Earth Day, April 22, should be a call to action for all of us. Never has this planet faced a deadlier threat to our natural and social environments.
Commentary by Jane Bender
If we deny the climate crisis or put the responsibility off on others, our inactions will lead to future ecosystem collapses and misery for millions of people throughout the world. It’s a frightening legacy.
At the same time, the Earth Day message is positive, a reminder that we can take action to turn things around. Indeed, we have in the past. (Think the hole in the ozone layer as an example.) We can now as well.
Climate-Safe California, introduced by The Climate Center based here in Sonoma County, is a powerful solution to the crisis. It is a unique, bold, urgently-needed and comprehensive campaign that will catalyze similar efforts in other states, the nation and the world. And it is an immediate opportunity for all of us to get involved.
The campaign is based on three guiding principles: 1) Acting on the latest science. 2) Providing a just transition for workers, their families and their communities dependent on the fossil fuel industry for their livelihood. 3) Ensuring that policymakers prioritize and support lower-income and communities of color, populations that have been disproportionately harmed by our dependence on fossil fuels.
Below is the framework for the types of policies that must be enacted by California’s legislature no later than 2025 in order to put our state on track for net negative emissions by 2030, net negative meaning we are sequestering more emissions than we release. Yes, these are incredibly tight deadlines, but the crisis demands rapid action. We can’t wait.
* Accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuel extraction, refining and processing, and end use, such as transportation. California produces and refines massive amounts of oil and natural gas. This has to stop.
* Increase carbon sequestration. This means capturing the emissions we have created through reforestation, carbon agriculture and habitat restoration.
* Invest in community resilience. Unfortunately, even if we do everything to decrease our emissions, the gases we have already spewed into our atmosphere have long half-lives so droughts, fires, floods and hurricanes will be with us for years. Therefore we must find ways to withstand these natural calamities while we work to prevent even more dire events.
* Generate the monies needed for speed and scale climate action. It will cost billions of dollars, but we can’t afford NOT to.
If all this sounds daunting, it is. But it is absolutely possible. In fact sociologists tell us that only 3.5% of a population can be the tipping point for sweeping change if that population is dedicated. A look back in history shows that to be true, be it slavery, women’s suffrage and others.
As Margaret Mead, the noted anthropologist, said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated, caring individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The task ahead is tremendous, and the timeline is tight. But at the same time, we all have a chance to be part of history, part of that 3.5% that changed the trajectory of climate change. It’s an incredible gift to leave the next generations.
There’s a lot more to learn and actions to take.
— Jane Bender, member of The Climate Center