Welcome to SoDak 350! It's time to get started.
Updated: Jul 21, 2022
SoDak 350 Chair Michael Heisler lays out the challenge before us and makes a case for local climate action.
SoDak 350 Chair Michael Heisler
Welcome to SoDak 350!
This is the first of what will be regular blogs that will provide information and updates about climate change in our region and around the world.
350.org is a global organization that was founded in 2008 with the specific goal of stopping the use of fossil fuels and transitioning to 100% renewable energy. “350” refers to the safe upper limit for the concentration of carbon dioxide molecules in the atmosphere.
SoDak 350 was formed in 2019, but its impact was curtailed by Covid 19. Over the last three months a revitalized Sodak 350 has emerged with over 40 members and an active steering committee working hard to develop timely and specific objectives and strategies.
Specifically, we are a nonpartisan grassroots movement working to mobilize South Dakotans to take action to address climate change. Our three focus areas include “building a movement” by working to create grassroots support for climate action in South Dakota, “promoting solutions” by advancing strong climate policies and renewable energy initiatives, and “creating coalitions” by serving as a convenor and a central hub for environmental actions in South Dakota by participating in joint efforts and maintaining a master calendar of local and regional sustainability events.
Why does this work matter? The answer, simply, is that climate change is the single most important issue facing our region and the global community - impacting our families, our economy, our health, and the world that we will leave for our children.
The February 2, 2022 Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning:
“Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. . . .
"'This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,' said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. 'It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.'”
We have already exceeded the 350 ppm safe limit for atmospheric carbon dioxide and are currently above 417 ppm. The 2015 Paris Agreement and current IPCC goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius is also at risk, as the current global temperature has already risen more than 1.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
According to 2021 data from the Climate Reality Project, humans “continue to spew 162,000,000 tons of manmade global warming pollution into the thin shell of our atmosphere every 24 hours,” primarily from the burning of fossil fuels. Twenty of the hottest years on record have occurred since 2002.
Globally and locally, the impacts of climate change include severe weather events like droughts, storms, and localized flooding, posing risks to vital infrastructure like dams, drinking water systems, sewer systems, roads, bridges, power plants, and agriculture. In 2019, U.S. farmers were unable to plant 20 million acres mainly due to heavy rain and flooding.
Climate change is also a public health emergency due to extreme heat, natural disasters, an increase in vector-borne disease, and an increase in respiratory disease including asthma and COPD.
So, the challenges of climate change are real. But there is good news.
Over the past decade, return on investment for renewable energy has outperformed that of fossil fuels by more than sevenfold, while up-front costs of renewables continue to decline. In 2020, installed worldwide wind capacity exceeded 2010 projections by 24 times. Renewable energy made up over 80% of all net new electricity capacity added globally in 2020 and 2021, and investments in renewables and energy efficiency create three times more jobs than investments in fossil fuel technologies.
More than 200 U.S. cities and communities, eight states, and 300 global corporations have now made a commitment to transition to 100% renewable energy, many as soon as 2035. One of SoDak 350’s major efforts is the “Sioux Falls Renewable Project” with an objective of adding Sioux Falls to that growing list of communities committed to a transition to renewable energy by working with the energy sector, area businesses, local communities, and public and private sector partners to develop a strategy to transition to 100% renewable energy.
So come join us! We need your commitment, talent, ideas, and enthusiasm to make a real impact in our community. The challenge is real. It is urgent. There is a great deal of work to be done. So, let’s do what South Dakotans do – roll up our sleeves and get to it!