Climate Change Legislation in a Nutshell

Six Arenas

Sitting in front of a computer screen in the middle of another Zoom conference on climate change, the exuberance of the presenters is consistently tested by the scope of the legislative endeavors that must pass. The issue is not the cliché that “no bill is perfect,” which is true. Rather, climate change is a threat multiplier across every human activity and endeavor, and its footprint is global. A Green New Deal bill will accomplish much in the coming decade, but no one bill can anticipate nor address all the issues created by human output in the last one hundred years.

At present, we are on a baseline trajectory to raise the median temperature of the earth by 2100 +3.5oC (6.4oF). The baseline is the output of carbon we are experiencing today without any change or mitigation.  Today’s baseline is unsustainable, and the result would be a planet with huge swaths of uninhabitable land and ocean by the end of the century. With the proposed legislation, we will continue to produce carbon, pumping the element into the water and into the air, but the goal is to control and reduce the carbon output to a sustainable +1.5oC (2.7oF).

M.I.T.’s Management Sustainability Initiative divides up the carbon reduction puzzle into six arenas:

  1. Energy Supply
  2. Transport
  3. Buildings and Industry
  4. Growth
  5. Land and Industry Emissions
  6. Carbon Removal

Our legislative endeavors need to force changes in each of these six areas. If all the areas are not addressed, even if only one area is ignored, we will be unable to reach our sustainable goal of +1.5oC (2.7oF). Each area requires a firm legislative shove, often more than one. What follows is an outline of what is contained in each arena and what must be done. Each bullet point requires new aggressive legislation.

Energy Supply

The big four carbon producers that must be reduced to as close to zero as possible are:

  • Coal
  • Oil
  • Natural Gas
  • Bioenergy (e.g. wood, wood pellets)

The energy producers that do not produce carbon are called renewables. They must take over as much energy production as possible:

  • Solar
  • Geothermal
  • Wind
  • Nuclear* (*renewable but not clean)

The lever that forces the energy supply to shift from coal/oil/gas to renewables is:

  • Carbon price/Carbon Tax

We may also need a break-through technology that does not emit greenhouse gases. Several have been proposed but none will be available in the foreseeable future. Funding is through research and development.

  • New Zero-Carbon Breakthrough


All forms of transportation (ships, planes, trucks, cars) must shift to,

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Electrification

Buildings and Industry

All mechanicals in buildings and the processes and machines for manufacturing must make the same shift as transportation.

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Electrification


Some parts of the world are already experiencing a slowdown in population from an exponential trajectory to a geometric one, although not all populations are decreasing. Economic growth as defined by Gross Domestic Product must also decrease. We need to aim for less people and less stuff, backing away from a growth model for economies.

  • Population
  • Economic Growth

Population tends towards self-regulating when education rates rise in general and when education policies specifically targeting women are implemented. The issues of less manufactured goods are partially addressed in “Right to Repair” laws that create longer-lasting products and the legal ability/capability to repair locally.

Land and Industry Emissions

While energy consumption is tackled above, the pollution generated by industry and agribusiness must all be addressed. Monoculture agribusiness must transform to soil-healthy processes that are not dependent on manufactured fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides.

  • Deforestation
  • Methane, fertilizers, HTC’s, and PFC’s

Carbon Removal

The only known carbon removal technology available today is replanting what we have destroyed on land and in the ocean. We will need new technology to pull carbon out of the air, either enhancing natural removals or manually sequestering carbon. Such technology does not exist yet.

  • Afforestation
  • Technological Carbon Removal

Putting the Points Together

No one bill will address all these issues. Legislation that redirects agriculture hardly seems like a climate change bill but both monoculture farms and beef ranches are huge contributors to the carbon pollution matrix. Government investments in education lead to smaller households in the next generation, an education bill. Shifting government subsidies from coal, oil, and gas to renewables would address the most significant source of carbon production, which is a straightforward energy bill. One bus can remove sixty cars from the daily commute, which would be funded in a transportation bill.

Some solutions will require international treaties and corporate compliance. We should invest in research and development, which would have a side effect of reducing college costs as the Sputnik program did. Corporations are guilty of the worst carbon pumping crimes and they need to fundamentally change or be forced to change into implementors of solutions.

We must pass legislation that does not include wishful thinking. A breakthrough technology just around the corner, hydrogen-powered cars for example, is a fantasy. The technology solution is not around the corner, which is no surprise because we have not invested much in developing such an invention. New technologies require investment and time; we have given neither.

Final Word

Your head should be spinning. At the least, organizing the bullet points in one place presents a clear direction of what sorts of legislation and regulations we need in the next year. Every bill is battle and we need a lot of bills to become law.

We are asking our legislator allies to cover all these legislative areas when we cannot track them ourselves. Using the M.I.T structure, we can organize progress in each of the six arenas. This tracking helps us help our legislators stay informed and on-track, while keeping ourselves informed as best we can.

We can do this.

