Climate Change Report Makes it Urgent the PUC Reverses Vote to Approve the Line 3 Oil Pipeline; Judge Tosses Valve Turner Case

United Nations scientists say the world has only a decade to get climate change under control or face devastating consequences. That makes it urgent for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reverse its vote approving the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota — a project that would contribute to gas and oil combustion creating $287 billion in climate change costs over three decades.

In related news, a Clearwater County judge tossed out 2016 felony charges against the “Valve Turners,” people who temporarily shut off Enbrdige crude oil pipelines in Minnesota to protest their contribution to climate change. While Valve Turners in other states have been convicted and received prison time, here in Minnesota the judge ruled “the circumstances did not rise to the level of the charges filed against them,” according to a story in the Bemidji Pioneer.

While the defendants are undoubtedly relieved, they probably feel some disappointment, too. They had prepared to use the “Necessity Defense,” arguing the harm caused by their actions was insignificant compared to the climate change damage they were trying to prevent. Arguing “Necessity” could have set an important precedent for other activists working to stop climate change. A few days before the trial, the judge barred expert testimony on the climate crisis, according to a story in Common Dreams.

The judge’s ruling avoided the Necessity Defense, leaving the argument for future cases.

U.N. Scientists’ Grave Climate Change Warning

The media is giving a lot of attention to the latest climate change warning, including a story in the Washington Post headlined: The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say. It starts out:

The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.

Hurricane Frances, 2004. (Photo by NASA.)

Here’s where the PUC comes in. It just approved the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, and did so by rejecting climate science and any responsibility for the fact that the fuel the pipeline carries will eventually get burned. (See our earlier blog: The PUC Fog Machine: Commission Selectively Uses Line 3’s Environmental Analysis, Favoring Enbridge.)

The PUC still has a chance to change its mind. Several organizations have asked it to reconsider its vote and reject Line 3. The PUC could do its part to reduce fossil fuel use and help keep global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celcius, a target discussed in the U.N. report. According to the Washington Post story:

[The U.N. report] … finds that instabilities in Antarctica and Greenland, which could usher in sea-level rise measured in feet rather than inches, “could be triggered around 1.5°C to 2°C of global warming.” Moreover, the total loss of tropical coral reefs is at stake because 70 to 90 percent are expected to vanish at 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report finds. At 2 degrees, that number grows to more than 99 percent. …

Risks of extreme heat and weather events just rise and rise as temperatures do, meaning these would be worse worldwide the more it warms.

To avoid that, in barely more than 10 years, the world’s percentage of electricity from renewables such as solar and wind power would have to jump from the current 24 percent to something more like 50 or 60 percent. …

Click on the links above for more details.

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