Effects of Climate Change in Knoxville by Dr. Jack Fellow

SONY DSCDr. Jack Fellows is the Director of the Climate Change Science Institute of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  CCSI is an inter-disciplinary research organization created in 2009 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to advance climate change science research.  Dr. Fellows made the following remarks at Climate Knoxville on the Square.

It’s my honor to be here today representing ORNL and the Climate Change Science Institute I run at Oak Ridge.

I just moved to TN in October, and I’m really enjoying this beautiful state and its incredibly friendly people. I even know how to sing a bit of “Rocky Top” and that GBO really means “go big orange”.

I’d like to talk about: (1) science of climate change, (2) what these changes mean for eastern Tennessee, and (3) the importance of the kind of policies we are discussing today.

But first, I want to thank the Climate Knoxville partners for raising awareness about climate change and CO2 emissions through events like today’s.

And, to recognize Mayor Rogero’s leadership on the President’s Climate Preparedness Task Force. This Task Force is bringing together leaders from across the country to address many of the issues we’re discussing today.

Every five years or so, thousands of climate scientists gather to examine the science and impacts of climate change. Internationally through the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and here in the U.S. via the National Climate Assessment.

Oak Ridge scientists have played key roles in these studies and recent reports conclude:

  • CO2 and other greenhouse gases trap heat…and that is good or the planet would be too cold for life.
  • Unfortunately, CO2 is building up in the atmosphere faster than nature can remove it and can stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. SO, what we put in the atmosphere today will cause warming for many generations to come!
  • To date, our CO2 emissions have resulted in a warming of ~1.5 F since the late 1800s.
  • All key indicators are consistent with that warming, like glaciers melting, dying ocean corals, plant and animal migration, ocean and atmosphere warming, and sea level rise.
  • These changes can’t be explained by just natural causes. In fact, human activities are the primary source of the changes over the past 100 years and at rate 10X faster than the past 500,000 years.

As a planet, we are dumping ~36 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, and this has been increasing by about 1 billion tons per year.

Over the next decade, we’ll reach 44 billion tons per year which will result in a world that is 3-5 F degrees warmer than today. Since CO2 rate is increasing, it is likely the warming will be double that, or 6-9 F.
What does this mean for Knoxville and Eastern Tennessee?


-  Increased summer temps and heat waves (+45 days above 95F)

-  Greater rainfall variance, including more extreme events like seasonal droughts, hail, flooding, and tornadoes.

-  Impact on tourism-related assets like forests and fishing, and impacts on roads, energy, and water infrastructure;

-  For those that love Hilton Head: sea level will likely rise 1-4 feet


-  Up to 80 fewer nights below 32 F, but could lead to more problem pests surviving over the winter.

-  This may become a destination for those migrating from places more impacted by climate change.

-  We could be a leader in “green” business technologies and practices.

So hotter and more frequent extreme storms….many of you may feel like you are already seeing these patterns.

So, it is important to explore ways to reduce CO2 emissions.   The Smarter Cities Weatherization Challenge will reduce emissions and lead to lower energy bills for many citizens.

Stabilizing emissions is also important, and doable if other big countries like China and India also adopt similar goals. So efforts like the EPA Clean Power Plan are moving in the right direction and could be an important leadership position for the US in global climate negotiations.

ORNL takes reducing CO2 emissions very seriously, including:

  • A broad range of research in energy efficiency, alternative fuel, and the climate research and modeling my Institute does.
  • The Lab also has a robust energy conservation program, including cool roofs, solar arrays for power, electric vehicles and bicycles, and all new buildings are energy efficient LEEDS certified (16 with 5Gold and 2Silver).
  • And, it has cut its energy use by ~24% since last year, while also having one of fastest and “greenest” supercomputers in world.

In closing, we are not powerless on the climate change issue.   Each one of us can make a difference by learning how to lower our GHG emissions, and things like the Smarter Cities initiative will provide that kind of education and leadership.

It has been an honor to be part of this important event, and again I’d like to thank Climate Knoxville.

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City Leading by Example

SONY DSCErin Gill is the director of the City of Knoxville Office of Sustainability.  Erin made the following remarks at Climate Knoxville on the Square, July 12, 2014.

Thanks Climate Knoxville for inviting me to speak today.

It’s wonderful to see so many people here today standing up to support protecting the earth and building a stronger community for ourselves and future generations.

Thanks to all of you here for your support of the Smarter Cities Partnership and the City’s sustainability efforts.

