going up because we’re continuing to burn more and more fossil fuels. “Net Zero” policies don’t reduce emissions; they only require emissions to be “balanced” by “carbon offsets.” Think about it: if a corporation buys offsets for the privilege of polluting, they’re still polluting. Offsets may be used to build wind turbines or plant trees, but they can’t solve our emissions problem.

To safeguard Earth, our home, there’s only one solution: keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Investing in clean energy won’t help unless we also phase out oil and gas production—and fast.

For more on the necessity of cutting production, see this article by our friends at Sunflower Alliance: The Economic Case for a Restrictive Supply-Side Policy.

Greenhouse gas emissions: the big picture

“Stop burning fossil fuels.” What does that involve exactly? Most of us probably think first of tailpipe emissions—and indeed, transportation is a major source of the GHGs insulating and warming our planet. In California, it accounts for about 40 percent of all GHG emissions.

Industrial activity is another major culprit. The process of drilling and transporting oil and fossil gas (aka “natural” gas) puts a lot of GHGs into the air even before these fuels arrive at power plants to be burned. The same is true of coal mining.

Because much of the energy powering factories comes from fossil fuels, manufacturing all the stuff that fills our homes and offices is responsible for a big chunk of emissions. What’s more, many industrial processes—like making cement and plastics—inherently involve emitting GHGs, even aside from what’s emitted by burning fossil fuels for energy. Industrial sources make up a little over 20 percent of our state’s emissions.

After transportation and industry, a third major source of GHGs is buildings. Together, residential and nonresidential buildings account for around 25% of California’s total emissions! Heating and cooling the air, heating water, and cooking with fossil gas are all part of the problem.

While the sources of greenhouse gases are many, there’s only one way to stop emitting them: leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Clean energy sources like solar and wind power are already here; the time for transition is now.

What are sources of GHG emissions in Contra Costa County? Check out this blog by Gary Farber of our Climate Policy Team.

Action Item: Tell Newsom to support public transit

We’re passing along this word from our friends at Seamless Bay Area.

Thanks to thousands of riders speaking up about the importance of funding transit, the draft state budget released by legislators on Monday included transit operations funding for the first time. If approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, the new funding will stave off the immediate threat of service cuts.

The Senate-Assembly agreement would provide $1.1 billion over three years to transit agencies for operations—and restore $2 billion in previously announced cuts to transit capital funding.

We need your help to make sure this budget proposal gets approved by Governor Newsom.

Please take action now! Call Governor Newsom’s office at 916-445-2841 and urge him to:

  • Approve the budget proposed by the legislature reversing the $2 billion in transit capital cuts and providing $1.1 billion for operations
  • Support using one-time federal highway funds to further meet transit operations’ funding needs.

We don’t know exactly when the governor will sign the budget, so please call today!

Update from Sacramento

Good news! During the Legislature’s floor session, May 30th – June 2nd, many important climate bills passed their “first house”—the Senate or Assembly—and are now making their way through committees in their second house.

Among these are two Senate bills aiming to shed light on corporations’ carbon emissions and climate-related financial risks:

SB 253, the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, requires large corporations doing business in California—those earning more than $1 billion per year—to publicly disclose their carbon emissions in a manner that’s clear and easy to understand.

SB 261, the Climate-Related Financial Risk Act, requires large companies that do business in California to submit annual climate-related financial risk reports to the public.

For far too long, corporations have kept their polluting ways—and the risks they pose to our financial security—unavailable for public scrutiny. We’ll keep you posted about how you can support both these critical climate bills.

The Inflation Reduction Act: Opportunities for Contra Costa

On May 18th, 350 Contra Costa partnered with Diablo Valley College and Greenbelt Alliance to present a conference for elected officials, government staff, community-based organizations, and labor, education and workforce development groups. The topic was IRA—the federal Inflation and Reduction Act. This landmark legislation includes $369 billion for energy security and climate programs over a ten-year period.

More than 125 attendees learned about the many resource opportunities that IRA offers and brainstormed ways to collaborate with local governments and community organizations for maximum benefit. The conference focused on three main areas of IRA:

  • All-electric energy transformations that bring health and safety to our communities as we address the climate crisis
  • Programs that ensure equity and opportunities for low-income and environmentally impacted communities
  • Green economic development and workforce advancement.

Now, videos and slide decks from the conference are available on our website. It was a very full day! Check it out here.

Martinez refinery investigation

You’ll recall the “flaring event” at Martinez Refinery that spewed 24 tons of toxic ash over the city last Thanksgiving. According to the county health department, the substance that blanketed homes, businesses, and streets contained "elevated levels of aluminum, barium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and zinc."

Now, the FBI and EPA are investigating this event. Find out more here.

Juneteenth and July 4th Festivals

We’re excited! 350 Contra Costa Action will be at two upcoming festivals: Juneteenth in Antioch and July 4th in El Cerrito.

Let Freedom Ring Juneteenth Celebration in Antioch

Monday, June 19th, noon – 6pm

Contra Costa Event Park, 1201 W 10th St, Antioch

Carnival rides, food, arts & crafts, and live entertainment

World One Fourth of July Festival in El Cerrito

Tuesday, July 4th, 11am – 5pm

Cerrito Vista Park, El Cerrito

Musical performances, children’s entertainment, international cuisine

Please stop by our booth and say hello!

Thank you

Emily and Lisa

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The time for climate action is now!

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