An Open Letter to Local Elected Officials on Climate Leadership

by James Gore and Meghan Sahli-Wells

This was originally distributed in partnership with the Local Government Commission.

Normally, local government has more than it can handle without also taking on state, federal, and international policy challenges. But these are not normal times.

With over 4 million acres burned by wildfires this year, toxic smoke smothering the state, and eerie orange skies, every Californian was impacted. At least 35 people died directly from our state’s wildfires since mid-August and a recent analysis from Stanford estimates that more than 1200 Californians lost their lives prematurely due to wildfire smoke.

The impact on government services that emergencies exact, from the loss of property to other economic losses due to fire damage and disruption, is enormous. One estimate of these losses for the 2019 fire season is at $80 billion (and that’s at a fraction of the acres we’ve lost this year— 259,823 acres burned). Another study shows that $80 billion invested in climate measures in California would generate 727,000 new jobs. Investments in clean energy generate more than two times the yield of a similar investment in fossil fuels. Inaction is significantly more costly than action.

The sad truth is that fire seasons will only get worse going forward as climate change marches forward if we don’t act soon. With nine of 15 global climate tipping points already activated and new science documenting climate impacts worsening more quickly than anticipated, we must do much more, much sooner.

Scientists and economists are clear. We must dramatically cut emissions and remove warming pollutants we’ve already put into the atmosphere to secure a climate-safe future. To avoid runaway climate change, we must accelerate climate policy timelines and invest now to avoid significantly greater costs in terms of lives and dollars later.

The times demand that local governments join others in actively working for bolder climate policy from the state.

Building on the success of other climate and economic development initiatives such as Community Choice Energy (now providing 88% greenhouse gas-free electricity to over 11 million Californians) The Climate Center, in collaboration with the Local Government Commission and others, is now leading the ambitious Climate-Safe California campaign that offers targets and solutions commensurate with recent science. With over 650 endorsements to date from business, elected officials, nonprofit leaders and others, we are reaching out to you to join us in endorsing this urgent effort to let the Governor and state legislature know that local elected officials demand more. California must lead and climate action starts locally.

Since we at the local level are the ones feeling the brunt of the effects and will be the one’s implementing the changes required to address this crisis, we must make our voices heard, especially at this critical pivot point as we plan for post-COVID recovery.

Please join us in supporting Climate-Safe California today.

Thank you very much.