We launched the City’s Energy & Sustainability Initiative nearly 8 years ago – largely in response to folks like you – Knoxville residents who cared about the environment and wanted to improve the long-term health of our community.

Mayor Rogero couldn’t be here today, but she has been a long time champion of City sustainability, and now as Mayor, she’s made it a central value of her administration and really pushes to make Knoxville a sustainability leader in our region and the country.

We thank you for your continued support over those last seven years.

In that time, we’ve reduced the carbon emissions from City government operations by nearly 13% relative to 2005 levels.

At the community level, emissions have fallen over 7.5%.

This is terrific progress toward our 20% by 2020 goal.

We’ve upgraded City facilities to be more energy efficient, supported renewable energy, launched curbside recycling, revised the way the City does business, and completed many other projects to reduce our environmental footprint and save taxpayer dollars.

Now, we’re working hard to promote healthy, local food, improve the energy efficiency of homes in our community, and continue building on the great progress we’ve made.

Along the way, my office has learned that we make the most progress when we work in partnerships with our community.

There are many things government does well –but there are also things that nonprofits, grassroot groups, and engaged, empowered individuals do better.

When local government joins forces with the community to tackle a common interest, the solution is so much stronger than we could achieve independently.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Smarter Cities Partnership.

The Smarter Cities Partnership is exactly that – a partnership.

It’s not just the City, but also over 20 community organizations who have joined us to find ways to improve the comfort, quality, and affordability of homes through energy efficiency.

We’ve brought together the passion, expertise, and strengths of these organizations to help those in our community who struggle with the costs of utility bills.

We recognize that for many families, energy efficiency can help reduce utility costs, as well as help families save money and improve the quality and comfort of their homes.

We’re building programs to empower folks to take advantage of that opportunity – to connect families with the resources and services they need to make their home healthier and more energy efficient.

I’m honored to be able to work with so many of the organizations here today on that initiative – and I’m humbled to see so much support from all of you for that effort.

I know that the City won’t make as much of a difference if it works alone.

To achieve our goals, the Smarter Cities Partnership needs the help of community members who care about these issues.

Each of the organizations here today has something that they do best, and I’m excited to see Climate Knoxville connecting these strengths.

Just like mitigating climate change, improving energy efficiency community-wide will take a lot of us working together.

Knoxville needs your time and your talent!

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit with the terrific organizations here today and learn about their mission.

More importantly, when you find one that speaks to your interests and values, get involved!

We’ve all got something special to bring to the table to help keep Knoxville and East Tennessee not just surviving, but thriving.

I hope that this Climate Knoxville event today is just the beginning of a community effort to align resources, passion, and action around Knoxville’s shared sustainability goals.

Thank you.

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Climate Knoxville on the Square!

SONY DSCClimate Knoxville partners on July 12 welcomed citizens of Knoxville to come to Market Square and show their support for effective climate protection policies.

Eleven social justice, environmental, and faith-based organizations joined together to support Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan and the Knoxville’s Smarter Cities Partnership initiative to weatherize inner-city homes.

imageClose to 500 people came out to support these policies and to learn more about how the individual partners work for climate protection. The event featured live music, comedy acts and speakers promoting action on climate change.

The Climate Knoxville message came across clearly: We can address the challenges of climate change by acting together for effective climate policies that will reduce our carbon emissions and help our communities for the extreme weather of climate change.

More than 100 comments cards were completed and signed by climate protection activists at the event, supporting EPA’s supported its Clean Power Plan and Mayor Rogero’s initiative to weatherize inner-city homes.

SONY DSCCommunity leaders spoke out in support for the EPA Clean Power Plan and the Smarter Cities weatherization initiative. We heard from

  • Erin Gill, Knoxville Office of Sustainability Director,
  • Dean Rivkin, Distinguished Professor of Law, UT Law School,
  • Rev. Barbara McKinney, Clayborn Temple AME Church
  • Dr. Jack Fellows, ORNL Climate Change Science Institute Director
  • Dan Brown, Knoxville City Council member,
  • Rev. John Butler NAACP-Knoxville Branch President.

Several of the presentations of these leaders within the faith, social justice, and environmental fields are being posted on this website.

SONY DSCTo help lighten the spirit, musicians and a comedy act donated their talents. Many thanks to Chamber(s), Einstein Simplified, The Emancipators/subversive hootenanny, and Kelle Jolly.

