Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is a bone marrow cancer. My experience with AML reminds me where we are in the climate crisis

Alan Journet,  November 23rd 2021

As Thanksgiving approaches another year has passed and I reflect on the many events and people for which I am thankful.  Surviving Acute Myeloid Leukemia is definitely one.   My 1995 was punctuated by an extreme high and an equally extreme low.  The high was that the love of my life, Kathy Conway, and I were married in the forested backyard of our home in Cape Girardeau SE Missouri (definitely another of those thankful moments).   The low hit me about 6 weeks later when I was diagnosed with AML.  The oncologist to which I was referred immediately diagnosed the condition and offered me the dire prognosis. Knowing my background in science, Dr. Frank Dunphy drew me a graph.

Perceptively knowing that I was alive at that time, Frank depicted my chance of being alive ‘now’ at 100%. He then drew a straight line down, crossing the horizontal axis in 2 months and noted that absent treatment, I would be dead in two months.  Then came the ‘better’ news. If I were to undergo and survive chemotherapy, and go into remission, my chance of being alive in two years rose to 20%.  Then,  if I were able to survive four rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, my chance of being alive in that same two years rose through 30% and 40% to 50%.  Now, to the average person not experiencing such a diagnosis, the thought of having only a 50% chance of being alive in two years sucks big time.  But compared to ‘dead in two months,’ it looked great.  Clearly, there was no time to dally! So, within a few days I started the treatment.  I am here today precisely because I made that decision and made it quickly.

By now, the reader will probably have started understanding why I see this as parallel with our climate crisis.  Here are some of the ways:

If we do not adjust our behavior, we are currently on course to destroy natural ecosystems, and our agriculture, forestry and fisheries across the globe, potentially by mid-century but almost certainly by the end of the century.

We do not know exactly what percentage survival the current array of program proposals will offer (statewide it’s the DEQ Climate Protection Program, and Clean Fuels Program, while across other state agencies other programs are under development, but all are inadequate to the task; nationally we have the Build Back Better Act which is yet to pass and is still inadequate to meet our national needs; and globally we have the COP-26 Glasgow agreement – again inadequate to meet our global needs).

The parallel is that I really needed to enter remission preferably on the first round of chemotherapy to elevate my chances of long term survival.  Had I failed to clear that hurdle the stakes would have certainly increased for the second round of chemotherapy.  We know that the state, nation and globe are failing that first hurdle, thus elevating the need for more concerted effort next time around and next time needs to be very soon.

We are collectively in for a long haul if we are to avert the disaster that is our current future.  We don’t know what our percent probability  for success would have been even had we achieved reasonable targets with our first state, national, and global effort.  Clearly, none of these represents a success story, merely one inadequate effort towards achieving success. In addressing the climate crisis, we still have three rounds of chemotherapy to undergo, followed by total body irradiation and a bone marrow transplant.

There never was a guarantee that I would survive the proposed treatment, but it was very clear what the outcome would have been had I not embarked on the treatment schedule, and soon.    In parallel, there is still no guarantee that, if we do all we can do to avert the climate disaster, that we will be successful in averting it.  However, we do know that if we do nothing, the outcome will be a global catastrophe for life as we know it.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving – I extend my appreciation to the all the medical staff at Saint Louis University Medical Center without whom I would assuredly not be here to day, and also (if not moreso) to Kathy Conway for helping me through that traumatic contest and many trials since.

Comments on the DEQ Climate Protection Program Rules

I write as co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN) an organization of 1500 rural Southern Oregonians. SOCAN has a Mission of promoting awareness and understanding about the science of climate change and its consequences, and stimulating individual and collective action to address it.

Recognizing the ongoing failure of the purely voluntary program imposed by HB3543 in 2007, we have been working for many years with state legislators and the statewide climate activist coalition to encourage our legislature to establish a meaningful climate program in the state. It is well-known that effective and potentially successful proposals were thwarted in 2019 (HB2020) and 2020 (SB1530) by Republicans walking out of the chambers to prevent a quorum and thus defeating these and many other important legislative items. When the 2020 session was curtailed by the walk-out, we were delighted that Governor Brown took the matter into her own hands by issuing Executive Order 20-04 charging state agencies to use their authority to develop rules that would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon. The stated targets in that EO were reduction to at least 45% below the 1990 level by 2035, and at least 80% below the 1990 level by 2050. Agencies were also charged to develop programs that address social injustice and are cost-effective. In addition, the EO charges relevant agencies and commissions with developing programs to promote carbon sequestration in our natural and working lands.

