Images of the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian show how utterly devastating weather extremes disrupt lives and displace people from their homes and livelihood. At St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, with 60 students from the Bahamas, members of the Gamma Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity are raising money to assist their classmates’ families who were affected by the storm. Humanitarian and relief assistance are absolutely essential.

But worsening climate changes around the Earth, driving climate migration as people desperately seek safer places to live, require changes in policy as well as relief.

Instead of protecting Americans and the Earth from rising temperatures, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler announced a new rule rolling back regulations that reduce methane gas leaks so that industry can self-regulate. The heat-trapping greenhouse effect of methane is 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years. Scientists have documented that leaks from shale-gas production contributed more than half of the increase in methane from fossil fuels in recent years — much more than EPA estimated. Read more at www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/09/key-facts-about-the-new-epa-plan-to-reverse-the-obama-era-methane-leaks-rule

“Natural” gas is promoted as a clean energy source — burning gas produces less carbon dioxide than coal — but methane leaking from “fracking” production and distribution through long pipelines inflicts invisible damage on the atmosphere. Those Duke Energy ads popping up on Duke vehicles and the internet tout clean energy but the PR campaign is the very definition of “green-washing”— Duke’s approach to solar and renewables is to talk green and restrict or delay projects. A large part of the “carbon-free” energy is generated by nuclear plants, some in the path of hurricanes; while bragging about it being carbon-free, even Duke knows that nuclear is not the future.

Duke also boasts that North Carolina is one of the top solar states while it is limiting the growth of solar power. Duke’s own insert in our monthly utility bills, “How Duke Energy Carolinas Spends a Dollar,” says that 25 cents paid for purchased power and fuel, primarily coal, natural gas and uranium. Sun and wind can be delivered free — no cost for fuel, transportation or clean-up. As a “regulated monopoly,” Duke controls the grid and the decision-making process. The part of the dollar they don’t tell consumers about is the purchase of influence in the legislature and commissions. Check their political contributions to campaigns of climate-change deniers.

So… what can we do about it?

To “walk our talk”, we can reduce our own fossil fuel footprint: our use of electricity and heating and cooling, and our travel habits. Our use of plastics and meat that also contributes to methane emissions and environmental damage. Careful choices about purchases and energy use not only make us feel we are taking action but also give us real-life experience in what works in practice, not just theory. However, it is not enough to make a dent in the environment.

We must also exercise our responsibility for public policy by informing public officials that we must reduce environmental damage. The proposed methane rule is Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-20170757, at www.regulations.gov.

We can contribute our time and money to organizations that fight against environmental damage through litigation, public awareness, and organizing, such as NRDC.org and NCWARN.org.

We can join Greensboro Solar Power Now to urge the City Council to work toward a goal of 100% clean energy by 2040. Find out more https://tinyurl.com/yxbz888g

As the shattering impact of climate change rips apart the lives of more and more people, we must work on all of these levels — personal lifestyle choices; humanitarian relief and rebuilding; public policy advocacy; legal action; and joining our voices and action with organizations bold enough to hold our leaders accountable.

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News & Record columnist Beth McKee-Huger is an Episcopal deacon and housing advocate.

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