Opinion: Green Light

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Laguna’s Council Exclaims “Yes” to Climate Action

California is aflame. More than two million acres and counting were charred this year. Lives have been lost. Homes and other buildings have been reduced to ash heaps.  Smoke is filling the lungs of residents of many tony Bay Area and other communities throughout the state. A science publication of Massachusetts Institute of Technology says climate change is “almost certainly” the culprit. Literally and figuratively at the 11th hour, Laguna’s City Council stood tall Sept. 8 for effective climate action. Councilmember Sue Kempf expertly guided to unanimous approval the agenda bill calling for a resolution in support of The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, HR 763. 

Laguna is now the third city in Orange County, after Santa Ana and Costa Mesa, to take this action, thereby joining 100 other municipalities nationwide from San Francisco to Princeton, New Jersey. In the absence of federal action, these cities are building a groundswell of movement for what scientists, including deceased conservative icon Milton Friedman, say is the single most effective way to reduce the poisonous emissions warming the Earth: carbon pricing.  HR 763 calls for imposing an annually escalating price on carbon at the pump and elsewhere.  The proceeds would be rebated in equal monthly dividend checks to American taxpayers.  Economists at Columbia University vetted the measure this year, concluding that its passage would result in a nearly 40% reduction in carbon emissions in 12 years and 90% by 2050.  Hundreds of thousands of lives would be saved by the cleaner, healthier air alone. 2.8 million jobs would be created, largely by the public’s spending of the dividend checks.  Clean energy technologies would be incentivized.

Rep. Harley Rouda and all other Congresspersons with Districts in Orange County are co-sponsors of HR 763. Laguna’s bold passage will help them obtain more co-sponsors in Congress and encourage more Orange County cities to pass similar resolutions.

As always, there is a backstory to Council’s decision. Kempf related how she recently returned from Monterey Bay, whose clean, clear ocean air had been terribly polluted by the raging wildfires nearby. She had been viscerally moved by the urgency for effective action at the local level. Retired psychology professor Ginger Osborne, who had met with Kempf about this issue months ago, spoke again with the councilmember within the past week about how best to obtain the needed votes. Accordingly, Osborne, who co-chairs the Laguna chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, consulted with chapter members and then quickly assembled from the chapter’s ranks eight speakers, each of whom would put together a three-minute video making the case for unanimous passage of a resolution. Speakers included UC Irvine climate scientist Dr. Patrick Rafter, physician Gary Stewart, businessman Breene Murphy, retired educator Deb Young, recent Dartmouth graduate Alex Rounaghi, environmental attorney Ramin Pejan, and I. In public comment, Sue Stewart urged passage of a very public resolution rather than a more private letter of support.

There is more, however, to the backstory. Forty-seven Lagunans, including an emeritus professor at UC Irvine’s business school, Dr. Dennis Aigner, emailed letters to Council starting weeks ago. Greg and Barbara MacGillivray added their support, as did local hike leader Charlotte Masarik, and numerous other Lagunans who made their views known.

Young and civic-minded Rounaghi, who spoke for the next generations of Lagunans, put an exclamation point on the entire successful effort, saying climate change “is the defining issue of our time.”

Editor’s Note: Ginger Osborne is the author’s wife.

Tom Osborne, a retired history professor, co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. To join, contact him: [email protected]

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