Climate change: Global problem, local response

By Susan Kang

The People’s Climate March was held this past Sunday, anchored by a Washington DC march that drew 200,000 protestors as well as 350 solidarity events in the U.S. and beyond.  As you may know, global climate change is a significant problem that is likely to have disastrous effects in our lifetimes.  We only need to look at the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy in New York City alone to recognize how vulnerable we are to rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and global warming.

peoples-climate_0.pngsource: Common Dreams

Global problems require global solutions.  The most important international agreement on global regime on climate change is the 2016 Paris Agreement.  This is the most recent development under the broader United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The broad goals of the Paris Agreement are as follows:

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

Currently, the United States is one of the biggest consumers of greenhouse gas, also known as carbon emissions.  Fortunately, the U.S. did ratify the Paris Agreement in 2016, but it is currently unclear how these principles will be enacted into law under the new presidential administration.

Activists in the United States know that inaction is not adequate, so one response has been to push for ambitious legislation to dramatically cut carbon emissions at the state level.  California currently has the strongest regulations and protections in regards to carbon emissions cuts, having recently passed laws to cut their greenhouse gases to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

This is impressive, but not as impressive as what’s on the table for NY State.  The NY State Assembly has passed a law that would reduce carbon emissions from major sources in the state to 0 by 2050. This is the most ambitious law in the country.  The bill’s Senate counterpart has dozens of sponsors and co-sponsors.  So why hasn’t it passed?

There’s a lot of reasons for this (many of which are beyond the scope of this blog post). But we can’t lose sight of the fact that international politics, including international laws and agreements, have a distinctly domestic and even local level of implementation.  So if you are passionate about stopping climate change, find out who is your NY State Senator, call them, and urge the passing of the Climate and Community Protection Act .

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