Episode 98: Steve Valk & Dana Nuccitelli, Citizens’ Climate Lobby
Guest Name(s): Steve Valk & Dana Nuccitelli
Join us this week with Guest Host Max Sloves sitting in for Matt Matern, for a great informative conversation with Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli from Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots advocacy climate change organization that exists to create the political will for climate change solutions by enabling individual breakthroughs in the exercise of personal and political power. CCL seeks to be consistently respectful, with a nonpartisan approach to climate education designed to create a broad, sustainable foundation for climate action across all geographic regions and political inclinations.
Episode Audio Links:
(Note: this is an automatic transcription and may have errors in formatting and grammar.)
Welcome to A Climate Change with Matt Matern. Max Sloves sitting in today for Matt. We have as guests, Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli of Citizens Climate Lobby. Steve, Dana, welcome. And thank you for joining.
Glad to be here.
You’re essentially friends to the show to the extent that you’ve spoken with Matt before, but still helpful to recap and provide some background on Citizens Climate Lobby. So, to start, in some respects, the idea of groups that lobby on behalf of the environment isn’t particularly new, but I suppose that could also be a matter of framing. I don’t think environmental lobbying reaches that far back into the 20th century. And while there are many groups that lobby on behalf the environment, given the manifest importance of environment to human health and a robust economy, there are probably not enough so could you give it a breakdown of how Citizens Climate Lobby fits into the political Thunderdome and advocates on behalf of the environment?
Sure, sure. So, uh, most of the environmental organizations that do lobby, on issues, they lobby, at the staff level, they they they have dozens of staffers in Washington who go knocking on doors and talking to aides and members of Congress to push this issue or that issue forward. And that sort of thing. What we do is we we let the constituents of the members of Congress do the lobbying because we think that they’re the most effective lobbyist. So so what we do is we we train and support volunteers all across the country, we’ve got about 450 chapters, all around the United States, we cover almost every congressional district, and they will go and they’ll meet face to face with their members of Congress and their staff, to, to try to push a climate solution forward in Congress in the big solution that we’ve lobbied for, for a number of years has been a price on carbon with revenue given to households. And so we’ve been lobbying for that for quite some time, we recently expanded our, our policy agenda to include some other things that we’ll get into here with with the conversation with you. But the big thing with with the way that we lobby is that it’s, it’s easy for people to kind of get hung up in this thing about, you know, being right.
And what I say is, is that you have to kind of let go of being right, before you can make a difference. Because if you’re if all you’re about is being right on an issue, that means that the person who doesn’t agree with you is wrong. Nobody wants to be wrong. So why not just let go of being right, and just have a conversation, to see where each of you are coming from and find out where the common ground is on on that. And so we lobby, both Democrats and Republicans with with just as much enthusiasm and our approach is to come to an office with appreciation and respect for the people that we’re meeting with, we actually start our meetings off by acknowledging a member of Congress for something that they did that we really appreciate it. And they’re kind of taken off guard a little bit by that approach. And it it kind of changes the whole tenor of the meeting. It’s like, oh, yeah, you really liked what I did. Tell me more. So it’s, it’s an approach that has been very effective with developing relationships with members of Congress, and particularly now, with with the Republicans holding the house, it’s going to be very important that we seek solutions through a bipartisan process, because otherwise it’s it’s just not going to happen.
It’s, you know, it’s interesting to look at the numbers. I think you’ve published some statistics, in terms of this, this initiative of carbon fees and dividends, supported by 56% of Republicans in 2018. He. But then it seems like especially in today’s climate, there’s quite a political climate, there’s quite a gap between what polling of, of the electorate shows us and what the elected representatives are willing to support?
Do you feel you’ve been able to get that 56% of Republicans who support the concept? What’s your level of optimism in terms of getting 50%, 60% of Republican legislators to support the initiative now that he would even need that much but it but it just conceptually, I always find that an interesting disconnect that I think on both sides of the aisle, there are things that that the people say they want, getting their, their elected representatives to move towards those things, is a totally different matter.
I’ll jump in there. And then I’ll and Dana might have some some information on polling and stuff that relates to that. But I think the big hurdle for Republicans is whether or not you know, taking a stand on something like putting a price on carbon, would cost them their seat in Congress. And so from that standpoint, our job is to show them that, hey, if you’re willing to step up on this issue, it’s not going to hurt you might actually help you, especially considering all the older younger conservatives now that are worried about climate change.
