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Roth: The high cost of climate volatility

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on February 5, 2018.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

The high cost of climate volatility

Natural disasters cost the United States $306 billion in 2017, matching a previous record set in 2011.

Hearing this, we Oklahomans can recall that last year’s tornado season, which resulted in one death in our state, was comparatively tame, although that is hardly a term to describe a tornado season or a loss of life.

The costs from the 2017 figures are mostly property damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and damage from wildfires that plagued the West Coast. And the numbers of lives lost and injured continue to grow.

States all across the country suffered damage from all forms of severe weather, including wildfires, resulting smoke and ash, droughts, floods, unseasonable tornadoes, damaging hail, excessive rain, dangerous winds, record snowfalls, and severe thunderstorms. Sixteen devastating weather events, each with a price tag over $1 billion, tested this country’s resolve and took lives.

I listed Maria, but this storm warrants its own discussion. Damage estimates are just under $100 billion for this hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico and other nearby islands. Some parts of Puerto Rico remain without power still and will be for eight months or more as efforts to rebuild the electric grid continue. If that doesn’t make you want to put up solar panels or live free off the grid, I don’t know what will.

But surely it will get better? No, say scientists, climate change will continue to cause worse weather. Every state is experiencing erratic and above-average temperatures, five of which set record temps last year, and in December, Alaska experienced temps that were more than 15 degrees above average.

That was 2017. Right away, 2018 added insult to injury in California, when land that was raw and barren from the recent historic wildfires was pummeled by mudslides destroying homes and lives. While we can quantify the damage to property, the harm caused to humans is, in some cases, quite literally immeasurable.

For instance, there are physical health hazards from wildfires that accompany the smoke and ash that blanketed not only California, but also nearby Washington and Oregon. Even more difficult to measure are the psychological tolls that frightening weather events have on people. Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with that concept in Oklahoma.

If you are like me, you like the optimistic, fresh start a new year offers. So here is a productive tool you can use to offset some of this human activity that leads to this troubling news. Previously I’ve mentioned the EPA’s Carbon Footprint Calculator. This is a great way to live consciously while actively doing what you can to reduce your daily greenhouse gas emissions.

As the price of climate change and erratic weather continues to rise in American lives and property, every individual effort helps.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Roth: Do you know what the parties stand for?

By Jim Roth, Director and Chair of the Firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on August 1, 2016.


Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Do you know what the parties stand for?

Summers in America are renowned for great movies and many entertainment choices.

This year, and every four years in America, we also had marathon political party conventions to help entertain us with showmanship and drama. Whether it’s the Ted Cruz and his “vote your conscience” non-endorsement or the Democratic National Committee emails showing favoritism against Bernie Sanders, much of the news around this political theater focused on what happened on the stage.

But what probably matters more to Americans, and what may forecast probable impacts to our lives, is what is really happening behind the curtain so-to-speak: the party platforms.

For us Oklahomans, where we know the land we belong to is grand, there ought to be a heightened awareness to the energy, environment and climate positions and objectives of political parties and presidential candidates. So in case you are curious, here is a sampling of those platform polices just approved by both parties the last two weeks.

Democratic Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: Calls on the U.S. to generate half of its electricity from clean resources in the next decade and cleaner transportation fuels; requests tax code changes to create incentives for renewable energy.
  • Environmental policy: Calls for the end of the Halliburton loophole that stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing, ensuring tough safeguards are in place to protect local water supplies.
  • Climate change position and policy: Calls for setting a price on greenhouse gas emissions; calls on government officials at all levels to take any steps possible to reduce pollution rather than waiting for Congress to act.

Green Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: Advocates a rapid reduction in energy consumption through energy efficiency and a decisive transition away from fossil and nuclear power toward cleaner, renewable, local energy sources; encourage conservation; move toward renewable sources; decentralize the grid; and re-localize the food system.
  • Environmental policy: Extensive platform positions focus on environmental justice and conclude that it is founded on two fundamental beliefs: that all people have the right to live, work, learn, and play in safe and healthful environments, and that people have the right to influence decisions that affect environmental quality in their communities.
  • Climate change position and policy: Want to stop runaway climate change, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent by 2020 and 95 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Libertarian Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: While energy is needed to fuel a modern society, government should not be subsidizing any particular form of energy; oppose all government control of energy pricing, allocation, and production.
  • Environmental Policy: Competitive free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems.
  • Climate change position and policy: While there is no specific reference to climate change, some related positions include: Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection; protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights and responsibilities regarding resources like land, water, air, and wildlife.

Republican Party platform

  • Energy and natural resource policy: Calls for the approval and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian and U.S. fossil fuel resources to further U.S. markets; coal is an abundant, clean, affordable, reliable domestic energy resource.
  • Environmental policy: Propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation to the states, away from the EPA, and to transform the EPA into a bipartisan independent commission.
  • Climate change position and policy: Climate change is far from the nation’s most pressing national security issue and calls for the repeal of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan; opposed to international accords like the agreement crafted recently in Paris last year; forbid the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide.

Follow these links to see more: www.demconvention.com/platform; www.gp.org/platform;www.lp.org/platform; and www.gop.com/platform.

Happy reading and no matter what, please vote.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah PC in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.

Phillips Murrah director serves as panelist for faith, climate change discussion

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Jim Roth is a Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice.

Phillips Murrah Director and Chair of the firm’s Clean Energy Practice Group, Jim Roth, will serve as a panelist for “An Evening of Listening: Climate Change is Real,” a panel discussion moderated by The Rev. Tim Luschen of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church.

“Jim asked if I would be interested in having a conversation with others about climate change and the writing of Pope Francis and how we might bring this conversation to the wider public here in OKC,” Luschen said. “I sat in on a couple of table discussions and we decided with the support of Dean Lindstrom from St. Paul’s to use one of their Nights of Listening to focus on climate change, especially as it involves people of faith.”

Other panelists will be Pat Hoerth with Turtle Rock Farm and The Rev. Deborah Meinke, Cimarron Presbytery clerk. The discussion will be hosted at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 127 NW 7, and is open to the public.

Read more about the event and how Oklahoma’s faith community is addressing climate change at NewsOK.com.