2013 — Northeast Ohio's Year in Climate Change

Toxic and dangerous blue-green algae blooms in our treasured Lake Erie and an increase in smog production fueled by warming temperatures where both another reminder to us that global warming is happening now, in our own backyards. But thanks to people who took action across the country, it was also a year full of progress in the effort to cut the carbon pollution that’s causing the problem.

This September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an updated compilation of climate science that confirms what we, here in Cleveland, already know: Global warming, fueled by heat-trapping pollution like carbon, is changing the climate world-wide and driving increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

 

In America, the largest single source of carbon pollution comes from power plants and Ohio is the 2nd largest contributor. In fact, six of the 100 most polluting power plants in our country are right here in Ohio.

This year was certainly a year in which we felt the consequences of global warming, fueled by carbon pollution from power plants. But our children may also look at 2013 as the year we started to fight back. Here’s a look back at our progress to cut carbon pollution this year:

  • Clean energy on the rise. Solar power is on fire: costs are plummeting, deployment is accelerating, and we’ve increased 10-fold since 2007. The first offshore wind projects are inching closer to construction, like the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation’s (LEEDCo) Icebreaker project in Lake Erie. Now, wind energy generates enough electricity to power 15 million homes.
  • Progress in Ohio.

Ohio’s commitment to renewable energy is paying off. Thanks to our Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Bill, SB 221, in just five years wind energy in Ohio avoided carbon pollution equivalent to taking 124,503 cars off the road, saved enough water to meet the needs of 10,602 people, and avoided 562 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 694 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and the soot that leads to respiratory diseases. These benefits could double over the next five years.

  • A national plan to limit carbon. The president received over a quarter million comments from Ohioans, and 3.2 million comments from the nation, asking for strong rules to limit carbon from power plants. And President Obama did just that this June when he announced the first-ever national plan to respond to the threat of climate change.
  • The proof is in the pudding. For the first time in history, America has grown the economy at the same time emissions have decreased – proving once and for all that tackling the climate crises doesn’t need to come at the expense of economic prosperity.

We’ve begun to turn the tide, but the greatest challenges that lie ahead are not a lack of ideas, technology, or innovation. Even as the threat of global warming has never been more imminent, and the solutions have never been more evident, dirty energy industry-backed groups, like FirstEnergy, are spending millions to roll back progress. They’re fighting to repeal renewable energy and energy efficiency laws in the Ohio, like though SB 58; eliminate federal clean energy incentives; confuse the science on global warming; and roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to limit carbon pollution.

Now, our leaders are going to have to make decisions about where their priorities lie. President Obama’s plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants will test the resolve of our leaders. Will Senator Rob Portman, Senator Sherrod Brown, Governor John Kasich and Ohio’s other leaders look at the science, and push for the strongest possible limits? Or will they side with Big Oil, King Coal, and the dirty power companies? Time will tell, but if next year is anything like this past year, we’ve got reason to hope.

— Vivian Daly, Field Organizer, Environment Ohio

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