‘Planet nears climate tipping point’ says NC WARN

by Allison Stalberg

Leading researchers believe that high levels of emissions of methane happening in North Carolina are becoming a key problem for the climate crisis.

NC WARN has been pushing for environmental change in the state for 28 years.

One such push is for companies like Duke Energy to shift to “genuine” clean energy.

“I say genuine because they spent a lot of money to make people think they are green,” said NC WARN’s executive director, Jim Warren. “The problem has worsened and worsened up to now. You’ve got a lot of scientists calling it a planetary crisis, a threat to humanity, and they are correct.

“The heat temperature in 2014 broke the record for global temperature on average by quite a lot from the previous record. 2015 broke that record and now 2016 is on track to be hotter than either of them by quite a lot.

“Meanwhile we have both researchers from NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) among others who are saying that now because of all the heating, humanity could be looking at a sea level rise of 10 feet within three dozen years by around 2050. They are also saying if this were to occur, it would be absolutely catastrophic for most of the world’s cities.”

NC WARN, NASA and NOAA believe buildups of methane during the fracking boom in recent years are part of the momentum pushing the climate towards a tipping point of no return.

“We can’t scientifically say for sure that that’s related to this big buildup of methane, but as one of the scientists told me, ‘It probably is, we just can’t prove it yet,'” said Warren.

Warren says the greatest obstacle for green change is the inaction of natural gas industries such as the American Petroleum Institute and those that they represent. NC WARN may well be uncovering an environmental scandal as they are currently investigating the chance of scientific fraud in the measurements of methane leakage rooted in North Carolina.

“At least 10 people, including highranking EPA officials, directly knew that devices used in two critical studies of methane leakage and venting at fracking gas sites were underreporting,” said Warren.

“The inventor of the key device found that it was malfunctioning – and reports that EPA has covered it up for three years. Even the manufacturer later admitted its Bacharach samplers were widely underreporting the emissions of methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas that’s now driving the climate toward a chaotic tipping point, due largely to the recent fracking boom.”

In light of the scandal, NC WARN is putting more pressure on North Carolina’s natural gas industries. Warren particularly wants to push Duke Energy’s policy on renewable energy.

“They will tell you that they do a good job of keeping down the leaks and venting on their end of the equation, but the key is all of the methane that’s spewing into the air in the literal and figurative pipeline between the drilling sites and power plants,” Warren said. “And Duke Energy can’t wash his hands and say we don’t have any role in that that stuff. We’ve called on Duke Energy to publically support that investigation that the whistleblower helped us file for and so far they haven’t chosen to do that.”

Duke Power spokesman Randy Wheeless said the iconic company continues to make pollution controls and renewables a part of their overall strategy.

“The natural gas industry continues their work to further reduce any leakage from their drilling, fracturing and gas capturing processes. Duke Energy is a large purchaser of natural gas, but we are not involved in the drilling and exploration of natural gas,” Wheeless noted.

While NC WARN claims that Duke Energy will generate only three to four percent renewable energy by 2030, Wheeless said the goal is higher.

“Today, we are around 10-12 percent renewable energy when you add wind, solar and hydro together,” said Wheeless. “If you want fossil-free energy, you can add our 30 percent nuclear generation to that figure. This is overall Duke Energy data. Our critics are selective on what data they use.

“We believe renewables will continue to be a growing part of our business, and we are expanding renewable energy in our other regulated states like Florida, Indiana and South Carolina. We’ll still need a balanced energy mix with all resources, but there is no reason renewables cannot be growing part of that mix.”

Customer needs add a challenge to Duke Energy becoming a greener operation.

“Despite our increase in wind, solar and battery storage, we will continue to need all generation resources to meet customer needs 24/7,” said Wheeless. “Natural gas, nuclear and coal will continue to have a place in our portfolio.”

However NC WARN believes immediate action needs to be taken.

“You hear a lot of national discussion of things that need to be done by 2050 or 2100 on what humanity needs to do, but they are ignoring the fact that the scientists have already made it very clear that the global warming that’s underway is building its own momentum,” said Warren “We are nearing a point of no return that even as millions of people are already being devastated now, this is not a problem for just our children and grandchildren, this is in our face right now but if we don’t take dramatic measures to begin curbing these emissions—then we are going to hit a tipping point where global warming and sea level rise and all these things associated with it are going to continue rolling forward under their own momentum.

“It will be out of humanity’s control. So all these extreme weather events that are happening all over the planet are going to continue to worsen.”

NC WARN claims there is no silver bullet for the average citizen to tackle this issue. However they believe it’s important for people to pay attention and inform themselves about the issues, now more than ever.

“One specific thing people can do is call on their political candidates to help make that happen, to require Duke Energy to help,” said Warren. !