So some of the things that we do in our chapters, and in the congressional districts is, is we go to, you know, chambers of commerce, we go to businesses, we try to show them, you know, all of the different communities in their district that might support a particular policy like like carbon pricing, and slowly but surely, they’re kind of warming up to the idea of oh, well, maybe this, this isn’t going to be as as deadly as I thought. So that’s really on us to convince them that, that this is not just a good idea, in general, but it’s also smart politics, for them to support the the these policies that Dana, what, what would you add to that?
Yeah, I mean, I would just add that, you know, we had polling on a variety of different issues that, you know, people might say they support that given issue, but they won’t consider it a top issue that they’ll base their vote on. And so like, there’s broad support for carbon pricing. But, you know, that’s, that’s position of a particular member of Congress might not, you know, that might be not be the topic that people base their vote on. And so one thing we try to do through our educational efforts is to increase the public’s priorities, that prioritization of climate change that they consider a higher priority, and thus, more people will base their votes on the given member of Congress’s position on climate change and climate policies.
That yeah, that’s got to be tricky. So not just not just making an argument for the initiatives that you want to promote, but lifting the profile of those issues, relative to others on the agenda. I imagine that that can be that can be challenging, in a crowded marketplace of ideas and concerns. And yet, this is the this is this is a high profile issue. It’s or at the very least, the two words climate change are very present in the popular discourse. But but do you feel like that popularity and popular discourse is translating to a level of prioritization? At a legislative level?
think things are certainly moving in the right direction. Like they used to be a lot of just straight up climate denial among certain members of Congress. And now, like we’ve gotten past that, and like pretty much everybody accepts the problem of climate change. And it’s just a matter of getting them to understand the urgency of the need for solutions. But we’re certainly moving in the right direction there. And you know, the reality of climate change with these extreme weather impacts getting worse and worse every year is kind of hammering that home for everybody. And so it’s the denial is something that we’re finally starting to move past at least in the right direction.
Do you get any Have you interacted with any current or retired military personnel on this issue? Because I know I’ve seen a few interviews with military personnel where they just they say, Hey, we have no political investment here like our mission is, is preparedness and They, you know, when it if it’s actually going to affect military preparedness, they have to take something seriously whether it’s politically deemed liberal or conservative. And I’ve always found that kind of interesting that that seems to be sort of like a political voice that can be injected into the conversation about climate issues.
Oh, certainly. Yeah. I can’t remember their names right off the top of my head. But a few years back, we did have a number of military people, you know, like retired generals and admirals, Matt admirals who they could see what the threat was from climate change, whether it was sea level rise that affected naval ports, you know, particularly like, like a Norfolk, Virginia, where they have, you know, high tide flooding all the time. Now, yeah, this is, this is a real threat to, to our military or in places where we’re involved in conflict, we could see that our sort of addiction, as it were, to fossil fuels, actually endangered our military, the bulk of the casualties, that that happened in Iraq, during our involvement over there happened because of fuel convoys, that were trying to get gas, you know, from one place to another. And as a matter of fact, we, we have a staffer here.
He’s our conservative outreach director, he served in the military, and he saw he served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he saw Yeah, this is, this was definitely a problem for our military that that put our soldiers in harm’s way. And so that’s one of the reasons why he decided to get involved in the climate issue and how he eventually found his way to, to Citizens Climate Lobby, but yes, that’s, that’s really interesting. Yeah, these these, these are great spokespeople to have, you know, especially talking to Congress and appearing in hearings and saying, you know, how is climate change affecting our national security, our preparedness, and, and all of that?
No, that’s that. That’s an excellent point. And these are great people day in and in anything that, you know, on this particular front here, so to speak, you know, let’s actually put a pin in this and return to it after a break. Because it is really an, I think, an interesting wrinkle in the conversation. This is Max Lopes, obviously, he was Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli of Citizens Climate Lobby. We’ll be back in a moment.
Hello, I’m Max Sloves sitting here today for Matt Matern on A Climate Change with Matt Matern. We’re speaking with Steve Valk and David Nuccitelli.
In the last segment, we were talking about how we can bring different voices into the conversation on climate change, to I would say destigmatize climate change as a partisan topic of debate. And one of those voices that we were discussing were people who are in the military, these that the military preparedness just doesn’t care that much about left or right, they care about the mission. And you were saying that you you’ve had veterans work with you. And I’m just wondering if you could expand a little on on their experience and what they’ve been able to offer to the Citizens Climate Lobby.
