By March we expect countries around the world to submit their climate change pledges under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Obama has pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. China has pledged to lower its GHGs and increase non-fossil fuel energy alternatives. And recently India has pledged to reduce emissions from fluorinated gases, strive for cleaner energy, and alleviate its air pollution. Rochester, NY isn’t a country, of course, but all communities around the world must be sprucing up for the COP21 Paris Climate Conference in December, where “The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.” (1.) Pledges must end up with favorable results:
“On that front, the next few years will be critical. Under the UNFCCC, countries around the world committed to produce an international climate action agreement. This agreement will be finalized at the annual Conference of the Parties, meeting in Paris in 2015 (COP 21). How UNFCCC negotiations progress between now and then will in part determine whether the world curbs climate change—or feels its worsening effects.”(World Resources Institute)
There are several changes afoot in Rochester that may have a profound effect on our local efforts to address Climate Change:
- ROCHESTER PEOPLES’ CLIMATE COALITION formed in September 2014 around the People’s Climate March, this powerful alliance is reorganizing to demand action on Climate Change.
- Rochester’s ‘Mothers Out Front’, new on the scene in Rochester, MOF engages mothers, grandmothers, and all who care about the next generation to direct our courage and strength toward assuring a healthy future for all. Stories are the fuel that inspire us and others to act. Read more: Moms mobilize against climate change (January 28, 2015) Rochester City Newspaper
- As I mentioned last week, the City of Rochester is starting to put together a Climate Action Plan. Read more: Rochester to undertake citywide climate inventory (January 21, 2015 Rochester City Newspaper)
- From cleaning up 4 parks a few years ago, this county program has increased to cover 21 parks this year: “The 6th annual Pick Up the Parks Event This event is designed to foster stewardship of our 21 parks and 12,000 acres within. We are all stewards of the great outdoors, so we encourage you to do your part to keep our parks, our waterways, and watersheds clean and green.”
- Greentopia Launches New York’s First Online Green Guide! “We are proud to announce the launch of the Greentopia Green Guide, a comprehensive guide and portal to all things green! This guide is for businesses and consumers alike. “–from Greentopia.
- World renowned climate scientist, activist and author, Dr. James Hansen has agreed to speak at the Rochester Regional Group of the Sierra Club’s Earth Day forum for 2015, Tuesday April 21st, 2015. Former NASA scientist and Climate Change expert Dr. James Hansen speaks at the local Sierra Club’s annual environmental forum, to be held at Monroe Community College. Various other events at other local venues will be included that day, and also Monday April 20th. See his TED talk here: https://lnkd.in/dgSc2Uq.
This isn’t a complete list. For example, many local businesses are acting on in lowering their carbon footprint. However, at the end of the day, all the actions we take must result in a dramatic change in the public’s attitude towards this worldwide crisis. We shouldn’t have to defend the science of Climate Change every time we bring it up. We shouldn’t have to argue with every climate denier who still hasn’t done their homework. Our local waste stream, waste water, water, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure must become more resilient for more extreme weather and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.
If our collective efforts don’t accomplish all this, we are fooling ourselves. If enough groups and individuals don’t join together to address Climate Change, if we only create a moral hazard by continuing to pick up more litter but don’t’ try to end it, if the City ends up with a Climate Action Plan that looks good on paper but doesn’t bring down GHGs, if our attempts to create a list of green companies only results in greenwashing (if there isn’t rigorous standards and vetting), and if we invite a world-class climate scientist to speak to just the choir, we might be making matter worse by wasting valuable time.
Climate Change has changed everything, especially our environmental actions. We can no longer just appease our sense of aesthetics and our feelings towards our environment—our life support system. Our present actions must result in a dramatic decrease in GHGs and address all the historical environmental issues at the same time—the loss of biodiversity, pollution, overpopulation, food shortages, and much more.
COP21 Paris is coming up soon. Will all the above local actions add up to making a real difference? It’s up to you.