California Governor: Issue a CLIMATE CHANGE EMERGENCY DECLARATION before it's too late
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Despite Climate Change having been identified by scientists, politicians, analysts and people from all over the world as “the greatest threat to humanity and life on Earth”, actions taken to address it have been few in number and haphazard in design because Climate Change has not been publicly recognized as, and officially declared, a global and local EMERGENCY.
It is very urgent that Governor Gavin Newsom, using his legal powers as Governor of California, issues a legally binding CLIMATE CHANGE EMERGENCY DECLARATION in order to commit all the organizational, structural, scientific and financial, Local, State and Federal resources to mitigate Climate Change and to deploy massive Climate Change Adaptation to protect Californians’ life, property and our invaluable environment.
The incontrovertible evidence is that Climate Change is rapidly increasing the number and magnitude of catastrophic events, like exceptional droughts, fire storms, heat waves, floods, blizzards, tornados, hurricanes, sea level rise, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, ocean acidification, extinction of plant and animal species, epidemics and pandemics, disruption of food production and other deleterious events that have disastrous consequences on our economies and on our wellbeing and survival.
Despite California being the fifth economy in the world, it has been already seriously impacted by Climate Change-Related catastrophes, which are getting more frequent and more severe. The 2020 impact of the widespread shutdown of California’s economy to respond to the COVID 19 pandemic, has become a very serious challenge to this economy, by another Climate Change-Related disaster.
The wildfires normal to California have quickly turned into unstoppable “fire storms” that destroy everything in their path. In 2015, during a 500-year drought, fires abounded, culminating in the Valley Fire that destroyed much of the town of Middletown. The trend continued, increasing in size and intensity of fires in 2017 (about 1.4 million acres burnt) and again in 2018 (about 1.9 million acres).
The October 2017 Fire Storms in Northern California, featured the Tubbs Fire which, in a few hours, destroyed 5% of the city of Santa Rosa, becoming the most destructive and expensive fire in California history. Then in December 2017, Southern California caught fire, ending the idea of a “fire season”. The Thomas Fire, in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, became the largest fire ever in California.
The records of 2017 were surpassed in 2018 by the Mendocino Complex as the largest ever in the State and the Camp Fire as the most destructive, most expensive and deadliest. About 20,000 structures were destroyed and at least 86 people were killed in the Camp Fire. It created over 50,000 “refugees" whose destinies may be very uncertain for years to come.
Climate Change was the generator of these “unprecedented” Fire Storms by providing abundant dry vegetation (including millions of dead trees), very low humidities, high air temperatures, unprecedented fire temperatures (up to 3,000 ºF in Santa Rosa) and strong and persistent winds (in December 2017, a PURPLE-FLAG WARNING was issued in Southern California for the very first time).
A conservative estimate of the cost of the 2017 fires to the California economy was $180 billion.
In February 2017, the confluence of Atmospheric Rivers, fueled by Climate Change, and of failing infrastructure, reminded Californians of another Achilles Heel: catastrophic flooding. The Oroville Dam (tallest dam in the U. S.) put 200,000 lives, thousands of structures and thousands of acres at very serious risk, when its main and secondary spillways suffered severe damage from the racing waters. Concurrently, compromised levees in Central Valley threatened Sacramento, other cities and farms. The 20,000 miles of levees and channels, and the 1,500 dams and reservoirs barely passed the test of a Climate Change-Powered Winter, warning that flood catastrophes can happen in a near future of more Atmospheric Rivers.
Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions are not on this brief recount of recent Climate Change-Related extreme events, but California must evaluate the areas at risk and prepare, because Climate Change is also making these events more frequent and more severe. These possibilities are aggravated by petroleum fracking operations and by the pumping of very large amounts of groundwater used to compensate for the lack of surface water, which is causing the separation of the lithosphere from the ground above, leading to the likely movement of tectonic plates.
Indicators of Climate Change are already in the danger zone. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere, which for 1.3 million years had not been higher than 275 ppm (parts per million) until the onset of the Industrial Revolution, are now above 410 ppm. Since 2015, the global average air temperature has been 1º Celsius, or more, higher than in pre-industrial times, levels that climate scientists recognized as the gateway to the acceleration of the disruptions of the Climate (1.5º Celsius for the first half of 2016 and 1.2º Celsius for the whole 2016). It is now confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record.
Without a CLIMATE CHANGE STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATION, this greatest-of-threats remains undefined and unacknowledged, taking away the focus necessary to effectively deal with it. We say that we are “fighting Climate Change” without having ever declared war.
The extent and nature of the problem requires immediate, massive mobilization of all resources to retrofit our economy to become a “carbon negative” economy, as fast as it is physically possible, as well as to unleash statewide Climate Change Adaptation comprehensive work (Including a well-funded and effective safety net for the Climate Change “refugees”, the organized relocation of populations in indefensible areas, and the sensible management of the environment and building and retrofitting of infrastructure, such as power grids and power plants, to protect communities at high Climate Change-risk) to minimize the damage from Climate Change-related events that are going to unfold from Climate disruptions that have already taken place.
In April 2018, Governor Jerry Brown predicted that, if carbon emissions aren’t radically reduced, billions of people will die, and admitted that California is not doing enough to avoid such horror. Knowing what is coming and not taking actions commensurate to the emergency will go into history as the greatest political and humanitarian failure to save humanity from a certain apocalyptic end.
In 2019, Climate Change as been officially recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as IRREVERSIBLE. Future deterioration can still be mitigated, but action must be immediate, must be massive and requires a level of mobilization of all our resources similar, or greater, to what this country experienced during World War II. Individual actions, while useful and necessary, are insufficient. Indirect measures, like taxes on carbon emissions, are, at this stage, ineffective.
Putting off the transformation of our societies to address Climate Change is extremely dangerous. Factors such as the long residence time of already emitted greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the activation of slow feedbacks (like the melting of the ice sheets and permafrost, and the heat saturation of the oceans) will soon make future mitigating actions ineffective.
There is a lot to lose from inaction and a lot to gain from speedy action. Without speedy action, catastrophes will not be curtailed and we will not be prepared for the consequences of Climate Change that can not be avoided. With speedy action, life and property and the environment will be better protected, California’s economy can be saved, and California will lead other States and Countries in the highly needed and greatest peaceful cooperation effort ever.
Governor Newsom, we demand your leadership of this massive transformation of California to a CLIMATE CHANGE-READY STATE. This life-affirming effort will give us the greatest chance of thriving through change instead of merely surviving change.
We are living in extraordinary times, that require extraordinary and immediate actions, and your extraordinary leadership.
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Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People,
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