Code red hits home

Kudos to the Xpress and Rebecca Bowe for our city’s first comprehensive article on climate change and its relevance to Western North Carolina.

All local papers, including the weeklies and the daily Asheville Citizen-Times, are to blame for the sad fact that only 56 percent of the citizens of North Carolina know that a new coal plant is under construction at Cliffside [in Rutherford County] that, when completed, will release 6 million tons of CO2 into our atmosphere yearly, accelerating the devastation of our mountains and their ecosystems and flooding the coast. Doug Jones was quoted as saying “The polar ice cap is melting. That is our canary in the coal mine.” I would counter that the canaries are dead or dying of climate change anywhere on Earth you care to look.

Dr. Bernstein, a local IPCC author quoted by Rebecca, is cavalier in his belief that the “impact’s going to be a lot smaller than you would be led to believe.” He knows that there is already another inevitable 0.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature in the pipeline, from CO2 already in the atmosphere. Tipping points may have already been passed that will lead to devastating changes in ecosystems, affecting both human and other-than-human life. You don’t have to be a scientist to recognize that our local biome and the Earth’s climate system are drastically different and are rapidly being destabilized and degraded from the pollution of burning fossil fuels for electricity.

We only wish more scientists were like the courageous Jim Hansen. I ask them to throw out the objectivity and impartiality that they assume serves science, and speak up as responsible citizens. We need better leadership from them and the media. The planet is in code red. It has a fever that will kill life as we know it unless we mobilize all of our creativity, discipline and determination to make the necessary beginnings now. Rajendra Pachuri, the head of the IPCC, states: “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

In the final analysis, can we overcome our lack of moral courage in the face of the comforts and conveniences of modern consumer culture?

Here in WNC, we should revitalize the teachings of the best of our faith traditions, summon the spiritual will to resist the easy choice of leaving it up to our leaders or the next generation, and be actively protesting the construction of Cliffside. We must also rediscover the virtue of restraint and begin to do everything in our power to reduce energy consumption in our households, businesses, congregations and all other civic institutions, and demand all levels of government engage in real—not cosmetic—solutions.

— Richard Fireman
WNC Coordinator, N.C. Interfaith Power & Light (a program of the N.C Council of Churches)
Mars Hill

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6 thoughts on “Code red hits home

  1. tatuaje

    Finally, a christian preaching about climate change and environmental degradation! I’ve always wondered why, if you’re “religious”, you have to conform to the right-wing conservative talking points and deny the negative impacts of man on our environment. Somehow “religion” has been co-opted by the neocons and used to help line their pockets with more fuel for their greed. I’m not religious, but it seems to me that most religions would support protecting the earth, would support clean air, clean water…etc., etc., etc….

    So thanks Mr. Fireman… I hope you can be that spark that ignites the millions of people in this country who claim to be religious, the majority of Americans in fact, to shake off the politics of this situation and turn their considerable energy, organization, and sheer numbers towards healing this planet.

    Jeremiah 12:4

    How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? The beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end.

  2. Elsie Hall

    I read your article with great interest in the condition of our earth,and was surprised that you represent a religious organization. This made me doubly aware that the pastor of the church where I play piano does not believe in global-warming. He feels adamant about it. Other than this stance, he is an intelligent, wise, well-read and very caring person. I don’t understand it. As a person living on this planet, I am concerned about the environment for myself, my fellow human beings, the animals God put here for us to have dominion over and that contribute to the welfare of the earth and us. As a former public-school teacher and homeschool teacher of my ninth-grade grandchild, I am concerned about what I teach and what our schools teach. I am going to start reading, listening, and learning more about this situation. About the proposed coal plant in Rutherford county, I hear a lot about “clean coal” and I wonder if this is possible.

  3. tatuaje


    Here’s a couple of excerpts from an article about “clean coal” by Steven Mufson, the Washington Post’s energy correspondent, with a link to the entire article below.

    “The phrase “clean coal” is polluting the energy debate. The phrase is an oxymoron. We can come up with ways to clean up after coal – many of them very expensive and, in the case of coal’s greenhouse gas emissions, untried. And we can use coal more efficiently than in the past. But coal itself is not clean and never will be. That is a matter of chemistry and geology.

    But the truth is this: There is simply no such thing as clean coal. Prying it loose from the ground is a dirty business and burning it produces a variety of pollutants and greenhouse gases. The Clean Air Act and subsequent regulations have sharply reduced nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions that caused smog, soot and acid rain by forcing utilities to build expensive scrubbers. Now many environmentalists are trying to block new coal-fired power plants because the existing ones produce 36 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

    To some politicians, the phrase “clean coal” may seem like shorthand for technology that would separate carbon dioxide out of the exhaust of a coal-fired plant and bury it in the ground. So far, however, no coal plant like that exists in the United States, though a handful of companies are interested in building one. Such plants are expensive and untested. The Energy Department recently announced that it would hand out billions to a few firms to try out technology to capture and bury carbon dioxide in the ground. The financial rescue bill passed by the Senate Wednesday night included tax credits to firms that do that. But it will be many, many years before any carbon sequestration plant is in operation.

    I’ve also heard many utilities, coal companies and politicians use the phrase “clean coal” to describe certain coal plants that convert coal to energy with an efficiency rate of over 40 percent, compared to older plants that function just over 30 percent. These plants, called “supercritical” plants, operate at higher pressures and higher temperatures and burn coal more efficiently, thus requiring less coal to generate the same amount of electricity. But either kind of plant still produces emissions.

    I’m not saying that we should switch off all the coal plants. Our current dependence on coal-fired electricity can’t be denied or wished away. But let’s have an honest, more dispassionate debate about the future.

    Whether we want to continue building new coal plants should be a question that weighs: Americans’ desire for cheap electricity, the steep costs and uncertain technology for capturing carbon dioxide and burying it in the ground, the cost of renewable energy sources, our capacity to use existing electricity supplies more efficiently, and the uncertain but potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change.”

    Hope this helps…

  4. dave


    yeah, once obama and biden started talking about ‘clean coal’ i realized they were corporate tools like mccain.

    So disappointing.

  5. Dave

    Not to mention the whole “Wind” thing, which seems to basically be controlled by the Big Oil companies.

  6. nuvue

    Hey Dave, the whole “wind” thing is not (yet) controlled by big oil. But it does seem that alot of the old wildcatters are cashing in on wind cuz they see the future profits in it…
    The texas panhandle has lots of wind resource and the wells are drying up- easy switch to wind. I think wind holds a large and good part of our renewable energy equation, maybe not too much for NC but lots of areas could use it. When the wind turbine was built by Boeing in Boone it created lots of flak, remember the whooshies group? We should revisit it a try again in likely areas.

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