Right, right. Yes. So yeah, the staffer that I was, I was telling about Drew Irelia, he was he was a medic over there. So he saw firsthand, you know, what was what was happening in these war theaters? You know, because of, you know, how we had to move fossil fuels around. I mean, if all you had to do is roll out a solar array to get energy instead of diesel for the generators, yeah, then you wouldn’t have that problem. So that’s one of the things another area where you can see is going to be a problem from us from a military standpoint, is the displacement of people around the world from these climate catastrophes, what we’re seeing now is climate refugees who have to move from places that are that are flooded or have incredible storm damage or are just getting too hot.
And as these, you have these mass migrations from one place to another, it creates a very destabilizing effect. And as a region destabilizes, then conflicts start to erupt over resources. And these are things that the United States might have to jump into and try to keep things from, from literally blowing up. I mean, you look at a country like Pakistan that had incredible flooding, like about a third of the country was affected by the by the floods over there. Well, guess what? Pakistan has nuclear weapons. If that country is destabilized, if the government gets toppled, and we don’t know who’s in charge, that creates an incredibly dangerous situation, in my view, anyway.
Yeah. And for that reason, the Department of Defense’s for a couple of decades now described climate change as a threat to national security because of these destabilization is causing things like food and water insecurity, potentially contributing to civil wars and mass migrations. So the Department of fences for a long time been saying this thing this that climate change is a big threat to our security, essentially, because I really didn’t have any intention of focusing on the military and national security in those in those terms in this conversation, but it is helpful to the extent that I think, even as popular as the discourse is, or at least the two words climate change, you see them in so many headlines, as popular as they are, it’s still something that conceptually is very distant to peep a lot of people.
And so I think what what the two of you have just discussed in terms of military concerns and stability of foreign governments, I would hope that would help internalize the phenomenon a little more for people to kind of bring it a little more home in terms of something that can if people can conceptually wrap their arms around and understand on a on a sore, sort of more material level in terms of cause and effect more immediate cause and effect. I just think we are so politicized about our own borders, that if one were to imagine the impacts on both our borders and borders, in nations where we have a strategic interest or humanitarian interest. It really, I just, I would hope it would become a little more easy to access for people to grasp the urgency of the climate issue. And maybe this is a clumsy pivot. But I’d actually like to kind of turn back a little bit. And given what we’ve just sort of laid out as really immediate concerns. What What can you break down? What it is that you’re some of the initiatives that you’re advocating for that, that you hope will will help address this issue?
Sure. So the big thing, of course, is to stop the warming that’s actually causing all these changes. I mean, people don’t have to look at other parts of the world to wrap their heads around the impact of climate change when you get four feet of water, dumping down in a place in in two days, like they did in Houston. During Hurricane Harvey. It hits home pretty hard, pretty fast. So I think people in the United States, it’s because of these disasters that we’re seeing out in California with the atmospheric rivers. Dana, you can you live over there, you live through that over there’s Sacramento, it’s people can can see what’s going on. And so it’s obvious what we need, we’ve got to bring the emissions down. We got to stop the warming that’s causing all these changes to our climate. And we got a good start on that with the inflation Reduction Act last year, which is incentivizing more clean energy usage in our society. But there’s there’s More than it needs to be done, it’s not going to get the job done entirely. And one of the things that that we need to do, actually, is to reform the permitting process. Because if we don’t do that, then the emissions reductions that we’re expecting aren’t going to happen. And Dana, perhaps you could talk a little bit more, you know, about, you know, what’s, why permitting reform is, is needed, and how, what the prospects are for that happening?
Sure. So the inflation Reduction Act provided a bunch of tax credits for a clean energy, which is particularly going to go to wind and solar energy, because those kinds of the cheapest forms of electricity available right now, the problem is that when you’re going to build a large wind or solar farm out in the countryside, somewhere where there’s cheap available land, you then have to transport that clean electricity from these rural areas to the big population centers that tend to be in the big cities along the coasts, for the most part. And so that requires long distance electric transmission lines. The problem there is that it takes us a very long time right now, like, on average about a decade in the United States to build a new electric transmission line, in large part because the permitting process is a very slow process. And right now and so that’s why we need to do some kind of permitting reform package through Congress to make the process happen faster that so that we can make we can connect these new wind and solar farms to bright clean electricity to the grid and thereby phase out fossil fuel power plants more quickly.
