This could be the coldest summer of the rest of our lives. So say researchers around the world, even while we are living through a broiling season and setting new heat records almost every day.
Across the globe, this June was the hottest June on record. July 3 was the hottest single day, worldwide, in recorded history. In Arizona, the sidewalks are so hot that if you fall on one, you can suffer severe burns. And July in Phoenix was the hottest month on record for any U.S. city, with an average of almost 103 degrees.
It’s going to get worse unless we do something about it. The evidence is so overwhelming that even some climate deniers are changing their tune — a little — although they’re still spreading dangerous propaganda.
For instance, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), just put out a really absurd publication called “The Kids’ Guide to the Truth About Climate Change,” which admits that the world is warming but is all about downplaying the human role.
As a parent, I get especially upset when people like Huckabee try to mislead kids, since our children will suffer the most if we let the earth continue to get hotter.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that we have the tools to fight back. And while we tend to look either to governments of the world’s major countries or our own carbon footprints for solutions, there are real options in the middle — at the local government level.
A new poll finds that very few Americans say they’re familiar with the Inflation Reduction Act. But they should be, because the IRA allocates some $369 billion in climate-related funding. And a lot of that can be accessed by local governments and authorities for green projects, things like building solar fields, installing geothermal heating or converting vehicle fleets to electric power.
This issue is close to my heart. When I was mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., we created an ambitious plan to become the nation’s first all-electric, carbon-neutral city. Our first step was to commit to decarbonizing all 6,000 buildings in Ithaca. It was an expensive proposition, one that would require a huge investment greater than the money we had on hand. So Ithaca created a public-private partnership that has already raised $100 million, and enlisted the services of a company that describes its focus as “greening aging urban buildings” — exactly what Ithaca needs.
Today, the city is making significant progress toward its goal.
There are other examples, too, like Yellow Springs, Ohio, which uses 80 percent renewable energy. Or Menlo Park, Calif., which is in a race with Ithaca to become the country’s first carbon-neutral city. Whoever wins, it’ll be great.
The point is that local governments — counties, cities and towns — are the ideal laboratories for innovative climate solutions like this. They can move faster and more nimbly than large national governments or agencies. They can engage the support of residents in a direct way. And their efforts can feel more meaningful to those who are frustrated by the slowness of action on the global scale or the smallness of our own personal actions, however important those are. That’s why President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which facilitates these solutions, is so critical.
And wherever we live, all of us are constituents of one or more local authorities. We can go to city council meetings and speak up. We can contact the local school district. We can elect local officials who will make green projects a priority, and encourage them to tap into federal government resources. It’s easier and more accessible than trying to influence Congress (although we should do that too).
There are still several weeks of summer left. More sweltering temperatures and more extreme storms are coming. And when it’s all over, there’s a real chance that 2023 will turn out to be the hottest year ever.
Now is the time to act, and to push local governments to lead.