Some 17,000 people live in Boone, N.C. -- and none are movie stars, as far as I know. But this charming little mountain town does share at least two things with the city of Los Angeles.
Both Boone and L.A. are going to be hit hard by climate change. And both communities are fighting back.
On June 27, Los Angeles joined more than two dozen other U.S. municipalities -- including Boone -- in urging President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Air Act to tackle global warming. The L.A. City Council unanimously approved a resolution seeking protections for air quality and reductions in greenhouse gas pollution.
That makes L.A. the 28th city to join the Center for Biological Diversity's national Clean Air Cities campaign. Others that have signed on to our effort include Chicago, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Tampa. Boone was one of the first.
"Los Angeles supports the Clean Air Act, and we want to see this landmark environmental law used to tackle greenhouse gas pollution," said Paul Koretz, the L.A. councilmember who introduced the resolution. "Our city has been a leader in the fight against climate change, and we're proud to back federal efforts to reduce global warming hazards."
In all, city councils representing more than 12 million people across the country have joined the call for action on climate change.
What draws these diverse communities together? It's simple: They are led by thoughtful people, and they will be among the cities to suffer most from climate change.
Like Los Angeles and Chicago, they may face a future filled with heat waves and worsening rates of heat-related deaths and respiratory diseases like asthma. A new UCLA study released last week projects that climate change will triple the number of days above 95 degrees in downtown Los Angeles. In parts of the San Fernando Valley, the number of high-temperature days will quadruple.
They may have to cope with dramatic sea-level rises, which will wreak havoc in low-lying coastal cities like Tampa.
Or, like Boone and Boulder, they may be profoundly concerned by the damage a warming climate will inflict on wildlife, fragile ecosystems, and the natural wonders that support vital tourism industries.
But the truth is that no community in the United States is likely to escape the negative consequences of our warming world.
Whether it's increased drought and wildfire risk, a swelling tick population, or the extinction of the polar bear and other amazing animals, we're all likely to pay a steep price -- unless our leaders change course.
The good news is that there is still time to act. To avoid catastrophic, irreversible impacts, leading scientists say that we need to get CO2 concentrations down to 350 parts per million.
We can get that process started right now by using the Clean Air Act, one of the most powerful existing laws available for reducing carbon pollution to safer levels. The Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe for four decades. By curbing air pollution, it is responsible for dramatically reducing dangerous pollutants such as lead, sulfur dioxide and fine particulates.
The Obama administration has started applying the Clean Air Act to carbon dioxide pollution. But the process is moving far too slowly, and big polluters and their allies in Congress are seeking every opportunity to undermine the process.
Now Los Angeles and Boone are joining hands with Salt Lake City and so many other cities to send a clear message to national leaders. Big or small, Clean Air Cities are staring down the barrel of a climate catastrophe -- and they know the time for action is now.
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