It’s, it’s estimated that I mean, there was one study was was Princeton that study, this Princeton study basically said, hey, if we don’t speed up the permitting process, something like 80% of the reductions that we’re expecting from the inflation Reduction Act, will not happen by 2030. As as as we expected, you know, so it’s a big deal. Yeah, that’s right.
Okay, and when you’re talking about about permitting, or you’re talking specifically about these transmission lines that will get cleaner energy from point A to point B.
Yeah, there are a variety of aspects to permanent form. There’s the siting of new power plants or new wind and solar farms, there is the building of new transmission lines, but there’s like a variety of different aspects to get wrapped into these big permitting reform proposals through Congress.
I know permanent view, Byzantine. And, yeah, the intersection of environmental law, land use law, and nimbyism, not in my backyard individuals not wanting things, even things that are that are potentially value added to be constructed near them. Hopefully, in our next segment, we can talk a little bit more about that. You know, how, what some of the strategies are to that they can actually be implemented to navigate and streamline some of these permitting obstacles. Max Sloves, I’m sitting in today for Matt Matern on A Climate Change with Matt Matern. Talking with Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli. From a Citizens Climate Lobby, we’ll be back.
Max Sloves sitting in for Matt Matern on A Climate Change with Matt Matern, talking with Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli, of a Citizens Climate Lobby. And we left off in the last segment segment, talking about some of the permanent obstacles that stand in the way of cleaner energy, the types of sources of energy that help us move away from energy sources that create emissions that contribute to climate change. In terms of Streamlight like what like what, what are some of the strategies? Or how optimistic are you? Will that some sort of whether it be legislation, what what would it take to get us from this 10 year horizon of getting a transmission line built to connect a wind farm to an urban center to something more on the scale of what would even be desirable won’t be the target like one year 18 months? How do we get from point A to point B? both literally and conceptually?
Yeah, I mean, the timeline is going to depend on the size and complexity of every each different project. But one example of a change we’d like to see is giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC has more authority over interstates transmission lines, because right now FERC can sort of take over the permitting process for like a long interstate natural gas pipeline, but they can’t do the same thing for an interstate electric transmission line. Which means that if you’re trying to build a transmission line, for example, if you’re trying to transport window electricity from Wyoming to California, you’re gonna have to transport that through a number of different states. And then you have to get permits for every individual state, to before you can actually build that transmission line.
Whereas if you had FERC, in charge of that whole process, then potentially, you just have to do one application for a permit deferred. And so that no making that change would require a chain of basically a law through Congress to give FERC that authority. And there are some a bunch of other different potential changes to make, like, for example, a geothermal exploration because geothermal is a very clean potential energy source, but has to go through an extensive permitting process that like oil exploration doesn’t have to go through, for example. So if you could reduce the permitting needs for geothermal exploration that can make geothermal power plants come online potentially more quickly, because you find more sites that they’re potentially cost effective to install. And so there’s a whole bunch of these different changes that can be made through congressional permitting reform package.
There’s a lot of eagerness on the part of Republicans to do permitting reform, this is something that they’ve wanted it because basically, what it means is simplifying or removing some of the regulatory process, and it’s something that is smaller government. It’s exactly, exactly so where, where you have to reconcile the differences is to get we want to streamline the process. But at the same time, we don’t want to do it in a way that ignores the concerns of communities that are that are might going to be that might be affected by a particular project.
So there has to be some give and take there somehow to to kind of meet in the middle between what what Democrats might be concerned about and what Republicans would be concerned about. But we think it’s possible that we think this is one of the areas where there actually is some, some opportunity for bipartisan cooperation to get something something very meaningful and important and necessary, done in this Congress. A lot of people have just sort of written off this Congress, you know, saying, Oh, it’s a divided Congress, the Republicans control the House, nothing’s going to get done. No, there there are some bipartisan things that they can get done that that have to get done. And the the permitting reform thing is, is one of those.
Yeah, so the challenges in shortening and streamlining these environmental permit reviews that happen through laws, like NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, without constraining it too much that you’re basically taking people out of the participation process, want to make sure everybody can still make their voice heard, while still shortening the permitting review process.