SOCAN Comments on DEQ CPP Rules

Alan Journet, Co-facilitator Southern Oregon Climate Action Now

“Code Red for Humanity” Thus, U.N. Secretary General Guterres introduced the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. If global warming continues, our natural systems, along with our agriculture, forestry and fisheries, will be severely compromised, if not devastated. Rural Oregonians know how drought and reducing snowpack are extending our wildfires seasons and stimulating greater devastation. Unless we harness global warming, this trend will continue.

Over a year in the making, our state Department of Environmental Quality recently released a Climate Protection Program to reduce Oregon’s contribution to the global climate problem. Unfortunately, the draft program rules miss a tremendous opportunity to make a huge difference. The reductions they propose are nowhere near rigorous enough to achieve what best available science indicates we need.

For us to take responsibility for our part in combatting the climate crisis, Oregon must hold large polluters accountable for reducing the climate pollution they dump into our air. It is encouraging that DEQ proposes a reducing cap on pollution from fossil fuel suppliers and gas utilities (e.g., Avista and NW Natural). Although the emissions threshold for inclusion in the program was initially set to exclude many polluters, following push-back, DEQ converted this threshold to a declining trajectory such that within a decade almost all the climate pollution from fossil fuel suppliers will be covered.

Regrettably, the proposal fails to establish the steep reduction trajectory we need and only includes pollution from the combustion of fuels. This excludes leakage of damaging gases throughout the natural gas lifecycle, or emissions from fuel production. The result gives an unreasonable advantage to both fossil gas – a fuel that should be completely eliminated – and biofuels that generate pollution during both production and combustion.

Meanwhile, industrial sources of climate pollution were excluded from the reducing cap but provided the alternative requirement that they adopt Best Available Emissions Reduction protocols. This does not stimulate them to innovate, merely to incorporate the best procedures already in use. This alternative could result either in no reductions or even increasing emissions.

In developing the program, DEQ insisted that the electricity generation sector would be completely excluded. Fortunately, passage of HB2021 during the 2021 legislative session overcame much of the problem with this exclusion by requiring that all electricity retailed in Oregon shall be 100% clean by 2040. However, DEQ could still place the fossil gas generating facilities under the reducing cap to underline the importance of everyone reducing their climate pollution.

In developing the program, DEQ established a Community Climate Investment (CCI) fund as the program’s ‘offsets’ feature. This allows polluters to buy credits equivalent to one ton of emissions which credits can then be used as equivalent to pollution reductions. The funds are then used to support projects that both serve social justice goals and reduce emissions. Unfortunately, CCI does not include stringent rules that guarantee projects either have a verifiable climate pollution impact or prevent polluters from buying credits while continuing to compromise the health of neighbors with toxic emissions. As a final concern, although DEQ offered carbon sequestration as a funding option throughout program development discussions, this option was excluded in the final draft leaving rural Oregon without this valuable economic incentive. To meet the goas, offsets must be accompanied by real and additional emissions reductions and carbon sequestration; offsets are not substitutes for genuine action.

The DEQ program was developed in response to Governor Brown’s 2020 Executive Order (EO) charging 16 state agencies with using their authority to reduce our contribution to global climate pollution. The goal is reducing emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and promoting carbon sequestration. The EO was developed after several years of Republican obstructionism thwarted legislative efforts to establish a statewide climate program; two years in a row, Republicans simply walked-out of Salem halting legislative action.

We are disappointed that the proposed program seems unlikely to achieve the EO goals. While acknowledging the efforts undertaken by DEQ in developing this program, rural Oregonians living on the frontlines of the climate crisis urge a much stronger program. We know Oregon must achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but this program doesn’t get us there. We request that DEQ revisit the program and follow best available science. Let’s strengthen this program so it really places our state in the forefront of climate action. As Governor Brown has written, to address this Code Red: “We need bold action!”

For tips on submitting comments to strengthen the DEQ program before the deadline, visit https://socan.eco/cpp-comments.

