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Forecast Calls for Climate Change to Emerge as Topic in Pasadena City Elections

Worldwide issue could impact mayoral, council races

Published on Friday, January 3, 2020 | 6:26 am
A recent student march and "die in" at Pasadena City Hall put a focus on Pasadena's positions towards environmental issues. Now, some of the same students have organized a “Climate Action Forum” February 4, inviting mayoral and city council candidates to address the issue. Photo by James Carbone

[Updated] Associated Press Washington Bureau Chief Byron Price reportedly first wrote the immortal words, “All politics is local” in 1932, and fewer axioms have grown larger in importance with every election cycle.

Now climate change-seemingly a topic of global proportions far beyond local influence —- appears to shaping up as a topic in Pasadena’s politics leading up to city elections in March.

A recent student march to City Hall as part of a global climate strike brought the worldwide question home to Pasadena. Pasadena students and youth activists will also hold a “Climate Action Forum” February 4, inviting mayoral and city council candidates to address the issue.

“Pasadena is in a unique position to be a leader on the climate crisis,” said organizer and Sequoyah School senior Ozzy Simpson. “Local systemic change — such as enhanced public transportation systems, cleaner and renewable energy, and energy-efficient buildings—from mayors and city council members is required.”

But is it a large enough issue to base a platform on, or energize a local demographic or campaign? Among local candidates, responses vary.

During the recent student march and “die-in,” mayoral candidate Jason Hardin, as well as council candidates Tamerlin Godley, Felicia Williams and Ryan Bell reportedly all signed a petition in support of a “New Green Deal.”

District 6 candidate Godley said in an interview that she had visited 2,000 homes in Pasadena, and for some people it’s an important issue, and they expect (the City) to be a leader on changes that need to be made relating to climate change.

Pasadena has already incentivized electric cars, said Godley, and the City has its own water and power system, she noted.

The City is also on track to use over 90% renewable energy by 2027, said Godley.

“All that is good and people are supportive of that,” she said. But the City should also be thinking about moving its entire auto fleet to electric cars, said Godley, as well as having a “meaningful” recycling program that residents can understand.

District 4 Council candidate Kevin Wheeler, for his part, has pinpointed the issue right down to East Pasadena.

“This will affect water,” he told Pasadena Now. “According to the World Health Organization, about 50% of the earth’s people will be living in stressed areas by 2025. That’s very soon.”

For every new construction project, said Wheeler, there is a question of water, and whether or not there will be enough. It’s an issue that will affect how many people can actually live in Pasadena, said Wheeler.

“The finite amount of water that’s simply available, affects how much growth there can be,” Wheeler concluded.

District 2 candidate Kevin Litwin, while questioning the issue’s importance on a municipal level, also agrees that water is going to be important to the City’s future.

“If we can’t figure out how to retain some of this runoff from rain storms and that other good stuff like that, forget about electric vehicles,” said Litwin. “Me and you aren’t going to be able to hydrate ourselves.”

But Litwin sees the climate issue as a “top-down” concern, meaning that the State and Federal governments should take the lead, not cities.

Candidate Boghos “Bo” Patatian, also running for the 2nd District seat, doesn’t see the climate change issue as something that affects the Pasadena as much as other issues, however. For Patatian, the climate issue is low on the scale of his priorities.

“Of all the pressing issues affecting Pasadena, you guys are worried about global warming?” he asked a reporter.

Patatian continued, “The homelessness problem, with budgets run amok, with the price of housing going up…? It’s so absurd, I’m sorry.”

Local or worldwide, most scientists agree that climate change is a real issue, that continues to grow in scope and magnitude.

According to no less an authority than NASA, “Humans have caused major climate changes to happen already, and we have set in motion more changes still. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today, global warming would continue to happen for at least several more decades, if not centuries.”

NASA also notes on its website, that 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change.

Caltech scientist Tapio Schneider, Theodore Y. Wu professor of environmental science and engineering, also agrees that humans have caused global warming and climate change, most of that in the last 40 years.

The Earth will continue to get warmer and will see more extreme rainfall, along with more droughts in some areas, said Schneider in a recent interview.

City governments will have to adjust to a new normal in climate, said Schneider.

As he explained, “If you’re a city government planning stormwater management infrastructure, this is in the ground for 40 or 50 years, and you need to plan it so that your stormwater management infrastructure is adequately sized for what rainfall will be 50 years from now, which is probably going to be more intense than what we are having now.”

According to Schneider, no one city can stop climate change, or have much of an effect outside the city limits because emissions are globally distributed, “but we have to reduce emissions and reduce them to zero as fast as we can. That has to start somewhere, and that has to start locally.”

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