What what involvement Have you been getting from industry on this issue to the snippet? There is a lot of rhetoric, a lot of talk about the promise of a green economy, that when you transition from one source to another, that is a that is an opportunity for investment, that is an opportunity for job creation. have various participants or actors in on the industry side, been helpful in pushing this initiative forward to help streamline permitting and help promote some of these projects?
Yeah, I have. Yeah. I mean, I think certainly, I mean, we’re already seeing a whole bunch of different companies bringing manufacturing of clean technology into the United States for for battery plants and electric cars and things like that. And certainly businesses want to see the permitting process happen faster businesses in that sector, because you know, if you know, the slower things happen, then the more projects get cancelled, and then that’s, you know, economic opportunity that gets lost.
And so there’s certainly a lot of businesses and industries that are very eager to see a successful clean energy permanent reform package get through Congress. What elements of the inflation Reduction Act are, are potentially helpful in pushing forward this some of these initiatives The inflation reduction act very recently passed. Could you speak to some of the provisions that that you’re, you’re excited about?
Yes, I mean, in addition to those tax credits for clean electricity that I mentioned that those are potentially going to just, you know, totally remake the US economy and make it a much, much cleaner, greener economy with all these wind and solar farms that are potentially going to get built. There’s also some great incentives for homeowners to electrify their homes and make their homes more energy efficient by getting things like heat pump water heaters and heat pumps, space heaters replacing fossil fuel furnaces, making their homes more efficient.
They’re weatherization things like better insulation, sealing up cracks, better windows, you know, installing solar panels potentially, and you know, electric charging stations getting electric cars, these things are all incentivized through tax credits and rebates in the inflation Reduction Act. So that’s another one of our policy areas is building electrification efficiency. And we’re really trying to educate homeowners into the opportunities and incentives provided by the inflation Reduction Act, for them to basically they basically have like an electric bank account to take money out of from an inflation Reduction Act to make their homes more efficient and electrified.
Yeah, you can get about 30% of the cost of a heat pump financed through the inflation reduction act now. So that kind of brings the the price down quite a bit. Dana and I, perhaps you can talk a little bit about how, you know what will happen if we actually, if we don’t get these transmission lines built, there’s perversely the chance that we could end up burning more coal than we currently burn it. How is that?
That is it’s one complication of because with the inflation reduction that has all these incentives for homeowners to electrify, and get electric cars and heat pumps, in induction stoves and things like that, which creates more electricity demand. And so then if you have higher demand, but you’re not quickly enough, installing and connecting these solar panels and wind turbines to the electric grid, then that increased electricity demand has to be met by something, and it gets met by more but burning of fossil fuels of coal and natural gas. And so as a result, you end up burning more fossil fuels and 2030 and creating more air pollution, then, if we were able to, you know, do this clean energy permitting, reform and get these clean energy, wind farms and solar farms connected to the grid through these new transmission lines.
So it’s a really important thing, both for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, but also reducing other air pollutants, especially in disadvantaged communities located near coal power plants, for example, that are breathing all this air pollution and potentially breathe more of it. If we’re, you know, burning more coal to meet this increased electricity demand. That would be an absolutely tragic irony. epic proportions. The law that’s having consequences never fails to circle around and feel excuse my language bias and the acid we’re not too careful. Well, it to that note, what are some of the I guess?
You know, we’re kind of near the end of the segment, but I wanted to float the question of what some of the, the, on the local level what, what are some of the typical issues of resistance we see to to building these lines, some of the issues that come up that make this permitting process so dilated? And drawn out?
Yeah, I mean, with transmission lines, the challenge is that they’re very long. And so they go through a lot of different parcels of land. And so you know, they might go through particular, just an area that, you know, it’s maybe it’s got some trees or some species that people want to protect, and then you have to find a different routes. Or maybe people just think it’s ugly, or you know, they’re not going to see the benefits themselves, because it’s taking electricity from one place away from them to another place away from them. And so why should I have this electric transmission line going through my property? I’m not getting anything from it. And so there’s a lot of challenges there just because of the size and scope of these big long electric transmission lines.
Yeah, a story is as old as time where story at least as old as NEPA and Sequa. Laws that I think have done tremendous benefit to the environment, but laws that have also given again, the law of unintended consequences, tremendously powerful tools to obstructionist. When we come back, I hope we get to talk about some of the other initiatives that that Citizens Climate Lobby is involved in.
