This campaign is over, but you can learn more about it below.
On October 7, 2015, NC WARN and allies filed an Emergency Complaint with NC Attorney General Roy Cooper (see news release and media coverage), calling on him to use his constitutional authority to investigate Duke Energy’s violation of its corporate charter — its permission to operate in North Carolina. We asked that the Attorney General require Duke Energy to help slow the climate crisis by:
Our Complaint cites a persistent pattern of criminal activity – from coal ash felonies to Duke’s key role in the infamous Enron scandal – along with manipulation of state government, abuse of low-income customers and the stifling of competition.
On October 28, we made a supplemental filing, requesting a meeting with Cooper. We cited as further evidence of Duke’s undue political influence a News & Observer expose showing that a top state regulator called for far higher coal ash penalties than DENR admitted publicly and a new report from Environment America titled Blocking the Sun, which details how Duke Energy works to protect its monopoly against solar competition.
The Attorney General has shown courage in standing against several Duke Energy rate increases. We urge him to now provide unprecedented leadership to rein in Duke Energy — the nation’s largest utility polluter — and thus slow climate change before it spins entirely out of human control.
We aren’t asking Cooper to dissolve Duke Energy, just require it to act in the public interest as specified by the NC Constitution and the NC Supreme Court. Our Complaint spells out the clear duty of the People of North Carolina to assert control over Duke Energy, and to call upon Cooper to police the corporation.
This is probably the most intensive project in our 28 years, and we are grateful to these allies who have joined us in filing this complaint:
Other organizations helped by writing letters of support to the Attorney General or passing a resolution in support of this Emergency Climate Response.
Two newspaper ads we ran during our fall 2015 campaign. Click images to enlarge.
As always, our complaints are with executive decision-makers – not Duke employees. In calling for the closure of all Duke coal-generating plants, we also insist this state begin planning for what has become a rapid demise of the coal industry.
Accordingly, on November 24, together with an alliance of social justice, labor and environmental groups, we called on Governor Pat McCrory to plan ahead for the inevitable closure of coal-fired power plants by appointing a “green ribbon panel” to help coal plant employees and their communities transition to the growing sector of green energy jobs.
In a letter sent on behalf of nine allied organizations, NC NAACP president Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Jim Warren of NC WARN told McCrory that the inevitable transition away from coal and creating clean energy jobs “should be a high priority for your administration.”
In April 2016, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told the annual RIMS conference for risk management and insurance professionals that sea level could rise 9 feet by 2050. Read more.
This news was even worse than what we had heard a year before, in July 2015, when NASA’s former climate chief James Hansen and 16 colleagues published an initial discussion version of a study (final version published March 2016), concluding that previous climate predictions were much too conservative. The authors said that melting of ice at both poles could cause sea level rise of up to 10 feet (not 3 feet) in the next 50 years unless dramatic reductions in carbon emissions begin immediately. Long before then, rising tides and worsening storms could lead to widespread social and economic chaos.
Similarly, the previous scientific consensus was that 2 degrees Centigrade was the maximum safe level of average global temperature increase. The new study warned that 2 degrees would be “highly dangerous” and said 1.5 degrees should be the target.
In February 2016, scientists were alarmed to see the average global temperature soar to 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial baseline for February, and the average in the northern hemisphere broke the 2-degree mark for the first time. Even worse, the world is on track for 4 degrees of warming by 2100 if current trends persist.
Hansen says there is still a little time to avert the worst impacts of climate change. But national and global leaders continue to fail in their duty to adequately cut emissions.
“Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms,” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, Hansen et al.
15-minute video of Hansen explaining the paper and the urgent need for action
NC WARN news release on the Hansen paper
CBS News 2-minute interview with Hansen, July 21, 2015
“The world’s most famous climate scientist just outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future,” Washington Post, July 20, 2015 (includes analysis by other climate scientists)
“We had all better hope these scientists are wrong about the planet’s future,” Washington Post, March 22, 2016
Other media reports on climate urgency
What this Means in NC
For years, James Hansen has been calling climate change a planetary emergency. Sea level rise, in particular, could be devastating for coastal NC. The Institute for the Environment at UNC has produced a series of videos showing the effect of climate change on North Carolinians on the coast and elsewhere. Check them out at Climate Stories NC.
But there’s another reason North Carolina is important in efforts to slow climate change: it’s the headquarters of Duke Energy. Duke Energy is one of the world’s largest corporate electric utilities and emits more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than any other electric power producer in the nation. The corporation’s long-range plan calls for minimal renewables and energy efficiency, and continuing large percentages of fossil fuels. Despite all its corporate greenwashing, Duke plans to operate coal-fired power plants for decades and build fracking gas plants that can be even worse for the climate than coal. That’s why we have been challenging Duke to act swiftly and decisively to help slow the climate crisis. Join us!