Extreme weather is increasing. Crops yields are dropping. Droughts are worsening. All over the U.S., trees are stressed, diseased, and dying, so that when a storm comes they are more vulnerable to being blown over and destroyed.
If you regularly spend time outside, you've noticed it even without getting an official report. 2012 was by far the warmest year on record in the U.S., more than 3 degrees above the 20th century average. 2012 was also the driest year on record in the United States, and the second most extreme for droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and storms. Every year since 2000 has been in the top ten warmest years on record.
Every day, we as individuals and our local, state and federal governments are making choices that affect how much climate-altering gases our daily activities produce. Our chapter has developed a number of ways to work toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some ways you can get involved:
1. Advocate for Livable, Walkable Communities
Our Building Climate-Friendly Communities Campaign is using teams of residents in each city to work for livable, walkable communities with easy access to public transit. Transportation is the region's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, so reducing our dependence on cars is essential for reducing our region's emissions. Join with others in your local city to advocate for local government action to reduce our future greenhouse gas emissions and make our local communities environmentally-friendly while improving our quality of life.
2. Help Individuals and Groups Reduce Their Global Warming Emissions:
• Install solar photovoltaic panels on your roof through our solar homes partnership. Going solar is now more affordable than ever!
• Start saving money and reducing your energy use right away with our Climate Action Materials, and share what you've learned with others! It's easy to make low-energy practices and cost-savings a reality. Watch videos of our training series and download the training materials.
3. Encourage Energy-Efficiency Upgrades of Existing Homes
Our Green Buildings for Cool Cities Campaign was working to address the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in our area-- buildings. Since most buildings are existing buildings, helping scale-up energy-efficiency upgrades of such buildings is an essential component of addressing local emissions of greenhouse gases.
4. Other Ways to Work on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Focusing on creating energy from clean, renewable sources like solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, would create eight to thirty times more jobs than relying on fossil fuels does. It's time to move America Beyond Oil, Beyond Coal, and Beyond Natural Gas. Help stop fracking in San Benito County.
Success! Lowering Costs to Install Solar Power Systems
Several years ago, some people in our chapter noticed a problem. The cost to install solar photovoltaic panels was a lot higher in some cities than in others. The fees seemed arbitrary and unconnected to cities’ actual costs for issuing permits and doing inspections.
Volunteer activists in our chapter took action. They collected information from our local cities about how much the permits would cost for a typical residential solar installation. They produced charts comparing this information and contacted local newspapers.
As a result of the publicity and attention given to this issue, almost every single city in our study decided to lower their residential solar permit fees. The cities charging the highest fees were embarrassed that their fees were so high compared to the other cities. A number of cities where fees were already lower than average, were proud of that fact and decided to decrease their fees even more to encourage solar installations. Many cities also worked to simplify their permitting process for solar installations.
An elementary school student in Foster City who read about our report was so incensed that his city had the highest solar permit fee that he organized his classmates to march on city hall to ask why they were high. It turned out that the city council had just recently voted to lower the fees, but the mayor of the city was so moved by this young student’s action that he got the council to further decrease the fees to zero.
We helped make it easier and cheaper to install solar power--and our efforts spread to southern California and then to our whole state.
Thanks to Our Work, California Passes Landmark State Laws Lowering Costs for Businesses to Install Solar
Residential solar permit fees were one thing, but commercial solar permit fees were even thornier. Permits that cost thousands of dollars were discouraging businesses from installing solar. The big variation in fees from city to city was creating headaches for solar installers to prepare quotes for commercial clients.
An attempt was made to pass a state law to regulate commercial solar permit fee pricing, but it failed because there was no commonly accepted way of assessing how much it cost a city to issue permits and inspect commercial installations. Some people claimed it was too complicated to figure out a standard way of doing this for commercial installations.
After the success of our residential solar permit fee campaign, Kurt Newick, an activist in our chapter, organized volunteers to tackle the issue of commercial solar permit fees. These volunteers interviewed many people and figured out a way to help cities determine a reasonable fee levels that would allow them to recoup their expenses for issuing these commercial solar permits. They prepared studies comparing the fees in cities for many counties in California.
Their work was instrumental in getting state laws passed in 2012 that regulates commercial solar permit fees (SB 1222 (Leno) and AB 1801 (Campos)). These laws went into effect as of Jan. 1, 2013. Now our challenge is to make sure that cities comply and keep their fees reasonable.
Thanks to our work making it possible to get these laws passed more businesses are going solar. After the city of Sacramento reduced their commercial solar permit fees, the number of businesses applying to get them more than doubled!
More information on our Solar Permit Fee Work and how you can replicate our success in your state.