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How do we meet the responsibility of Earth Day?

earth California wildfire.jpeg
DSCOVR:EPIC / NASA
Visible-light and ultraviolet images show the progression of the smoke from the historic wildfires on the west coast of the United States from Sept. 9–12, 2020.

On April 22, we celebrate the 52nd anniversary of Earth Day, which was a watershed event in the modern environmental movement in the United States.

It signaled a turning point in public awareness on the impact of all forms of pollution on the environment and was a call to action to protect human health by protecting the planet. In December 1970, U.S. lawmakers did act by establishing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This year’s Earth Day comes at another inflection point in public awareness about the threat climate change poses. In March, climate scientists issued an urgent warning that global action must be taken to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions in half by 2030. If that can’t be done, we risk losing the opportunity to keep global warming under the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius beyond pre-industrial levels.

A report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows a world on track to push past the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark and go as high as 2 or 3 degrees by the end of the century. That amount of warming will alter the world’s environment and create human suffering on a massive scale.

While the IPCC is calling on political leaders to act on a national and international scale, the report's authors said that work at the local level is also critical.

In San Diego, some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions come from cars, trucks, buses and heavy machinery. But the largest single sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the county are natural gas power plants.

The Otay Mesa Energy Center, The Palomar Energy Center and the Carlsbad Energy Center project report the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the county, according to the most recent EPA data. The power plants are all run by San Diego Gas & Electric or its parent company, Sempra Energy, to turn natural gas into electricity.

We want to know who you think has the most responsibility for responding to the urgent warning from scientists about climate change? What do you want San Diego’s political leaders to do to address climate change? What ideas do you have for reducing carbon emissions locally? What does climate action mean in your life? What steps have you taken to reduce your environmental footprint? How are you commemorating Earth Day this year?

Your response may be included in an upcoming Earth Day special on KPBS Midday Edition.

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