Climate Change is the Real Campaign Issue
The notion that science will save us is the chimera that allows the present generation to consume all the resources it wants as if no generation will follow. It is the sedative that allows civilization to march so steadfastly towards environmental catastrophe. It forestalls the real solution, which will be in the hard, nontechnical work of changing human behavior – Kenneth Brower, Environmental Author
Writing this column provides me no financial gain. My reward comes from reader feedback, even the critical ones. And also being able to occasionally gain admission to some exclusive gatherings, like the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. I’m a believer in climate change—really, who isn’t after the horrific worldwide climate events of the last few years (except our president and oil and gas lobbyists)? This summer alone saw 14 super storms in the Pacific, eight in the Atlantic, and 12 fires in California. In the last three years, Houston has experienced three (500-year) floods. And that’s just domestically. India has been ravaged with floods, 30 percent of the oceans’ coral reefs are gone, and melting glaciers threaten to displace millions living in coastal lowlands.
Governor Jerry Brown, our de facto national leader on climate change, convened this summit of world leaders that included, among others, Michael Bloomberg, Al Gore, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Goodall, plus mayors, governors, prime minsters, and, perhaps most importantly, indigenous peoples from around the globe who are on the front lines of this catastrophe trajectory. The collective wasn’t there to spout doom and gloom. Instead, they were there to pledge individual actions to decarbonize the air and de-acidify the ocean. 476 multinational companies made science-based targets to reduce emissions, and 53 countries signed on to an exponential climate action roadmap – reimagining energy, transport, building, industry, food consumption, waste, land use, and reforestation.
Despite Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the economic growth story of this century will be de-carbonization. Washington is not in charge of America’s energy production and can’t stop the decline of coal (273 out of 530 coal fired power plants gave closed). Trump can’t prevent cities and states from adopting tough environmental laws, reducing waste, and converting to renewable energy sources. Imagine the jobs created with charging station networks and electric vehicles across the globe, plus solar and wind installs. Thirty-eight states representing 80 percent of the nation’s population have renewable portfolios. Four hundred mayors have signed America’s pledge to reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2025. There was a lot of hope, enthusiasm and resolve at this event, because optimism is a force multiplier.
So where does this leave our little town? Well, a year ago City Council adopted a resolution supporting the Paris Agreement and committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and also signed on to the group Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, co–founded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. LA’s a tough nut to crack, but Garcetti has already pledged to install 25,000 electric charging stations, convert all city vehicles to zero emission fleets, activate a green car-sharing program, and build extensive bikeways. We haven’t done a thing in Laguna since banning plastic bags, except pledging to be nice.
In fact, while our current political capital is focused on Measure P—undergrounding the Canyon power lines to avoid car collisions—one must wonder if we are looking backwards at yesterday’s technology instead of forward. Could there be other energy delivery systems in the future that wouldn’t rely on power lines, meaning we could simply remove the poles instead of the huge expense of burying them?
Other cities are taking tangible action to reduce traffic and pollution, and all we ever talk about is building more parking lots. In Germany, hundreds of towns have formed their own renewable energy companies from wind and solar that generates surpluses that they can sell for a profit, and liberate themselves from profit-seeking private energy companies. Wouldn’t a sales tax increase be better used for installing a renewable infrastructure in town, like wind and solar panels, charging stations, replacing the city’s fleet with electric vehicles, and installing a comprehensive network of electric bike and moped share kiosks? It would simultaneously lessen traffic woes, clean the air, and make us healthier and more convivial.
Let’s get real about reducing our methane-spewing landfill by separating paper, plastic, glass, organic, and non-recyclable waste. Collect and “upcycle” unused food from our gardens, markets and restaurants. Make composting mandatory. Plant nut and fruit trees on the perimeters of our open space to create a food forest, fire buff, and carbon-sequestering asset. Upgrade our sewers, clean Aliso Creek, and reduce the acidification of our sacred ocean. And capture, store and recycle that most precious commodity, water. Only then can we walk the talk of reducing greenhouse gases and ensuring a resilient future.
These are the front line issues Transition Laguna cares about and will be discussing when we host a potluck on Tuesday, Oct. 16 (transitionlagunabeach.org). It’s a free community event. Just bring a dish to share. And maybe a City Council candidate or two. Because if we don’t fix this, nothing else matters. Hope to see you there.
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8pm on KX93.5, and can be reached at [email protected]