The governor of California said recently that the climate change is no longer debatable. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season may become record-setting. As of Oct. 15, there have been 25 named storms, nine hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The Arctic has had 100-degree heat. The West Coast is burning. These climate emergencies remind us that unaddressed climate change costs lives, destroys property, ends livelihoods and undermines the health of people and communities.

After decades of studying the climate crisis, scientists tell us that human beings can prevent the damage it causes. The people of the world need to significantly reduce the burning of greenhouse-gas emissions which limit heat from going into the atmosphere. We can do that by ceasing to burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, and instead relying on renewable energy, like wind, geothermal and solar.

The nations of the world have stated in the Paris agreement that human beings will need to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Concretely, that means that we will need to heat and cool our homes with renewable energy and drive vehicles or take public transportation fueled by electricity.

Because President Trump is in denial of our primary role as humans in the climate crisis, he’s done nothing to get us closer to solving it. In 2017, he announced his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord, and the day after the election is the first day we can legally withdraw. Yet most of the nations of the world and many cities and states in the U.S. have taken significant steps to move us closer to the 2050 goal. The U.S. Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition of 25 governors committed to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement. Many cities have moved toward the Paris goals as well.

The cities of Portland and South Portland have released a draft of One Climate Future, a joint climate action plan. The plan brings together the cities with a shared commitment to reach these goals:

• Transitioning to 100 percent clean, renewable energy in municipal operations by 2040.

• Reducing community-wide greenhouse-gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

• Wherever possible, accelerating these reductions through rapid and equitable action by 2030.

Over an 18-month planning process, thousands of residents of both cities completed surveys, attended events and participated in workshops. These citizens produced One Climate Future to take on the climate crisis with bold action to ensure that the two communities can thrive now and in the future. It made sense to join forces to address the challenges they are facing now and will in the future such as floods caused by rising seas, more intense storms and higher temperatures.

One Climate Future includes nearly 70 strategies across four focus areas: buildings and energy; transportation and land use; water reduction, and climate resilience. Additional information can be found at oneclimatefuture.org. Both city councils will vote on the proposal.

The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has a very ambitious plan. The city council has declared a climate emergency and has approved a plan that will produce net zero carbon emissions in the city by 2030. The cost to accomplish that goal will be $1 billion, which will be spent mostly on transportation. Ann Arbor in 2030 will be very different from Ann Arbor in 2020.

The city has developed five strategies for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, including:

• Reducing vehicle miles traveled by at least 50 percent.

• Switching appliances and vehicles from gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas to electric.

• Powering the electric grid with 100 percent clean and renewable energy, which means that homes, businesses, vehicles and recreational sites will be powered by renewable energy.

• Significantly improving the energy efficiency of homes, businesses, schools, places of worship, government buildings and recreational sites.

• Significantly changing the way people use, reuse and dispose of materials.

You can learn about the Ann Arbor plan at a2gov.org/departments/sustainability/Pages/default.aspx.

Other cities and states across the country have developed and are implementing plans to achieve net zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Though the lack of action at the federal level is discouraging, U.S. cities and states are giving us hope.


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