EDITORIAL: BOLD NEXT STEPS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

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By Congressman Bob Filner
Democratic Representative from the 51st Congressional District

The impacts of the climate crisis are already being seen around the world through increasing hurricane intensity, melting ice caps, and refugees fleeing extreme weather conditions. Here in Southern California, we are particularly vulnerable to a variety of threats posed by unchecked global warming – threats to our environment, our economic stability, and our overall quality of life.

 

While residents of San Diego are no strangers to drought and emergency water conservation measures, climate change will bring a new generation of drought’s stranglehold on our communities as we see our water supply shrink from increasing average global temperatures. Local Scripps researchers concluded in an April 2009 report that if human-induced global warming continues to reduce runoff from the Colorado River, San Diego will be unable to deliver a regular water supply to the region (The press release can be found online at http://scrippsnews.ucsd.edu/Releases/?releaseID=977).

 

The impacts of permanent drought span from the health of individuals living in a climate of intensifying heat, to the prosperity of our agricultural industry. Unchecked global warming could bring a permanent alteration of growing seasons that could cripple California’s status as the fifth largest agriculture and food supplier in the world. The effects would be felt tremendously in my district, which the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census ranked 9th in value of total agricultural products sold out of California’s 53 congressional districts. Imperial County – which recently topped the Associated Press’ Stress Index of counties hit hardest by the current recession – cannot afford a threat of this level to an industry that supplies one fourth of the county’s jobs. The University of California estimates that the total economic impact of vegetable crops to communities in Imperial County is around 1.5 billion dollars.

 

California led the way in tackling climate change by adopting the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (A.B. 32), the first state-wide law in the U.S. that commits the Golden State to the essential emissions reduction targets outlined by scientists. Cities all over the State, including Chula Vista and San Diego, also are implementing localized plans to tackle climate change.

 

Not only the government, but also the San Diego industrial sector is recognizing the incredible potential for a clean, green economy that can come from implementing climate solutions. In a report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors last October, San Diego ranked 9th in the top 25 metro areas for green jobs. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 is responding to this tremendous opportunity to protect the environment, create career pathways out of poverty and help strengthen our middle class. Thousands of skilled workers throughout our region are trained and ready to implement everything from energy efficiency retrofits to wind and solar power systems. IBEW Local 569 continues to train new apprentices to power the clean energy economy and usher in a new era of prosperity for San Diegans.

 

Unfortunately, the efforts of citizens in San Diego and our lawmakers across California, while significant, are not enough to seriously tackle rapid global climate change – our federal government must follow suit. In fewer than 100 days, world leaders will unite at the United Nations (UN) climate talks in Copenhagen to negotiate a new global warming treaty. It is imperative that President Obama commit to emissions reduction targets that are based in science, not political compromise.

 

According to the latest findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s research body on climate change, industrialized nations like the U.S. must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at least 34 percent below current levels by 2020 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Recently, I voted for federal legislation known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). However, ACES does not sufficiently reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions – it is just the beginning.

 

I urge my colleagues in the Senate to strengthen ACES, the federal Climate Bill, by removing giveaways to polluters, by strengthening the emissions reduction targets, and by increasing the renewable energy standard to at least 20 percent by 2025 so that the U.S. truly invests in a green economy.

 

Bold legislation in the U.S. is the only way we can send a signal to the world that we are committed to a global effort to address the climate crisis. Without significant action on our part to account for our centuries of industrial pollution, we cannot expect the rest of the world to act with the sense of urgency required to make real headway on this critical issue. While Congress works to create policies at home, I urge President Obama to show the world at December’s climate talks in Copenhagen that the U.S. will commit to nothing short of what scientific facts dictate we must do.