Though President Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, this is no time for the 70% of Americans who believe climate change is happening, according to the Yale Climate Change program, to recoil in defeat.
Rather, we should feel empowered that a 2016 post-election poll of registered voters found that majorities of Democrats (86%), independents (61%) and Republicans (51%) alike wanted the United States to participate in the accord, according to Yale, and that two out of three voters said the U.S. should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions regardless of what other countries do.
Thus, it is exactly the time to speak out against the misguided actions of the White House by taking decisive steps well within our reach as individual citizens and communities.
After all, the Paris Agreement is only a broad-stroke commitment from participating countries to collectively limit global warming to 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. It has always been true that only Congress and legislative bodies at the state and local levels, not the president, can enact laws that can move us from a fossil fuel to a sustainable energy economy.
Here's what's happening at various jurisdictions around the nation already.
Efforts are underway to pass state-level carbon pricing mechanisms, with the ultimate goal to pressure Congress to act nationally on climate change. The state of New York enacted a carbon price on fuels in 2015, and various bills taxing carbon are in play in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
Oregon has already set a cap on carbon emissions, and in California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on July 25 extending to 2030 the state's first-in-the-nation cap and trade program wherein companies are required to buy permits to release greenhouse gases. California has also passed the first state-level resolution entreating Congress to enact a national carbon tax (the dividends would go to low- and middle-income residents to offset resulting price rises in consumer products).
Local jurisdictions around the nation are also feeling how critical it is to send a strong message to their representatives on the hill. Eleven cities have passed general resolutions calling on Congress to act on climate change, and resolutions passed in 35 other cities and counties, including 12 in California, more specifically petition for some form of a national carbon fee and dividend, according to the Climate Citizens Lobby.
Every American has it within their power to contribute to the growing momentum at community, state and national levels to address climate change head-on. Having your voice heard can be as simple as phoning your elected representatives to state your concerns to greater involvement through participation in local organizations focused on climate change solutions. This is how democratic change happens.
Newport Beach and other Southern California jurisdictions must do what others across the country have done, pass a resolution telling Congress to step up and lead the rest of the world in addressing the crisis of global climate change.