Recently my son Alex (pictured above with me three years ago as he got ready to begin his junior year at UC Berkeley) said to me: “I am tired of hearing people give up on the fight to end climate change. We voted for Measure R and M to create more transit. Why can’t we vote to do what we need to do to end climate change?”
My response? “I believe we can. In fact, it may be the only way for us to actually do what we need to do to end climate change."
Indeed a ballot measure—after the COVID crisis is over, like in November 2022—may be the only way to raise the scale of resources we need to make the investments required to accelerate zero and near-zero emission cars, trucks, trains, ships and airplanes to market as well as their charging or fueling infrastructure.
As we celebrate today the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day (also Alex’s birthday—he is 24 today), we at Move LA believe that we can chart a course to conquer climate change and permanently conquer air pollution if we can double-down (or better) on California’s leadership and investment in super-clean transportation—zero emission where we can, near-zero otherwise.
And California must make reducing short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) like black carbon and biomethane a top priority. SLCPs are more powerful climate forcers than CO2 and decay in the atmosphere much, much faster. An aggressive strategy to reduce them can actually roll back climate change.
California is leading the world in the deployment of zero and near-zero emission vehicles. In regards to clean transportation, what California does becomes a model for the world!
An additional $2 billion a year for clean transportation investments would about double California’s current effort. We know voters—whether in LA County, all Southern California, or statewide—would support a measure to do this.
Transportation emits 40% of our GHG emissions and 80% of our air pollution.
What do we need to do?
- "Drive" clean transportation technologies like zero-emission vehicles to the marketplace much faster and at scale—light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles! Simply put, we need to get to economies of scale (the secret sauce) quickly in order to make ZEVs cheaper than their gasoline and diesel counterparts. Then the marketplace itself—the national or even worldwide marketplace—will help rather than hinder our effort.
- "Drive" near-zero-emission long-haul heavy-duty trucks to the marketplace because ending the reign of diesel is priority #1. Diesel emissions are toxic to our neighbors, especially in frontline communities near freeways and ports. A smart clean truck program can address this need and get rid of short-lived climate pollutants, as mentioned above.
- Build public infrastructure for zero-emission, safe and worry-free bicycle and pedestrian activities. We have all enjoyed walking or biking around our neighborhoods but it is challenging with the need for social distancing. By investing in safer, better-connected sidewalks and bicycle lanes, we will save countless lives (at least 236 people were killed in car crashes on LA's streets in 2019 and half were pedestrians).
- Expand zero-emission regional transit, including Metrolink, our 534-mile regional rail network. Their "SCORE" proposal would invest in the infrastructure necessary to create fast, frequent, reliable, and safe regional transit. Metrolink CEO Stephanie Wiggins is very ambitiously working toward a zero-emissions future. And Metrolink will be the host system for high-speed rail in Southern California. Most Metrolink riders own a car but choose to ride transit. An investment of about $10 billion would remove 3.4 billion vehicle miles traveled, decreasing GHG emissions by 51.6 metric tons.
- Help complete the zero-emission California High-Speed Rail project. This project has a new lease on life under new CEO Brian Kelly. Instead of an “Oy vey!” it could become an "OMG!"
- Accelerating key local transit projects like the light rail projects to Artesia and West Hollywood and a monorail over the Sepulveda Pass will make it easier for people to ditch their single passenger vehicle and make a cleaner future possible.
All this will take serious investments. We learned when passing Measures R and M for transit in LA County that we can raise serious money at the ballot box to help achieve seemingly impossible goals—these measures together are raising more than $1.5 billion per year and will raise up to $120 billion for transportation over 40 years, 70% of that for transit.
Investments like these means lots jobs. The SCORE proposal alone would create 1.3 million jobs and $684 billion in gross regional product throughout Southern California. This is exactly the type of economic stimulus our region needs right now as we face a recession because we've lost hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The State of California is already investing big bucks in the fight against climate change. Now we need to double down on that investment. And we know how to do this because we have done it before.
So what if we could vote to end climate change? Would you?
And as I explained to my son, "just like R and M, when we vote, it gets started instantly, but it doesn’t all get done instantly. But it will get done eventually."
We have a decade to act before the irreversible impacts of climate change drastically change our lives. We have all felt what dramatic and sudden change feels like—except with the climate crisis, we can see it coming and have the opportunity and foresight to act.
If we make the necessary investments now, we can beat climate change and secure our children’s future. Will you join us?