So with that, I’m Max Sloves sitting in for Matt Matern today on A Climate Change with Matt Matern. We’ll be back in a moment, Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli of Citizens Climate Lobby.
Hello, this is Max Sloves. I’m sitting in today for Matt Matern on A Climate Change with Matt Matern. You’re speaking with Steve Valk and Dana Nuccitelli of Citizens Climate Lobby. The Citizens Climate Lobby has been advocating for carbon fees and dividends as, as one tactic, one strategy for incentivizing the reduction of carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. I guess you could frame that as both a carrot and a stick. What are some of the other initiatives that Citizens Climate Lobby has been, has been advocating recently?
So when we decided that we were going to expand the the policy portfolio of Citizens Climate Lobby, we looked at, Okay, where can we where do we have an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation? And where can we get kind of the biggest bang for our buck? And one of those is with this area that we call Healthy forests. And there’s a number of things that we can we can do on that front? And, Dan, I’ll let you kind of go into that a little bit about, you know, why, you know, forests are so important and how we can, you know, go ahead and tap into that that resource is something that reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.
Yeah, I mean, in the United States, we’re really lucky, we’ve got a whole lot of great forest land, about a third of the country is covered with forests. And the growth of those forests. As you know, trees grow, they pull carbon out of the atmosphere, and they sequester in their their woody biomass, their trunks and branches. And so the growth of trees, the United States already pulls enough carbon out of the atmosphere to offset about 12% of our greenhouse gas emissions every year.
And so, you know, there’s both large forests. And then there’s a lot of great benefits from urban forest trees and cities, which just the growth of trees in cities offsets something like the ambitions of 10 million cars in the United States every year. And we could potentially roughly double that if we were to plant enough trees in the right places where they’re suitable to grow. And then urban forests have all kinds of great physical and mental health benefits for people like they’ve been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and depression. And people who live near trees, they get out and they walk more. And so they’re healthier.
They’re, they have healthier body weights. It’s, there’s a great study out of Portland, actually, the City of Portland has over the past 30 years engaged in this really big tree planting project. And this new study that was just published found that for every 100 trees that was planted in a given Portland neighborhood, they avoided one premature death. And so you can imagine if you plant a whole lot of trees, you can avoid a lot of premature deaths because of people just living healthier lives getting out and walking more, reducing their stress have been associated with less cardiovascular disease when you live in a neighborhood with more trees.
Also, because we’re getting worse, extreme heat waves, the cooling effects from trees are really important because they provide shade. And they also have this process called evapo transpiration, where they kind of release water into the atmosphere and that as a cooling effect. And so that’s really important, especially in cities where we have a lot of, you know, concrete and asphalt that when you have a big Heatwave, that concrete asphalt kind of just radiates the heat and makes his cities particularly hot. And that can have deadly effects when we have really extreme heat waves and cities. And so it’s really important to have as many trees as possible in green spaces in cities to offset these these worsening effects of extreme heat waves over time.
They’re like nature’s air conditioners. That’s it. They really are.
Yeah, what what are what are like if you were to go into an urban area, that’s a bit vague, but I guess people in in cities can kind of just imagine for themselves where what that looks like for them. What, Where are their sort of? Are there areas that lend themselves well to this reforestation of the urban landscape? I feel like there are so many urban areas that are just completely paved over or are just some of these projects require like, like, jackhammering out concrete and asphalt or do they involve planters being installed on top of paved areas I’d like like on a very like, like literal level, what does urban reforestation look like?
Yes, reforestation, is that there are forests there before. I don’t know, what an urban forest station looked like, at one point. Yeah, there were forest there before the cities were built. Yeah, yeah.
A lot of cases, yeah, it’s gonna depend on the particular situation of a given area, a given city and how much it’s been paved. And, but for example, you want to put as many trees near buildings as possible to provide shade for those buildings, because again, the buildings get very hot, and you want to not require too much air conditioning, when we get more and more of these extreme heat waves. And so you know, if there’s a lot of if it’s, you know, like a big building surrounded by asphalt, then you might want to jackhammer up some basketball, for example, to plant some trees, or you might just want to find a nice open space that’s not being used and, and plant a bunch of trees there and create a green space in or around the city. There’s a lot of different options such as Yeah, it’s going to vary depending on this specific local conditions.
