OPINION – Among the many benefits of living in California, besides the magnificent weather, is the continuing aforethought of its government leaders, progressive and determined to reverse the negative effects of climate change.
Senate Bill 535, authored by Los Angeles Senator Kevin DeLeon and signed by Governor Jerry Brown could very well inject as much as $12.4 Billion into disadvantaged communities throughout California.
The groundbreaking legislation ensures that at least 10 to 25 percent of cap and trade funds benefit communities most affected by environmental injustice and the negative effects of climate change which include increasing levels of disease, asthma and poor food consumption.
The legislature is currently poised to pass the state budget to include $850 million in revenues from the cap and trade program for the 2014-15 fiscal years. Once passed, this money will be distributed throughout the state on projects that directly reduce greenhouse gas emission in disadvantaged communities, most of which include communities of color.
California’s cap and trade program stems from the historical Global Warming Solutions Act passed in 2006. Also known as AB 32, this initiative was passed to reduce unhealthy, if not, deadly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the state to 1990 levels by the year 2020.
Cap and Trade requires auctions to determine how much carbon credit can be traded among GHG emitting corporations. Since November 2012, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has held six auctions which allow Governor Brown to propose the release of the $850 million into communities.
The overall goal is mitigate the negative effects of climate change. Scientists confirm excessive amounts of carbon dioxide — the primary developer of GHG — causes increased incidents of asthma, lengthens allergy season and raises pollen counts. According to the New Republic online magazine, one way climate change causes lung damage is through the spread of wildfires. A warmer, drier climate is linked to record-breaking wildfires, which have come dangerously close to threatening populated cities like San Francisco and Colorado Springs. Air pollution and smog also directly impair the lungs, and some studies liken breathing ground-level ozone and tiny particulate matter to inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke.
Last year, the World Health Organization declared air pollution to be a carcinogen, saying its link to lung cancer is clear and that it’s also associated with an increased risk for bladder cancer.
In agreement, with California’s efforts, President Barack Obama recently released the National Climate Assessment. The report revealed a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change and lead international efforts to address global climate change.
In addition, the assessment report clearly states, “Climate Change is not a distant threat, it is affecting Americans now.”
Policy makers and pundits continue to debate terminology. Global Warming is no longer in vogue. Resiliency and adaptation are the new terms due to our climate reality — summers are longer and hotter. Wildfires start earlier in the spring. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. Seasonal allergies last longer and droughts are increasing.
SB 535 is on the horizon and it is imperative we reach out to our elected officials and government agencies to determine specific projects within our community to reduce the amount of carbon emitted from cars, manufacturing plants, excessive energy consumption from non-renewable sources of energy within our homes, schools, churches and all commercial buildings. Securing this funding is the key, and then saving us and our next generation from us by reducing human caused GHG is critical to overall human health.
By Simeon Gant