The debate is settled: climate change is happening. 2016 was the hottest year on record, adding on to some of the hottest on record within the last 15 years.
We already see the effects worldwide: destabilization within different regions, agricultural problems, species loss, changing weather events, devastating droughts, and rising sea levels. It has recently been discovered that, within the next 15 years, many residents in Marin, Calif., and other coastal communities will have their homes, local schools, and utilities at risk of damage due to impending sea level rise.
My generation, and the ones after us, will have to deal with these problems.
I grew up in the Coachella Valley. I went to high school in La Quinta, where I continued on to College of the Desert. I transferred and recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Economics and Policy.
With growing environmental threats, I felt it was important to understand the problem to develop policy solutions.
Climate change is caused by carbon pollution. Most people don’t understand how we measure the costs of carbon pollution. During my studies, I often came across the metric called the “Social Cost of Carbon” (SCC). The SCC is a dollar value of long-term damage done by one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a given year. It includes economic, ecological, health, and physical impacts in a monetized form. If we multiply the standard SCC (roughly $69) by the amount of CO2 humans put in the air annually (40 billion tons), it comes out to roughly $2.7 trillion in costs, which include but are not limited to:
Roughly $14 billion from deaths and illnesses related to pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, mosquitoes, and flooding
$882 billion from rising sea levels near coastal cities, affecting many homes and businesses across the country
$1 billion in heat-related losses in 2011 alone in meat animal production
My generation will have to bear this burden.
While the future seems bleak, I also know it doesn’t have to be this way. Several cities have already taken action: Georgetown, Texas, is on par to be 100 percent renewable in 2018, while Las Vegas has gone 100% renewable in all government-owned buildings, saving the city $50 million annually.
In California, there are several counties where communities have chosen to receive their electricity from renewable energy resources (referred to as Community Choice Energy/Aggregation, or CCA/CCE). Sonoma Clean Power and Marin Clean Energy allow consumers to choose where their electricity source, with the option to “opt-out” if they choose not to be included. The Coachella Valley Association of Governments is exploring CCA for our regions. Several cities in California are also on track to 100 percent renewable energy, such as Santa Barbara, Richmond, and Oakland, with Santa Monica already at 100 percent renewables.
On the local level, the Palm Springs City Council will soon be voting on an ordinance to require solar panels on new residential construction and any major remodels in the city.
This will stop the addition of new carbon emissions and inspire other CV cities to take action to limit carbon pollution.
The costs of carbon pollution are very real and will only increase over time. Now is the time for our local governments to take action against climate change, so that we can leave a better future for my generation and generations after.
The Climate Change Debate Is Settled. Here’s What You Can Do., by Alan Siebuhr, The Desert Sun, June 14, 2017.