We envision a low carbon future where energy use no longer contributes to carbon pollution and climate change. A future where sustainable, resilient communities have an adequate supply of clean, safe, reliable, and efficiently used energy. A future where renewable energy may often be locally sourced and democratically governed, and is always equitably distributed.
Making a just transition to that low carbon vision is today’s challenge, and an increasingly urgent one as our climate crisis and energy challenges are closely linked. The burning of fossil fuels for energy production and use worldwide creates 65 percent of the emissions that cause global warming/climate change.
To mitigate the increased risks that come with climate change, we need to be reducing the use of fossil fuels for energy even as energy demands worldwide are increasing – an estimated four billion people lack basic access to electricity, the global population continues to grow, and many aspire to live the “powered up” lifestyles found in more prosperous nations.
At the same time, pockets of energy poverty persist in our own communities, where low-income people and neighborhoods often lack access to safe, reliable energy.
Is it possible?
Scientists tell us we have the tools at hand. In 2014, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory claimed that current renewable energy technology is “more than adequate” to supply 80 percent of US energy.
And, Stanford University researchers proposed a de-carbonization pathway that reaches carbon neutrality by 2050 through the use of wind, water and solar powers, without the use of problematic “false climate solutions” like nuclear power, bio-fuels, and natural gas. They claim increased future energy demands can be met if all new sources of energy are clean by at least 2020, an ambitious goal!
Is that realistic? Can we do it?
Shifting our energy systems to low carbon sources is an enormously complex, multifaceted challenge. Like addressing climate change, a long-term framework that builds on the richness of a diversity of solutions and approaches unique to various situations is called for. Given the difficulties, if not unlikelihood, of reaching appropriately stringent binding national legislation or global treaties and agreements, it behooves us to also put our best efforts into grassroots and middle-out solutions in our communities.
This work will challenge our creativity and commitment and will most likely be ongoing throughout our lives. New York Times “Dot Earth” columnist Andy Revkin suggests, “Addressing both sources of emissions and sources of societal and ecological risk is something to do as routinely, and passionately, as we work on poverty reduction and health care. It took a century to get deep into the fossil era; it will take decades to get out.”
Where do we begin?
We can do this work best when we work from a spirit of active hope, shifting our perspectives from a sense of despair, if that is where we may be; when we focus on embracing and creating opportunities to take tangible action to build a better world and focus less on the enormity of our challenges and the up-hill battles.
We can begin or continue to practice thinking globally and acting locally, making and keeping significant commitments in the areas of reduced consumption, energy efficiencies, and the like, as we pledge to also work towards broader more systemic changes.
We can work to widen the impact of practical changes throughout our neighboring communities and to influence policy and planning for the future. We can best take responsible action in our communities by building alliances and coalitions with diverse stakeholders in order to help create conditions of possibility that fit our situations’ unique histories and challenges.
Remaining mindful of the obstacles in our way, we can find in ourselves and in our faith communities the strength and courage to resist and begin to dismantle the structural elements, practices and vested interests that perpetuate the damages of our fossil fueled economy and lifestyles.
Bit by bit, and relationship by relationship, we can begin to put in place the building blocks of a clean, renewable energy, low carbon future and transform our communities into more just, sustainable, and resilient ones.
Let’s get started!
As Unitarian Universalists, let us not forget our 2006 Statement of Conscience on The Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change, which calls us “to join with others to halt practices that fuel global warming/climate change, to instigate sustainable alternatives, and to mitigate the impending effects of global warming/climate change with just and ethical responses.”
UUMFE asks you to recommit to this Statement’s call to undertake personal practices, congregational actions, and advocacy goals that further the preservation of a sustainable life for all beings on this planet and for generations to come.
The “Energy & Climate” materials that UUMFE has developed focus primarily on the two largest sources of GHG emissions in the US – electricity generation and transportation. You will find data, ideas, and options for reducing our emissions through the use of cleaner fuel sources, conservation and energy efficiencies, and an increase in public transportation and its electrification. Reforming the uses of fossil fuels and energy would be incomplete without also considering the impact of the quantities of consumer products with large embedded-energy footprints we consume and waste.
This module, created for Earth Day 2015, is intended to deepen your understanding of the impact of our energy systems on climate change and planetary degradation – and what you and your congregation might do help mitigate this rapidly deteriorating situation at home and around the world. Let’s get started!
Use the resources on the following web pages to engage with this topic:
The 2014 module on Waste and Consumption may also be useful.