Letter to Editor – Louise Shawkat,  June 8, 2021, Ashland Daily Tidings

Flick the switch

Electrifying one’s home is not just flicking a switch. Why electrify in the first place?

If new construction includes fossil fuel systems no one will achieve the climate goal: reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Rocky Mountain Institute conducted a study analyzing new all-electric single-family homes: these homes are less expensive than a similar model that uses gas for utilities. You can read the study results at https://rmi.org/all-electric-new-homes-a-win-for-the-climate-and-the-economy/.

What about the old home? Conversion is not easy. One needs a plan. Concentrate on the low-hanging fruit: use LED lighting, seal/replace windows, seal doors and ductwork, replace old insulation, install a setback thermostat. (Setback-ability to adjust the temperature while sleeping or away from home.) Invest in solar; either roof top or connect with a solar coop. Is it better to replace a functioning gas appliance or wait until it wears out? Depends upon your budget and environmental guilt! For heating/air conditioning purchase a conventional ducted system or mini splits.

Finding the right contractor for this conversion is important. How many contractors are up-to date on this electrical world we are trying to create?

What local and national incentives are available for conversion? Calculate your long-term savings. Flick the switch!

Louise D. Shawkat

Ashland

Letter to Editor by Bruce Bauer,  May 10, 2021

Plastics are everywhere: on top of Mount Everest ,in the Antarctic and inside 98% of humans. You might feel fine, but someday you might not, and who knows if plastics cause cancer or heart disease.

I don’t know how doctors test for this pollution problem. Do you want to take the chance?

I moved to Oregon thinking Oregon was environmentally friendly. Recently I wanted to dispose of a microwave, but Rogue Disposal & Recycling told me to just dump it in the garbage. Do you want to live near where they dump the garbage?

I contacted Rogue Disposal & Recycling about recycling plastic; they only take number 1 containers where the neck is smaller than the body (e.g., milk jugs) because other shapes gum up their machine. I’m guessing local high school students could redesign their machine to handle all number 1 containers.

Bruce Bauer

Letter to Editor by Louise Shawkat, April 28th 2021

In Europe, when corporations were invented, the purpose was to establish not-for-profit entities to build institutions, such as hospitals and universities, for the public good. By the 17th century, corporations became profit-making entities, so the CEOs fell under pressure to pollute the planet to increase profits rather than install expensive pollution control devices.

With the establishment of B corporations, we have turned full circle. These are committed not just to profits, but also to protecting the planet and serving the community.

Allbirds is a B corporation clothing company. They placed a full-page letter in the New York Times challenging other apparel industries to display their carbon footprint for products they make. Allbirds is giving their GHG calculation spreadsheets to these companies; an Earth Day gift. It’s called collaboration. It is about time! I expect some fast, comprehensive actions.

Earth Day has been trying to mobilize us for 50 years to nurture our planet. But a one-day love affair with the Earth is not enough. This precious planet needs our full-time attention.

We have several B corporations in the Rogue Valley; let’s urge more!

Louise D. Shawkat

Letter to Editor by Trisha Vigil, May 19, 2021

Anyone living through Oregon’s 2020 fires knows we are in a climate emergency.

We all need to understand that the prime cause for this climate crisis is our using fossil fuels: coal, oil and that fossil fuel flying under the benign name “natural gas.” The fossil (natural) gas industry consistently plies the scam that their product is clean. It is not!

Because of the vast leakage of methane, a greenhouse gas 86 times worse than carbon dioxide on a 20-year basis, during the fossil gas life cycle, this fuel is probably as bad a climate problem as coal and oil. Folks concerned about global warming, snowpack decline, droughts, climate change and fires should avoid gas.

To clean up our energy economy, we need to electrify as much as possible. Even when electricity is produced from fossil fuels, the greater efficiency of electric engines makes this energy source much less of a climate problem. Additionally, as wisdom triumphs in electricity generation, this process will be converted more and more to renewable energy sources putting all fossil fuel producers out of business.

Fossil gas companies are trying desperately to destroy global efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. We must fight back!

