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    Our Biggest Threat Is Bigger Than We Thought

    By Peter Gallotta–

    As mobs of American consumers lined up outside of big box stores on Black Friday this year, the federal government quietly released a dire report on climate change. While the video of a crowd swarming a Victoria’s Secret for marked down Sherpa fleece hoodies was hard to watch, the federal government’s report is harder to stomach. The report, in short, explicitly warns that climate change may soon endanger the American way of life—from hundreds of billions of dollars in costs to our economy to impacting the health of nearly every American.  

    The National Climate Assessment, as the report is called, was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) along with NASA, the Department of Defense and 10 other scientific agencies, and it basically says everything that Donald Trump will not. Remember our President’s latest idea for addressing the climate crisis? Raking. That’s right. Standing in between a bewildered Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom in fire-ravaged Butte County, California, Donald Trump pointed to inadequate raking as the cause. This from the President of one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases. Could we be in any more trouble?

    The irony of watching Governor Brown and Governor-elect Newsom stand between the Raker in Chief is that California is arguably doing more to address climate change than any other state in the country. As the world’s fifth largest economy, this has tremendous ripple effects. Over the past eight years, Governor Brown has helped push forward a climate agenda, from accelerating electric vehicle adoption to extending cap and trade. In arguably one of the most ambitious targets ever set, Governor “Moonbeam” issued an Executive Order committing California to total, economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045.

    We are lucky to live in California and to have leaders up and down the state who recognize that climate change is actually a real threat. But is it enough? A coalition of over 800 environmental groups called “Brown’s Last Chance” would argue it’s not. Throughout Brown’s last year as Governor, the coalition has mounted an aggressive campaign to get Brown to commit to wholesale change.

    That’s because California remains a state with active oil and gas drilling. Despite committing to 100% renewable energy, fossil fuels continue to be extracted here. That’s why some are arguing that it’s time for California to put a stop to granting new permits for oil or gas drilling, fossil fuel infrastructure, or petrochemical projects, both onshore and offshore. And that it’s also time to phase out the oil and gas industries and promote an equitable economic and energy transition that protects workers, communities and those most affected by the impacts of dirty fossil fuel extraction.

    Governor-elect Newsom certainly has a big job to fill and the calls for urgent action on climate change will only get louder. The question then is: how bold will he go? Perhaps he would do well to take a page from Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s book. The newly elected Congresswoman from New York made headlines recently after participating in a protest on Capitol Hill that called for a “Green New Deal.” Ocasio-Cortez’s vision for a “Green New Deal” is one similar to President Roosevelt’s package of policies focused on investments in people and jobs that helped to lift the United States out of the Depression.

    A “Green New Deal” could not only push the United States to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, but also could call for infrastructure investments to upgrade the nation’s electrical grid and building stock to be more energy efficient. Its package of policies could even include programs like universal basic income and universal healthcare, which would help to lift families out of poverty and improve community resiliency and health in the face of a changing climate that could worsen air quality and cause faster spreading diseases. While Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal faces significant political hurdles, 12 House Democrats have already signed onto a resolution supporting the idea.

    I, for one, am hungry for bold, new ideas. Our climate and economic systems are out of whack. We have liberal, progressive principles with neoliberal, industry-protecting policies. And it’s becoming abundantly clear that we need to move government to act faster and more aggressively to address income inequality, secure universal health care, regulate polluters and put a stop to greenhouse gas emissions. The New Deal itself may not have been entirely popular at the time, but can you imagine life today without Social Security?

    It’s never been more of a serious time to contend with the climate crisis as an existential one. No one thought we’d be wearing masks walking around San Francisco due to a week of bad air quality. But we did. And we may very well again. And next time, for longer.

    How many wildfires and droughts can we withstand until we get the message? Even this federal government is trying to tell us. Some of the best ideas in history were not ones that came from within the box. We’ve got to move beyond the status quo and business as usual here in California and throughout the country. It’s time, Governor-elect Newsom, to change the game. After all, without clean air, clean water and clean energy, how will anyone be able to bum-rush stores for Sherpa fleece hoodies next Black Friday?

    Peter Gallotta is a 30-something LGBT political activist holding on to the city that he loves thanks to rent control and two-for-one happy hour specials. He is a former President of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and currently serves as an appointed member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee and an elected delegate to the California Democratic Party.