A Letter From Mayor Ted Winterer for Earth Month

April 3, 2018
by Ted Winterer

A Letter From Mayor Ted Winterer for Earth Month

Three 500-year storms in Houston in three years. Devastating hurricanes in the southeast fueled by warmer ocean temperatures. Here in Southern California, we suffered through the largest wildfire in the state’s history, wrought by a red-flag warning unprecedented in duration. Coral reefs dying off in Australia and water supplies in Capetown about to run out. It’s hard not to believe that our climate is changing. Yet we know there are individuals and institutions who are denying that climate change exists and are putting our lives and prosperity at risk with ill-advised policies. We cannot wait for solutions from those who refuse to recognize the problem.

Santa Monica has long been a leader in sustainability and climate action. We recognize that our impact matters and that we have an obligation to limit planet-warming greenhouse gases. To date, we have been successful in reducing greenhouse gases 20 percent below 1990 levels, a goal the State of California seeks to achieve by 2020.

Back in 2009, the Pentagon identified climate change as the greatest threat to national security in the upcoming decades. Not terrorism, Russian imperialism or Chinese economic hegemony, as the specter of famines, mass migrations and political instability poses the greatest threat to world order. Consequently, the experts commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff identified three ways to mitigate the future impacts of climate change: a transition to renewable energy; replacing modern farming practices with regenerative agriculture; and compact, walkable neighborhoods which reduce vehicle miles traveled.

We clearly don’t have any farms in Santa Monica. However, every time we shop for organic produce at our farmers markets, where CalFresh vouchers are doubled in value, we support sustainable soil management which sequesters carbon. We’ve long incentivized the installation of solar power in homes and businesses and soon, through our participation in the Clean Power Alliance of Southern California, every resident and business in town will be able to use electricity with a higher proportion of renewable energy than provided by our local private utility. We have ambitious plans to dramatically increase electric vehicle charging stations to reduce local emissions. And we have completed and are working on a suite of water storage and treatment projects to prepare for the “new normal” of prolonged droughts.

These solutions have been largely non-controversial, but others have stirred the ire of some in our City. The addition of bike lanes to encourage the use of various modes of carbon-free and carbon-light transportation have been resisted by those who dislike their encroachment on the traditional right-of-way for autos. The new bus-only lanes on southern Lincoln Boulevard during rush hours perturbed many, even though no lanes for cars were removed. And the development of new housing downtown, which puts jobs, housing and transit in close proximity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, has been particularly troublesome for many of our residents, who ascribe these changes to dark motives rather than a desire to do our part to address the failing health of our planet. 

The fact is: change is hard for many of us to accept. But these changes, happening across our country, are necessary in cities and states throughout the U.S. if we are to do our part to mitigate climate change in the absence of Federal action. So if you see new bus-only lanes or dedicated bike paths or housing near the Expo Line, please remember: these are changes to address climate change.

We are setting our sights on becoming a carbon neutral community by 2050 or sooner. We are among an international coalition of cities, institutions and businesses committed to upholding the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which set a goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Filling the gap of the nation’s refusal to participate in climate action will not be easy. But Santa Monica has shown that we are a community that cares and is committed to doing the right thing. Our forthcoming Climate Action and Adaptation Plan will chart a pathway to significantly reduce emissions from our buildings, vehicles and waste sources. It will require significant shifts in lifestyle and technologies.

Ultimately, it will be individual decisions and actions that you make every day that will matter. Whether it’s the trip to the store or the lights in the home, your actions to go green will contribute to our collective impact.

I invite you to join us at our forthcoming Climate Fest on May 19. It will be an empowering day with engaging speakers, community discussions and activities geared to give you resources to be a local climate hero. I’ll be leading a bike ride to the event and hope you can join me. For these details visit the events section of the City’s Facebook page @CityofSantaMonica.

Ted Winterer,

City of Santa Monica Mayor 

@SaMoMayor on Twitter

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