Trisha Vigil

The following letter is being sent to legislators to address the support that RNG is receiving in 2021 legislative proposals:

Legislator:

I write as co-facilitator of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, an organization of some 1500 rural southern Oregonians who are concerned about the climate crisis and seek to address it.  For several years, we have been urging the establishment of a program that achieves meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reduction statewide.  To this end, we have paid close attention to legislative proposals that have been developed to address this issue, supporting those that offer positive approaches, opposing those that take us in the wrong direction, and offering amendments where these would improve either category of proposals. It is in the last of these modes that I write today.

As we try to address global warming at the state level, we find many members of the public trying to do the best they can to reduce their personal emissions, and many representatives at different levels trying to pass legislation that will have a meaningful impact on emissions.  Unfortunately, because of the efforts of some industry spokespersons to confuse and obfuscate in order to promote their own interests, there seems to be considerable confusion about which efforts are positive and which negative.

My interest in this letter is to consider the role of fossil (natural) gas and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG):

Contrary to industry claims, fossil gas is not ‘the clean fossil fuel.’  When this fuel is burned to generate energy, greenhouse gases are emitted.  Assuredly, generating electricity using fossil gas emits much less carbon dioxide per unit of energy generated than when either coal or oil are the combustion feedstock. However, fossil gas combustion emits vastly more greenhouse gases than wind turbines, solar panels, geothermal plants and hydroelectric facilities. Fossil gas use results in substantial greenhouse gases emissions. In addition, fossil gas leaks when it is extracted from the ground, processed, and transmitted.  Because fossil gas is some 90% methane, and because methane is a greenhouse gas with 86 times greater warming effect than carbon dioxide on a 20-year basis, not much leakage has to occur to completely negate the combustion benefits of fossil gas over coal and oil.  Indeed, recent studies suggest that this leakage may completely negate the combustion benefits, rendering fossil gas as bad an energy source as coal and oil.

Because electrical engines are much more efficient than the internal combustion engine, far fewer emissions result from vehicles powered by electricity than those powered by any of the fossil fuels.  Maybe surprisingly, this is true even if the electricity was generated in a coal-fired power plant. Since we can generate electricity using processes that emit no greenhouse gases, and soon will, we should make every effort to transform our energy system completely away from fossil fuel to electricity wherever possible.

In an effort to sustain their product, fossil gas proponents are now promoting a fuel termed ‘Renewable Natural Gas’ (RNG) as the replacement for the fossil gas that they now reluctantly seem to accept is a climate problem.  Meanwhile, regrettably, the fossil gas companies (such as Avista promoting fossil gas in southern Oregon, and Pembina promoting the Jordan Cove LNG export facility) still maintain the marketing obfuscation of claiming their gas is the ‘clean-burning fossil fuel’ (or words to that effect). The tactic is presumably designed to convince the public they are a responsible industry that is receptive to, and addressing, the climate issue.

On the surface, RNG seems valuable.  We know that landfills, waste treatment plants, and cattle operations emit methane resulting from the decay of biological materials. Also, because of the problems with methane stated above, this methane has a profound warming impact.  Thus, we should avoid promoting such emissions whenever possible.  One possibility is to capture that methane and use it as a fuel since when it is burned the less potent greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is the result.  The result of using RNG so generated is that carbon dioxide trapped from the current atmosphere by plants is released back into the current atmosphere.  This is far better than burning fossil fuel and releasing into the current atmosphere carbon dioxide trapped three hundred million years ago during the Carboniferous Period.  So far, so good.

Unfortunately, there are substantial drawbacks with this concept.  The most important is that although gas companies promote RNG as though they can replace their fossil gas with this product, they don’t explain from where that RNG will come in sufficient supply to replace the vast amount of fossil gas these companies have persuaded us currently to use.  To illustrate this concern, we should note that according to the 2019 DEQ list of permitted entities producing emissions, the top ten electricity generators powered by fossil gas account for over 50% of the total emissions from such facilities across Oregon.  This also equals some 17% of Oregon’s total in-boundary emissions in 2019.  To replace all the fossil gas used annually in Oregon would require a huge production of RNG.  However, a 2018 report released by the Oregon Department of Energy revealed that the technological capacity for RNG amounted to about 22% of the usage at that time ((https://www.oregon.gov/energy/Data-and-Reports/Documents/2018-RNG-Inventory-Report.pdf).  Meanwhile, national studies suggest the RNG capacity is much lower than that, somewhere in the 4 – 7% range (https://www.wri.org/insights/7-things-know-about-renewable-natural-gas).  This raises an inevitable question about the source of the RNG the gas companies claim they can generate.  Do they, one wonders, contemplate encouraging increased consumption and the number of landfills, an increasing number of Confined Animal Feedlot Operations and mega-dairies to supply the biological waste they need?  Surely abandoning gas as completely as possible and electrifying constitutes a far superior solution.  We could then use methane captured from landfills and waste decomposition in the niche market of those few industrial processes that cannot electrify.