Addressing Climate Change Simulator

Can we save the planet from its current projection of 4.1 degrees centigrade by 2100? You bet. This interactive simulator lets you tinker with all the possible solutions that are available today. Experiment! (Look for the big blue button on the right for the SIMULATOR, which is often updated.)

Take Twenty Minutes to Learn How to Save Energy!

Earth Wrapped in a LeafOn the next two Tuesday evenings, New York Interfaith Power & Light is offering free webinars on energy efficiency.

“Residential Energy Efficiency” will be held on October 1st at 7:00 p.m., and will walk you through the steps improving energy efficiency in your home, beginning with an energy assessment.

“The Link Between Creation Stewardship and Economic Development” will be held on October 8th at 7:00 p.m., and will look at how renewables and energy efficiency help job growth and economic development.

Both webinars are free and feature Ed Smyth, NYIPL board member and a principal consultant with DNV KEMA Energy and Sustainability.  To register for one or both, contact NYIPL at (315) 256-0078 or

Form an Energy Challenge Team


If you live in Central New York, you might be interested in forming an Energy Challenge Team. The Central New York Energy Challenge Team is a free and voluntary program designed to encourage households to improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint through a process of shared learning.  Team participants are provided with the tools to take actions that reduce their household energy usage, benefitting the environment and their wallets at the same time.

The Energy Challenge Team program utilizes a cooperative team-based format so that participants have the support they need to succeed.  Teams are made up of 5-8 households inclusive of a team facilitator.  The facilitator is responsible for recruiting members and conducting meetings according to a provided guidebook, each team member receives a workbook.  Teams meet for approximately one hour each week over the course of 6 weeks to learn and discuss ways to save energy. Previous participants in the program have achieved a 29% savings in energy usage.

Energy Challenge teams provide a fun and supportive environment where participants can learn to improve their energy efficiency while saving money, improving comfort in their homes, and enjoying the company of neighbors and/or colleagues.

If you are interested in forming an Energy Challenge team, please contact Sam Gordon, CNY Energy Challenge Coordinator* at or (315) 422-8276, ext. 204.

*The CNY Energy Challenge is an initiative of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board, a public agency serving Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, and Madison Counties.

Did You Know?

churchroofsolarYour Church, Temple, or Synagogue will likely qualify for a free energy assessment and a low-interest loan for energy improvements.

Once you have done an energy assessment, NYSERDA has two financing options:

  1. You can get half of a loan (up to $50,000) financed by NYSERDA at 0% interest.
  2. NYSERDA may finance your project (for the improvements recommended in your energy assessment).  To pay this loan back, you would pay an incremental amount on your utility bill.

For specific questions or to sign up for a free energy assessment, please call NYIPL at (315) 256-0078 or email

Holiday Light

candle_light_wallpapers_11As the days grow shorter with less sunlight, people around the world have ways in which we celebrate our faith with light.

Diwali is a five-day celebration held in November this year. It is the Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the New Year. The word “Diwali” means “rows of lighted lamps. During Diwali, people light hundreds of small oil lamps, called diyas, and place them around their homes. Firecrackers light the sky, dispelling darkness and ignorance and spreading the radiance of love and wisdom, in Hindu symbolism.

Diwali is also celebrated by Sikhs, who mark the occasion when Guru Ji obtained the release of 52 kings and princes who had been unjustly imprisoned. Good had overcome evil and light overcame the darkness.

Bodhi Day was on December 8th, and marks the day when Buddha attained enlightenment. Often, Buddhists will string multi-colored lights throughout their homes to symbolize the many paths to enlightenment. It is also traditional to light a candle each night for 30 nights beginning on Bodhi Day.

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and began this year at sundown on December 8th. Hanukkah commemorates efforts to restore the Temple in Jerusalem.  During the restoration, some people found there was only enough oil to light the lamp for one night, but miraculously, it burned for eight.

Christmas on December 25th, celebrated by Christians, is also associated with light, with some of its customs deriving from pre-Christian religions’ recognition of the Winter Solstice in areas that adopted Christianity.

Kwanzaa, beginning on December 26th and ending on January 1, is not a religious holiday, but for many it has spiritual overtones. Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated by some African Americans and is centered around seven principals; Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Seven candles represent the seven principals.

As we near the end of the year, we can take time to pause for reflection and for planning for 2013. In that spirit, we offer suggestions for ten ways to bring light into your life, and the life of your religious community, in order to lighten your footprint.

  • Caulk windows, doors, and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around furnace exhaust pipes or your water heater.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with a compact fluorescent ones.  This will not only save energy, it will save you money.
  • Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly.
  • Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean.
  • Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice becomes ¼ inch thick.
  • Try going without meat for at least one night per week. Buy organic, locally-grown foods.
  • When you use your washing machine, make sure it has a full load of clothes. Use cold water for the rinse cycle.
  • Unplug electronics, battery chargers, and other equipment when not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
  • Make your own holiday gifts. This could turn into a fun tradition!
  • Enable “power management” on all computers and turn them off at night. Laptops use up to 90% less energy than desktop models.

Happy Holidays and peace to all.