And we’re starting to get into this whole issue of what we call tree equity. And that is that if you live in, in a wealthy neighborhood, the chances are that the tree cover in your neighborhood is going to be very lush, very, very robust, temperatures are going to be cooler. You know, people in these areas in these neighborhoods benefit from having more trees. Whereas when you get into poor neighborhoods, you see less trees. And if you want to see a really good idea of what that disparity looks like, there’s an organization called American Forests.
And they have, they have a tool where I think it’s their, their tree equity tool, where you can go to a city, and you can zoom in on a neighborhood and you can see a score a tree cover score for that particular neighborhood. And if you’re familiar with, you know, where the poor neighborhoods are, and where the wealthy neighborhoods are, you know, you can see oh, yeah, there’s there’s a definite disparity here. And we need to do something about it. Yeah,
I believe the website is true equity score.org. And that they’re kind of overall statistic is that the the wealthiest neighborhoods in United States have about 41% More tree cover than the poorest neighborhoods and the widest neighborhoods have about 33% More tree covered, then the the communities of color do. Those are pretty stunning numbers. And it also feels like something that it’s very, very, it seems like something that we’re changing is very achievable. And there is a lag time for trees to grow. But I feel like efforts to if not create forestation to, to create more green space and more greenery in urban areas can be achieved on a fairly rapid timeframe.
Relatively speaking, yeah, it’s a pretty easy solution. And it’s got so many different benefits that you know, the tree is going to pull climate, they pull carbon out of the atmosphere, they’re going to provide cooling and and distressing services and improve people’s mental and physical health and just let people live longer, healthier and happier lives.
That’s a pretty big win win when you think of the the not just the climate impacts, but the very human emotional and psychological impacts of greenery in urban areas. I think I want to end with an easy question. So planting of trees do that on a domestic level. You start to confronts one, one must still confront the reality that climate change is a global issue. And how do some of your initiatives address the offshoring of of emissions that contribute to climate change? Specifically, how do we confront the reality that there may be just a race to the bottom continue activities that are undesirable from climate change standpoint by moving them to jurisdictions to other countries where there aren’t these initiatives, there aren’t these regulations or there are these concerns.
So there’s a couple good examples. There’s a bill called the forest acts that we were supporting in the last Congress that basically a disincentivizes this businesses from importing products from countries from in areas that have been illegally deforested and so that way, we’re not, for example, importing beef from stereos in Brazil that used to be Amazon rainforest, and we’re deforested to create pasture land. So that’s a good way to disincentivize at least some deforestation. And then in terms of other industries, there’s a component of a carbon pricing mechanism is it’s called a carbon border adjustment mechanism a CBM Which is basically where we put a price on the extra carbon content of materials coming across the border into our country. So that, for example, if you have steel coming from China, that’s higher emissions, that higher carbon than steel in the United States, you make them pay the price for that extra carbon. So that creates the incentive for these industries and other countries to reduce their carbon emissions as well, so that they’re not paying this fee as they import their products across the US border. And so that’s another type of policy that we’re supporting to try to address that issue.
Europe, Europe is already doing that. Now. They’re they’re set to implement this carbon border adjustment for goods that are coming into their economies. Yeah,
I would love to see that in the United States, I think, because it’s such a key piece of the equation. And is so reflective of the the fact that that environmental and climate phenomena just don’t really care about borders that we have drawn politically. And and we have to account for that. The global and universal impact of these shifts in the climate and how we’re going to address them.
As we wrap up, I just wanted to ask quickly, if somebody wants to know more about past work that Citizens Climate Lobby has done, future initiatives that that are on the on the table, where can they go to learn more?
You can go to our website, CitizensClimateLobby.org, we have a blog, and you can kind of search the blog for, you know, different types of legislation like like the growing Climate Solutions Act that that we were involved in, kind of getting across the finish line, but I and if people really want to get a sense of reclaiming their democracy and making a difference, come to Washington with us in June, we’ve got we’ve got a conference coming up and we train people how to lobby their members of Congress, and then they go to Capitol Hill and they actually do that. So yeah, that’s that’s a conference that’s coming up and you’ll you’ll find it on our website that CitizensClimateLobby.org
Fantastic. Steve, thank you so much for speaking with me today. I appreciate it so much. Max Sloves sitting in Matt Matern on A Climate Change with Matt Matern.
Help Us Combat Climate Change by Subscribing to our newsletter!