Climate Knoxville partners are groups already working on climate protection.  We combine our strengths to work together on effective climate policies. Each of the partners had a table at the Market Square event and a chance at the microphone to share what they are doing in response to climate change. (For a complete list of Climate Knoxville Partner, see here.)

For more great pictures of Climate Knoxville on the Square, visit this photo album put together by SACE.

In addition, many other businesses, churches, and organizations signed-on to a letter supporting Climate Knoxville’s climate policies. For a complete list, see below.

Climate Knoxville brings effective climate policies to the attention of the people of Knoxville. Climate Knoxville partners will continue individually and together empower our public leaders and community to respond to the challenges of climate change in ways that reflect our care for each other and our home, Earth.

Climate Knoxville Policy Advocates

The following organizations, churches, and businesses support the EPA Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions of coal-burning power plants and Knoxville’s SmarterCities Partnership’s affordable weatherization initiative targeting inner-city homes.

Climate Knoxville Partners, those appearing in bold, developed Climate Knoxville and actively promote it policies.

 ARiES Energy

Alliance to Save Energy

Appalachian Voices

Bearden Beer Market

Church of the Savior (United Church of Christ)

Disc Exchange

East Tennessee Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council

Episcopal Church, East Tennessee Diocese

Gloria Johnson, State Representative for the 25th District

Harpers Bike Shop

Harvey Broome Group, Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club

Just Ripe

Latitude 35

Knoxville Energy Alliance and Partnership (KEAP)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – Knoxville Branch

Nothing Too Fancy

Nourish Knoxville

Presbytery of East Tennessee Peacemaking Committee

Slow Food Tennessee Valley

Socially Equal Energy Efficiency Development (SEEED)

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE)

Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM)

Stewards of the Earth

Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville (SPEAK)

Tennessee Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club

Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning

Tennessee Clean Water Network

Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light (TIPL)

Tennessee Solar Energy Association

Tennessee Solar Energy Industry Association

Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church

Union Avenue Books

United Mountain Defense

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Protecting God’s Creation And One Another

SONY DSCRev. Barbara McKinney is the pastor at Clayborn Temple AME Church in Knoxville, TN. She graduated from Austin-East High school, Pentecostal Theological Seminary, and Tusculum College. Rev. McKinney is a member of the Knoxville Inter-Denominational Ministerial Association. She presented these remarks as a speaker at Climate Knoxville on Market Square on July 12, 2014.

I would like to begin by asking you a question. Am I my brother’s keeper and if so how? I asked this question because we are challenged each and every day to look after each other. We do this according to where we live and how we can help each other. We do this through educating ourselves. We also become our brothers keeper according to the job that we have and because the work that we do challenges us to make the right decisions that will be for the better of humankind whether for you are single, a couple or a family

The environmental protection agency has stepped up to the challenge of providing clean air for all of mankind. It is a no one left behind program regardless of race creed color or gender, whether you are rich, middle class or poor whatever is released in the atmosphere does not affect one but it affects all because it has none of the five senses. Again our biggest challenge is to take care of the poor and needy.

A clean energy efficient environment is a better way of life for God’s creation and every human being. The environment from the beginning has been one that was safe for the habitation of mankind no impurities just the sweet aroma of God’ Holy presence. Now we are faced with what God has promised us and that is in Genesis 8:22 it reads: WHILE THE EARTH REMAINS, SEEDTIME AND HARVEST’ AND COLD AND HEAT AND SUMMER AND WINTER, AND DAY AND NIGHT SHALL NOT CEASE. We are all in this together and we must work together to provide a better way of living. The seed was planted and we can reap the harvest.

EPA is in effect and we shall reap the benefits of a job well done through the non-profit and faith based community together. We have come out of the cold day and nights. We increased our thermostat controls and THE KNOXVILLE UTILITIES BOARD KUB increased their prices on our electricity. Now the summer days and nights are here and many of us have decreased our thermostat control again to produce cool air which will also increase rates again. Whether it is summer or winter, day and night, what we are experiencing will never cease, but God has given us the knowledge to know how to put forth a plan of action that will work. We must look after and care for one another. It is the will and plan for God’s people.

Again a clean energy efficient way of life for the better of people is attacked in their daily life because of insufficient income, whether from their job, social security or their retirement plan does not allow them the opportunity to provide energy efficient programs in their homes. Thanks are to God there are nonprofit and faith based programs that have partnered and said YES YOU CAN!

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