For vulnerable urban communities, displaced wildfire survivors, and many other residents of California, climate change isn’t something that we can put off worrying about for a few years — it is their reality, today. These are just some of the most visible of our front line communities. Changing how we approach housing construction, urban infrastructure, and utility management are going to all be key to addressing climate change here in California, and ensuring a just transition toward environmental justice.
“The latest research projects the Los Angeles region to be 3°F to 4°F warmer by mid-century, creating more frequent and intense heat waves that pose particular risk to Los Angeles’s most vulnerable communities.”
– Union of Concerned Scientists, Preparing for Climate Change Impacts in Los Angeles
In the summer of 2018 we had some of the most intense heat that Los Angeles has ever experienced. And extreme heat kills more people annually across our country than hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods, combined.
Last year’s heat wave wasn’t an aberration — it’s the new normal:
“The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998, and the four warmest years on record have all occurred since 2014.”
– Rebecca Lindsey and LuAnn Dahlman, Climate Change: Global Temperature
And it is our most vulnerable communities that bear the brunt of these impacts.
In 2017, California was the 4th largest producer of crude oil in the United States. We must take immediate steps to end this damaging extractive process, across the state. Not only does this industry contribute to global climate change, it has immediate impacts on local communities who have had to live with pumping stations in their backyard for decades.
AD53 is home to multiple oil and gas drill sites, including 28 active wells located at 1328 S Hill St, just 2 blocks from the Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center. The ongoing impact of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak demonstrates how the petroleum industry continues to threaten the health and safety of our community.
California is the largest economy in the United States — larger than all but 4 nations. Our state has been at the vanguard of environmental protection and technological innovation for decades. Our vehicle emission standards set the bar for cars sold all across this country. We must continue to lead the country in combating the effects of climate change.
We do not need to wait for the advent of some new technology to save us. We can, and must, act now to use existing technologies to shift us away from an unsustainable future on an uninhabitable planet. To this end, we must immediately work to:
- Ban all fossil fuel extraction in California, starting with the immediate shutdown and safe decontamination of all urban oil and gas wells across the state.
- Shut down all fossil fuel power production in CA, end the importing of dirty power from across state lines, and get to 100% green energy in our power system in CA with no offsets used to juice the numbers by 2030.
- Municipalize PG&E and other investor-owned utilities in California that have consistently failed to value public safety over investor profits.
- Implement distributed smart grids across the state to make our entire energy system more efficient. This will both reduce the demand on our power generation facilities and enable our public utilities to more quickly adapt to changing weather conditions and prevent devastating wildfires.
- Ban single-use plastics (outside of medical uses, including disabilities and special needs) specifically in food, beverage, and consumer product packaging. Plastics come from petroleum, take hundreds of years to decompose, and are leading to massive environmental contamination with unknown health impacts to humans and other species across the entire planet. We already have alternatives materials that are sustainable, fully recyclable or biodegradable that can readily replace plastics virtually everywhere.
- Get our residents out of their cars as much as possible, and fully electrify our transportation infrastructure in the process.
- We already have plans to fully electrify our public bus fleets in CA by 2040, but we need it to happen faster than that.
- And we need more trains as well as more dedicated/protected bus and bike lanes.
- We need to repair and expand our sidewalks to make them friendlier places for pedestrians to walk.
- Expand urban and suburban tree canopies across the state, and address shade equity concerns in our towns and cities, improving our local air quality and helping reduce our need for air conditioning during the summer months (which drives serious demand on our electrical grid).
- Expand urban and suburban green spaces and public parks across the state. This includes developing legislation that would push cities and counties across the state to convert municipal golf courses into public parks, which are demonstrably better uses of these publicly owned spaces.
We cannot continue to conduct business as usual. Addressing the needs of every Californian as we move forward is key to providing true environmental justice, and absolutely fundamental in not simply surviving but thriving as we wrestle with a changing climate.