Opinion: Green Light

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What? Laguna Not Great on Climate Action?

By Tom Osborne

Laguna is populated by numerous high achievers. 

We expect our schools to be top-notch, our cultural venues and programs to be likewise, our shops and businesses to be high-class, and our storied scenic environment to be well-protected. But on climate action a recent report card gave our City a meh (so-so grade), that is, compared to Huntington Beach, Fullerton, and Santa Ana, which ranked first, second, and third respectively in addressing what OC Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley and other local officials recently termed “a climate crisis.”

Worse yet, in terms of our City’s possible embarrassment, the report card, compiled by the watchdog organization Climate Action Campaign of Orange County and San Diego County, made public the meh record of Orange County’s cities. My wife, Ginger, and I attended the recent press conference at the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center (aka the train station). We were among the maybe forty others on hand. Besides Supervisor Foley, the speakers included Laguna Beach Councilmember Alex Rounaghi, Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem Jessie Lopez, Irvine Vice Mayor Tammy Kim and Councilwoman Dr. Kathleen Treseder, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Political Director Doug Mangione, and other local luminaries.

Supervisor Foley was perhaps the most compelling speaker. She stressed that the Orange County government has been in denial of the climate peril and, consequently, is decades behind in addressing the threats of global warming: sea level rise, coastal erosion, and wildfires. 

Wildfire season is now year-round, yet only five of Orange County’s thirty-four cities have climate action plans. 

Our county needs a comprehensive climate plan. Foley and those helping her were going to see that such a plan is drafted and implemented as soon as possible. “We will bring climate action to Orange County,” she declared.  

A prominent member of the UC Irvine faculty in biology, Dr. Treseder told the audience to expect “heat waves lasting two months.” She affirmed that addressing climate change is her “highest priority” as a newly elected Irvine councilwoman.  

Particularly galvanizing was a preternaturally articulate fourteen-year-old girl wearing a head scarf, Maryam Dallawar, a coordinator for Sunrise Orange County. 

“My generation is watching our world burn before our eyes,” she said. “Kids like me shouldn’t be forced to fight for our future. I should be in school right now. Young people did not create this problem. We need 100 percent clean energy.” 

Poignant, poised, and powerful, this young student captivated the attendees; she was already a force and an exemplar of youthful gravitas.  

Laguna Beach Councilman Rounaghi told the attendees, “Laguna Beach is defined by protecting our environment” and alluded to two wildfires that “could have decimated our city.” Laguna could well become “the first City in the county to be net zero in terms of carbon emissions. So watch out Irvine, the race is on.”

Still, there’s something to be said for working in partnership with Irvine and especially the scientific expertise at UC Irvine to advance our city’s and other cities’ climate actions. 

For the record, I’m not sure Laguna Beach would even have developed the Climate Action Plan of 2009 had not former Irvine Mayor Beth Krom met with me for hours and given her sage advice on how to draft and get such a plan Council-approved. Our City is in her debt.

With this winter’s rains and the drought not yet ended, Laguna’s hills will have a huge fuel load for the next wildfires. Our preparation includes developing and sharing best practices with neighboring cities. One such best practice is getting to the 100 percent clean energy young Maryam Dallawar urged. Community Choice Energy can provide that and is being pursued by our City Hall. Another best practice would be to replace our City’s fleet vehicles with EVs.

In short, Laguna’s high achievers have plenty to do to measurably reduce our City’s carbon emissions.

Tom Osborne is an environmental historian who chaired the work group that wrote Laguna’s 2009 Climate Protection Action Plan. With his wife, Ginger, he co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. [email protected].

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