May 5, 2008

In a guest commentary in the Friday 5-2-08 Contra Costa Times, Jeff Ritterman continues his activism opposing a proposed expansion of Chevron in Richmond. Dr. Ritterman has been arguing for several months, in letters to editors, and direct appeals to civic leaders, that the proposed expansion to include the refining of dirtier grades of crude will increase greenhouse gas emissions and environmental contamination.

Dr. Ritterman is developing the idea that beyond the prudence of minimizing pollution locally, opposition to this proposed expansion must become part of a larger grassroots effort to shift away from reliance on fossil fuels and to begin to rethink our priorities for a sustainable future.

See text of the article below. Follow this link for original posting at

Your Turn: By Jeff Ritterman

From the community

Guest commentary

Article Launched: 05/02/2008 11:05:22 PM PDT

Richmond is facing an enormous decision concerning whether to approve Chevron’s proposed expansion.

There is no debate that greenhouse gases will increase significantly as a result of this project. There is debate about the best plan for mitigation and about what level of crude slate should be allowed.

Everything we believed about climate change has now been proven to be hopelessly out of date. The problem is that we have not come to terms with the new information about climate change, and the new information is terribly frightening. We need to become familiar with it.

Simply stated, the melting of the North Pole ice came “100 years ahead of schedule.” We are in an emergency now. The current level of CO2 is 383 ppm. James Hansen, the world’s leading expert on climate change, now says that we have gone too far and need to lower CO2 concentration to 350 ppm, if we are to prevent a disaster. By disaster, Hansen means a 5-meter rise in sea level.

Much of the world’s population would not survive and most ecosystems would not either. This would result in tremendous species loss and an end to the world as we know it. It is simply a future we cannot allow to happen.

To prevent this, we need to lower CO2 emissions to zero and even find ways to sequester CO2 out of the atmosphere. We face a planetary emergency like no other emergency we have ever faced.

We cannot allow Chevron to increase its greenhouse gas emissions, if we want to prevent disaster. No one in government anywhere is taking the necessary leadership. It is imperative that we in Richmond say no increase in greenhouse gases is permissible.

Mitigation is not an answer. We need to mitigate the serious overshoot of atmospheric CO2 that already exists. We simply cannot allow any more to be produced.

It is imperative we follow Hansen’s leadership. Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science and one of the world’s leading climate scientists, had the following to say: “We have to figure out how to live without fossil fuels someday. . . . Why not sooner?”

We need our leaders to stand up for the planet and for a sustainable future, and say no to more greenhouse gas emissions. Richmond can model the kind of leadership we need on an international level.

Jeff Ritterman, M.D. is a physician who lives and works in Richmond.