Letter to the Editor: Advocating for climate action with our local and state governments

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The Paris Agreement was adopted through the UN in 2015 that has brought 185 nations together in a collective effort to take significant steps to combat climate change by keeping global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement requires countries to put forward their best efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which increase over time. The Paris Agreement does not enforcement state complacence with the NDCs but all countries are required to report on their progress. 

The US pulling out the Paris Agreement is a major issue. The US is the only country out of 185 to formally pull out of the Paris Agreement and we contribute to 15% of total global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes according to a 2014 study by the US Department of Energy. Although experts project that US emissions will be 14 to 18% lower than 2015 levels in 5 years, this is much less than what needs to be done to adequately address climate change. By withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, we directly support perceptions that the US is not committed to combatting climate change and we are not concerned with protecting vulnerable and underprivileged American communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change

Climate change is an issue that has local impacts, which is why we should all have a vested interest in taking action against the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. In the Northeast:

  1. Changing seasons due to climate change affects rural ecosystems, environments, and economies. Northeast seasonality is critical to rural economies, and the milder winters and earlier spring conditions that we are experiencing due to climate change are already affecting ecosystems and environments in ways that negatively impact tourism, farming, and forestry. In addition, changes to forests, wildlife, streamflow, and snow trends have also affected rural industries and livelihoods.  

  2. Changing coastal and ocean habits, ecosystem services, and communities affects the economy. The Northeast coast and ocean are important factors to supporting the economy and way of life through commerce, tourism, and recreation. Warming ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification threaten these services. In addition, climate-change affected marine ecosystems and coastal communities will continue to influence ecological and socioeconomic outcomes.  

  3. Climate change is affecting critical infrastructure, urban economies, and historic sites. The Northeast’s regional and national hubs for cultural and economic activity are significantly affected and will continue to be affected by climate change.

  4. Climate change threatens human health. Changing climates increase extreme weather, warmer temperatures, degradation of air and water quality and sea level rise. This can disproportionately affect the health of people based on location, age, current health, and other individual and community characteristics

Climate change threatens to significantly affect our Northeast ecosystems, infrastructure, economies, and livelihoods. As UConn students, we have a responsibility and opportunity to show our support for continued US commitment to our NDCs outlined in the Paris Agreement, aiming to reduce US emissions to 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Our commitment to advocate for ambitious climate action efforts will be key to ensuring strong US leadership on climate action despite our administration’s efforts to reduce our global climate action impact. As a call for action, we need to encourage our governors to step up climate action by joining the US Climate Alliance. By advocating for climate action with our local and state governments, we can take important steps to putting UConn on the map as a community that has made a commitment to protecting our planet, our future.

Himaja Nagireddy

himaja.nagireddy@uconn.edu

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