A Green New Deal for Pasadena: Why Pasadena Needs to Pick up the Slack and Take Responsibility in Combating the Climate Crisis

4 min read

Scientists say we have 10 years until the climate crisis becomes irreversible. 10 years. If we do nothing, and even if we continue to take small steps towards combating the climate emergency, come 2030, we will have failed. Failed our planet, failed our children, failed ourselves. At that point, it will be impossible to escape the ravaging hurricanes, fires, and other extreme weather events our planet faces.

Of course, there are different approaches governments and individuals can take to combat the climate crisis. The Green New Deal, sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey in the Senate, is what the U.S. should move towards. Sunrise Movement describes the Green New Deal as “a 10-year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030, a guaranteed living-wage job for anyone who needs one, and a just transition for both workers and frontline communities.” New Consensus, who has advised Representative Ocasio-Cortez, Justice Democrats, and Sunrise on the Green New Deal, outlines four projects the Green New Deal would undertake to accomplish its goals: retrofitting buildings to maximize energy and water efficiency; meet “100% of our power demand through clean, renewable energy”; remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. manufacturing industries; and eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. transportation systems.

While these are lofty goals and projects, they are undoubtedly possible and absolutely necessary to ensure future generations have a planet to live on. No matter how much it might cost, we need to enact a Green New Deal—after all, money becomes worthless with no one to spend it.

However, we do not have to wait for the U.S. Congress to pass the Green New Deal. While the federal government is in a period of inaction (and even going backwards on environmental policy) on the climate crisis, it is time for state and local governments to pick up the slack and take matters into their own hands.

That is where Pasadena comes in. While many of Pasadena’s elected officials and candidates believe that the climate crisis either is not a real issue or is not something that Pasadena can or should do anything about, it is imperative that Pasadena does all it can to combat the climate crisis. In a recent Pasadena Now article, District 2 candidate Kevin Litwin noted that he “sees the climate issue as a ‘top-down’ concern, meaning that the State and Federal governments should take the lead, not cities.” Lately, as I’ve talked to Pasadena news reporters and candidates about the recent climate strikes and the upcoming Climate Action Forum, I’ve heard Litwin’s perspective echoed constantly. And they’re all wrong.

While our local politicians may not think the climate crisis affects Pasadena, science begs to differ. PCC student and amateur climatologist Edgar McGregor wrote in 2018: “From 1909-2017, my hometown, Pasadena, California, has warmed 6.5 degrees [Fahrenheit] and lost 15% of annual rain. Summer has carved its way so far into fall that late Octobers, such as in 2017, can blister as hot as July. Meanwhile, nighttime lows fail to even approach the preindustrial [sic] average year-round, as December continuously feels like October.” For reference, the IPCC says that going from 1.5°C to 2.0°C (equivalent to 3.6°F) of global warming would result in 1.7 billion more people experiencing heat waves, sea level rises of nearly four inches, and other devastating consequences.

How can Pasadena combat the climate crisis, you (and our elected officials) might ask? Well, the Green New Deal’s projects are easy to adapt to Pasadena. Pasadena can encourage more green building as well as retrofit old buildings (new windows and insulation, for example, to make buildings more energy-efficient). With its own power company, Pasadena can shift to 100% renewable energy almost on its own. (Pasadena Water and Power does plan to meet 60% of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2030, but as District 6 candidate Ryan Bell wrote recently: this “relies on voluntary action by residents and businesses. This is not nearly aggressive enough.”) And, with a city-owned public transportation system, Pasadena should transition to 100% electric energy vehicles and encourage more riders by expanding service and making public transit free (as it was from 1994–2003). The City of Pasadena should also work with LA Metro to make the Gold Line free. In addition to improving public transportation, I agree with Ryan Bell, who says that Pasadena needs to improve options for cycling and walking.

Other cities are already taking action, too. In 2007, Santa Barbara adopted the Architecture 2030 challenge, which aims for buildings to become carbon neutral by 2030. Seattle’s Green New Deal resolution, adopted in August 2019, calls for “free public transit, a limit on new fossil fuel construction, 100 percent electric vehicles for ride sharing, and an infrastructure plan that takes sea level rise into account, among other ideas,” Inside Climate News reported in August.

It is time for Pasadena to take real, innovative action. That’s why I’ve been working so hard during the already-busiest time of high school planning climate strikes and forums, speaking at City Council, and starting a Sunrise hub at Sequoyah. Our city is in a position to be a leader of smaller cities in combating the climate crisis. I’m glad to see that candidates like Jason Hardin, Charlotte Bland, Felicia Williams, and Ryan Bell signed the Green New Deal pledge. If they win their elections, I hope to see all of them propose and support a local Green New Deal. In fact, I’m delighted that Ryan Bell already has plans for what a local Green New Deal could look like.

Until Pasadena takes real action, I will continue to join my peers in pressuring our local elected officials (and candidates) to make the bold and necessary changes required for Pasadena to become climate-resilient and uphold its responsibility in combating the climate crisis.