Cycling for Change: Oregon Lawyer Bikes to D.C., Promotes GHG Petition

Dan Galpern is bicycling 4,705 miles, through 19 states and two Canadian provinces, to accomplish one goal — pressure the White House to use its full executive authority in order to address climate change.

Panel discussion at COP25. From left to right: Regina Valdez, Dan Galpern, Jim Hansen, Stuart Scott

During more than 11 years as a legal and policy advisor to James E. Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, Galpern witnessed little coherence in federal climate change approaches, as the government failed to assume leadership on mitigation efforts.

“No legal liability to date has been attached to prior carbon pollution, and there should be,” he says, adding fossil fuel producers have not only profited by using the atmosphere as an “open sewer,” but their prior emissions have overwhelmed the planet’s systems even while they “worked assiduously” to close off opportunities for alternative fuels.

“When I realized there was potential for the U.S. government to act on the climate without any new act of Congress, I knew I needed to assume a larger measure of personal and political responsibility.”

Galpern is the founder, executive director, and general counsel of the Climate Protection and Restoration Initiative (CPRI). His commitment to personal action includes this year’s cycling across the U.S. as part of the Road to the White House: No-Excuses Tour, which will take 31 days, starting in September.

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Climate matters

During his trek (from Eugene, Oregon, to Washington, D.C.), Galpern hopes to galvanize the public to join his petition drive targeting both the White House and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The campaign aims to convince the White House to utilize its full authority to attack the climate change problem,” says Galpern. “That means taking specific action to stop the free dumping of fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere.”

In August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report, which is a 4,000-page document detailing the science behind human-induced climate change.

The report establishes an irrefutable link between rising global temperatures and fossil fuel carbon emissions. Left unchecked, scientists fear warming temperatures will cause increasing disruption worldwide, including a collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current, leading to more frequent extreme weather in a vicious cycle of meteorological extremes.

According to Galpern, the IPCC’s vision of an apocalyptic future driven by climate change is unavoidable “unless action is taken without delay to eliminate additional fossil fuel emissions and remove considerable excess atmospheric CO2, methane, and other climate pollutants.”

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Bicycle activism

Cycling cross-country is not a new challenge for Galpern. In 1981, he travelled 3,500 miles on a French-built racing bike. However, the novelty of the ‘No-Excuses Tour’ lies within his planned route. Galpern intends to cycle through the western and mid-western states, then to Ottawa, Canada, before returning stateside and cycling through New England on his way to the District of Columbia — for a total of 4,705 miles.

Galpern’s recumbent bike

Along the way, this bicycle activist will give speeches at universities and law schools as part of his petition drive to exert pressure on the White House to enact measures to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. Further, Galpern will carry a highly-sensitive air-quality monitor to broadcast real-time air-quality data during his cost-to-coast journey — a first of its kind.

The air-quality monitor will measure concentrations of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and PM2.5 — airborne particles measuring 2.5 micrometers and smaller. Measuring these particles is particularly timely, as they are major components of smoke generated by the wildfires continuing to burn in the western states — a visceral reminder of climate extremes.

Climate scientists agree that human-influenced climate change enabled prolonged heat in the Pacific Northwest, and atmospheric carbon is the primary driver, Galpern says. “Stopping the free dumping of fossil fuel waste into the atmosphere needs to be done right away, because the first step to getting out of a deep hole is to stop digging.”

Remineralize the Earth is a collaborator with CPRI, as well as Methane Action, on various legislative initiatives, including a recent letter to President Joe Biden, calling for an executive order, in part, to expedite a research agenda for developing and deploying ways to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Such measures include enhanced weathering and soil remineralization. CPRI and Methane Action plan to be at COP26 in Glasgow, along with RTE Board Director Thomas J. Goreau.

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Benjamin ZH Tan graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in Journalism and a minor in Information Technology. He joined RTE to leverage his unique position at the intersection of storytelling and technology to open up the world of soil remineralization and regenerative agriculture to a broader nontechnical audience.

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