Scientists say we have 10 years until the climate crisis becomes irreversible. 10 years.
By Ozzy Simpson
If we do nothing or if we only continue to take small steps towards combating the climate emergency, by 2030 our planet will face ravaging hurricanes, fires and other extreme weather events. We will have failed our planet, our children and ourselves.
The United States should move toward the Green New Deal sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey in the Senate. Sunrise Movement, an organization of young people working to combat the climate crises, describes the Green New Deal as “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030, a guaranteed living-wage job for anyone who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities.” New Consensus, which has advised Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Justice Democrats, and Sunrise on the Green New Deal, outlines projects necessary to accomplish the goals of the Green New Deal: retrofit buildings to maximize energy and water efficiency, meet 100% of power demands through clean, renewable energy, and remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. manufacturing and transportation systems.
While these are lofty goals, they are absolutely necessary to ensure future generations have a planet on which to live. After all, money becomes worthless if there is no one to spend it.
We do not have the luxury of waiting for the federal government to implement the Green New Deal. In fact, the federal government is in a period of inaction on the climate crisis and is even rolling back environmental protections. It is necessary for state and local governments to pick up the slack and act.
Pasadena must pick up some of the slack
That means Pasadena must pick up some of the slack. Many of Pasadena’s elected officials and candidates believe that the climate crisis is not a real issue or that the State and Federal governments should take the lead and not cities. As I have talked to Pasadena officials and candidates about climate issues and the upcoming Climate Action Forum, I have heard the “top down” perspective of District 2 candidate Kevin Litwin echoed constantly. They all are wrong.
Although our local politicians may not think the climate crisis affects Pasadena, science begs to differ. PCC student and amateur climatologist Edgar McGregor wrote in 2018: “From 1909-2017, my hometown, Pasadena, California, has warmed 6.5 degrees [Fahrenheit] and lost 15% of annual rain. Summer has carved its way so far into fall that late Octobers, such as in 2017, can blister as hot as July.” For reference, the IPCC says that going from 1.5°C to 2.0°C (equivalent to 3.6°F) of global warming would result in 1.7 billion more people experiencing heat waves, sea level rises of nearly four inches, and other devastating consequences.
How can Pasadena combat the climate crisis?
How can Pasadena combat the climate crisis, you (and our elected officials) might ask? Well, the Green New Deal’s projects can be adapted to Pasadena. Pasadena can strongly encourage more green building as well as the retrofitting of old buildings (new windows and insulation for energy efficiency). With its own power company, Pasadena can shift to 100% renewable energy almost on its own. Pasadena Water and Power does plan to meet 60% of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2030, but District 6 candidate Ryan Bell believes that goal relies on voluntary action by residents and businesses and is not nearly aggressive enough. With a city-owned public transportation system, Pasadena should transition to 100% electric energy vehicles and encourage more riders by expanding service and making public transit free (as it was from 1994–2003). In addition to improving public transportation, I agree with Ryan Bell that Pasadena needs to improve options for cycling and walking.
Other cities are taking action
Other cities already are taking action. In 2017, Santa Barbara adopted the Architecture 2030 challenge with the objective of buildings becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Inside Climate News reported that in August 2019 Seattle adopted a Green New Deal resolution calling for “free public transit, a limit on new fossil fuel construction, 100 percent electric vehicles for ride sharing, and an infrastructure plan that takes sea level rise into account, among other ideas.”
Time for Pasadena to take real action
It is time for Pasadena to take real, innovative action. That is why I’ve been working so hard planning climate strikes and forums, speaking at the City Council, and starting a Sunrise Movement hub at Sequoyah School. Our city is in a position to be a leader of smaller cities in combating the climate crisis. I’m glad to see that candidates like Jason Hardin, Charlotte Bland, Felicia Williams, and Ryan Bell signed the Green New Deal pledge. If they win their elections, I hope to see all of them propose and support a local Green New Deal. In fact, I’m delighted that Ryan Bell already has plans for what a local Green New Deal could look like.
Until Pasadena takes real action, I will continue to join my peers in pressuring our local elected officials (and candidates) to make the bold and necessary changes required for Pasadena to become climate-resilient and uphold its responsibility in combating the climate crisis.
Ozzy Simpson is a senior at Sequoyah School in Pasadena, where he is co-president of student council and hub coordinator for Sunrise Sequoyah, Sequoyah’s chapter of the Sunrise Movement.
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