What do you do when your country’s federal government won’t do its part to combat climate change? Naturally, your fall-back option is to take it to the local level. In the United States, that means mayors, city councilors, and state legislators can be called upon to take matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, though, there’s concern that local action won’t be enough. According to The Guardian, new research says that local governments lack the political power to counteract the Trump administration’s inaction on climate change.
A team of researchers at Yale evaluated the climate efforts undertaken in nearly 6,000 cities, states, and regions. Together, these areas totaled roughly 7 percent of the world’s population. The group found that in these localities, local governments are only capable of making modest cuts in the amount of greenhouse gases their people emit. The local governments can bring down greenhouse gases by between 1.5 billion and 2.2 billion tons total between now and 2030; federal inaction can cause more than that.
“When we look at the individual pledges [by cities, regions, and businesses], the impact isn’t that large,” said Dr. Angel Hsu, the director of Data-Driven Yale. “We absolutely need national governments to pull through and do a lot of the heavy lifting. The actions of cities, companies, and states aren’t insignificant, but they can’t do it by themselves. This shows everyone can be doing more.”
The localities aren’t going to give up trying. In fact, a large group of city mayors and regional government representatives plans to meet in San Francisco this month to discuss possible actions that can “stave off the worst impacts of climate change.” Similar discussions are currently taking place among local leaders in China, India, and Brazil. Still, though, it will be a tall order for the world to stick to the Paris agreement goal of less than 2 degrees Celsius in global warming without the help of the sitting U.S. president.
Trump has been a major thorn in the side of climate progress. Not only has he pledged to leave the Paris agreement, but he’s also planning weaker vehicle emissions standards that will result in far more CO2 emissions. His EPA is also undoing years of pre-2017 progress.
“The world is in a desperate race between accelerating climate change and the innovation needed to cut emissions before it’s too late,” said John Sterman, director of MIT’s system dynamics group. “Cities, states, and business are in the lead, but they face stiff headwinds from weak national policies and the continued efforts of fossil fuel interests to undermine the innovation we need.
Photo: San Francisco City Hall. Mayors and other local government representatives met in that city to discuss climate change action. Credit: Shutterstock