Climate and Clean Energy

Global climate disruption caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere threatens our biosphere & our civilization and it is accelerating. We think the best way to deal with this worrisome future is to get involved and make a difference by supporting effective solutionsThere are many reasons for hope, especially because the clean energy transition is also accelerating.  We encourage you to read about the urgency of the problem and the solutions Sierra Club is pursuing below.

 (Graph from NOAA 2023 Annual Global Climate Report)

The climate emergency is accelerating.

2023 was the hottest year on record, and the global warming increase was 1.54 degrees Celsius.  It was not predicted to reach this critical threshold until the early 2030s.  In essence, this important global warming threshold has arrived almost ten years ahead of schedule.  

Alarmingly, this significantly moves up the timelines for the major tipping points that may occur at 1.5C such as ice sheet collapse, coral reef die-off, permafrost thaw, Amazon rainforest dieback, and disruption of ocean and atmospheric currents that play crucial roles in regulating global climate.  See Accelerating Impacts of Climate Change for more background information.

Acceleration of the Clean Energy Transition

While the urgency to combat the climate emergency grows, the clean energy transition is indeed gaining momentum, though not without its challenges. 

  • Solar and wind power generation capacity is experiencing explosive growth. In 2022, solar surpassed coal to become the world's largest source of electricity generation capacity added.
  • Investments in renewables are skyrocketing, with global investment reaching a record $1.3 trillion in 2021. 
  •  Costs of renewable energy technologies continue to plummet, making them increasingly competitive with fossil fuels. 
  • Public support for clean energy is at an all-time high, with polls consistently showing that a majority of people in most countries believe climate change is a serious problem and support renewable energy development.

For more details, see Acceleration of Clean Energy Transition.

So, what can we do about it?

The only change that can occur fast enough to avoid the worst effects of climate disruption is to transition quickly to a 100% clean and renewable energy economy. A key Santa Lucia Chapter priority is the pursuit of clean energy solutions right here at home.  It is a top priority on the national Sierra Club as well:

The Sierra Club envisions that within this century the world energy system will use almost no fossil fuels, and will instead rely on the efficient use of abundant renewable energy from the sun, the wind, water, biomass, and the Earth’s own heat.  To achieve this, the nations of the world must immediately and decisively shift to building a clean energy future.” Section IV, Energy Resources Policy

Major renewable energy projects proposed in SLO County are the Chapter’s current focus and provide volunteers an opportunity to join a collective effort that can make a significant difference in accelerating the clean energy transition. See Clean Energy Projects in SLO. Offshore wind farms, port infrastructure, and energy storage facilities are proposed for the SLO Coast.  The Sierra Club has worked on offshore wind projects in other regions and our participation will help address potential impacts to the environment and coastal users. We will also be evaluating how this may affect the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

Sierra Club National Climate and Energy Policies

The Sierra Club has extensive policy statements on key issues in this area.  The full list is here and links to those specifically related to clean energy projects are below. The best overview of Sierra Club policy on climate change and clean energy is the Energy Resources Policy.  This policy can be summarized as follows:

  • SUPPORT THE CLEAN. Accelerate sustainable development of low carbon distributed generation and utility-scale renewable sources energy resources and improve the efficiency of buildings, vehicles, and industrial processes.
  • ELIMINATE THE DIRTY. Phase out environmentally damaging energy fossil fuel and nuclear technologies.
  • REGULATE ALL. Ensure proper siting and effective regulation of all energy facilities.

Sierra Club defers taking a position on individual renewable proposals until the draft environmental impact report is issued and analyzed.  The Club supports responsibly developed renewable energy projects and may suggest various ways to mitigate potential impacts.  Chapters collaborate closely with the national Club to decide on whether to support individual projects.  Especially important to local projects is the Renewable Energy Project Siting (REPS) Policy.  The REPS policy makes the resources of the California and National Sierra Club organizations available to local Chapters. It requires a mutual consultation process on relevant local political and environmental issues, project specifics, policy, and technical expertise. 

We also seek to collaborate with other local groups working in areas of clean energy and welcome inquiries about possible collaboration and exchange of information.  

Join our clean energy movement!

If this fires you up, help us in our campaign to transition SLO County communities to clean and renewable energy. For more information or to volunteer, contact Climate and Clean Energy Committee.