Another concern regarding RNG is the energy used in its production.  Clearly, sites targeted for the capture of methane must be retrofitted to be anaerobic to allow the methane-producing bacteria to survive.  The gas resulting from this process must then be purified to a usable grade for transmitting through the pipelines along with conventionally harvested and processed fossil gas.  The question to address is from where the energy driving these processes comes.  If that is conventional fossil fuel energy, substantial emissions result from the production of the RNG, compromising the combustion benefits of that product. In order to assess the merits of RNG, it is necessary to compare the life cycle emissions of that gas with those from coal, oil and fossil gas, as well as the emissions from solar, wind and other genuine renewable energy sources. When reporting the benefits of RNG, gas companies do not undertake a full and honest accounting of their product possibly because this would be less flattering.

Further discussions of the limits of RNG can be are available in “THE FOUR FATAL FLAWS OF RENEWABLE NATURAL GAS: Gas utilities are telling tall tales about RNG” (https://www.sightline.org/2021/03/09/the-four-fatal-flaws-of-renewable-natural-gas/)  and “THE SMOKE AND MIRRORS DEFENSE OF RNG: The gas industry is writing checks that RNG alone can’t cash.” (https://www.sightline.org/2021/04/19/the-smoke-and-mirrors-defense-of-rng/?utm_source=Sightline%20Institute&utm_medium=web-email&utm_campaign=Sightline%20News%20Selections) both by Laura Feinstein and Eric de Place.

It is critical, when we evaluate legislative proposals, that we undertake a full assessment of the merits of each proposal.  While RNG may seem a productive step in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it potentially could serve a narrow niche purpose, proposals that include incorporating RNG into the pipelines of fossil gas will likely serve merely to encourage more gas infrastructure, with its life span of many decades.  This will promote an ongoing reliance on the same fossil fuel that is contributing to the climate crisis and is not serving to address it.  The evidence suggests that we should place fossil gas on an enforced phase-out, and simply not promote RNG.  Legislative proposals that are otherwise very positive but that promotes RNG should be cleaned of those components.

Thank you for considering this issue.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan Journet on behalf of SOCAN

Letter to Editor by Alan Journet.  Medford Mail Tribune,  April 09, 2021

Rural Oregonians know we are experiencing warming, reducing snowpack, plus increasing summer drought and consequent fire risk. We also know that global warming caused by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions is driving this trend.  Years of efforts to establish a statewide program to reduce emissions leading Oregon’s to align with jurisdictions across the globe taking similar steps have been thwarted by Republican legislators consistently blocking action.  This culminated in the Republican walk-outs in 2019 and 2020.

As a result, Governor Brown’s March 2020 Executive Order 20-04 charged relevant state agencies with developing plans to reduce emissions, promote carbon sequestration from the atmosphere, and do so through a social justice lens that recognizes some communities suffer greater disadvantages than others in the confrontation with climate change and the co-pollutants released by our fossil fuel-based energy economy.

As the agencies develop programs scheduled to take effect in January 2022, we note that some are approaching the task with energy and enthusiasm, while others are foot-dragging.  There is no problem facing life on this precious planet that is a greater threat than ongoing climate chaos, and none more urgent.  We encourage all agencies to develop programs that will achieve the EO goals with urgency.

Lorrie Kaplan, Ashland Daily Tidings,  Thursday March 11, 2021

Stop for a moment and think of a future Ashland that has been recognized as a leader in achieving climate goals with social equity at the forefront.

What do you see in this future?

One thing you probably see is a lot fewer cars on the road. It’s a city where you can live and work and rarely if ever use your own car. Ashland residents built this future over many years by recognizing that transportation is a top source of greenhouse gas emissions and that we could achieve our climate goals only if we transform how we move about the city and connect to our neighboring communities.

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