By DLW, ISB Staff Writer
On June 1, when President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, it was hard not to be overcome by feelings of despair. Given the compelling scientific evidence about the existence of human-caused climate change, and knowing the horrific future toll if emissions of greenhouse gases are not reduced, it seemed inconceivable that the U.S. would recklessly turn its back on the world and future generations.
Fortunately, there are many reasons for hope, as well as opportunities for meaningful action. A mistaken President does not define America. At times like these, we, as individuals, communities, and states do define America. We have a larger and more impactful role than ever to play as stewards of the earth and guardians of inter-generational equity.
As a resident of Alaska for over 37 years, I witnessed first-hand the dramatic, adverse, and costly impacts of climate change. The measurable evidence is unambiguous and breathtaking, and the scientifically based projections of what will happen if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced are devastating.
This is very relevant to the California Central Coast (where I now reside), the state, the nation, and the world because what happens in Alaska does not stay in Alaska. Glaciers in Alaska have experienced some of the fastest loss of glacier mass on earth, increasing sea levels worldwide. Alaska’s central lakes, which provide habitat to millions of migrating birds from California and elsewhere have already decreased in size, and will, in many places, disappear altogether with increased emissions. Alaska is one of the most impacted canaries in the coal mine. For more information on impacts, see The National Climate Assessment.
So What Can Be Done?
Many cities, states, and individuals recognize that inaction is not an option, and are stepping up instead. Polls, such as the Washington Post-ABC poll, show that a majority of Americans opposed pulling out of the Accord by a 2-to-1 margin (59% to 28%). In fact, the White House’s announcement about the Paris Climate Accord appears to have spurred renewed determination. Here are a few examples:
- Close to home, on June 6, after hearing from scores of concerned, informed and passionate citizens, the Santa Barbara City Council voted to adopt a Resolution to achieve 100% renewable energy use by 2030. Bravo!
- Since June 1, California, Washington, New York, Virginia and other states representing almost 40% of the American economy, together with mayors of approximately 200 cities (including Santa Barbara) and CEOs of large businesses such as Amazon, Apple and Target have pledged to keep reducing emissions.
- On June 7, Hawaii passed a law requiring state officials to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. Technology alone, such as LEDs and lower-cost solar, is driving reductions.
What Else Can We Do?
We can take action at all levels of government:
- At the individual level, we can conserve wherever possible with thoughtful energy reduction strategies, and also go renewable. Personally speaking, the solar system in our home was just installed, helping not only the environment, but also local jobs, since we are using a company in Santa Barbara.
- Also, with the help of citizen engagement, the other communities in Santa Barbara County, such as Goleta, can adopt the 100% Renewable Energy Resolution. To achieve this, it is easy to connect with the Community Environmental Council for more information. You can also act on Indivisible SB’s twice-weekly Calls to Action.
- At the state level, as the 6th largest economy in the world, California is taking a leadership role in reducing emissions. We have the opportunity to support this critically important role with calls to our legislative offices, letters to the editor, and more.
- At the national level, our elected officials, especially our Congressional representatives, need to know how important this is to us so they will take needed leadership roles on climate change strategies. And finally, we can choose to flex our consumer power by buying from companies that support emission reductions, and act accordingly.
Despair? No. There is too much at stake and too many reasons to be optimistic. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, our national security, our economy, our natural heritage, our health, and our moral responsibilities, we must act to reduce emissions and stand up as individuals, communities and states to pledge our commitment to meaningfully addressing climate change.