Climate Contribution: Our city’s efforts and how you can help reduce impacts

Millions of people displaced from rising sea levels. Drought, famine and natural disasters from extreme weather events are expected to increase. These are just a few realities of a world where we don’t change our habits.

Staggering statistics on Climate Change are released every year, warning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, but as the threat of ultimate doom increases so does the need to take action. 

The United States was rated in the top three coal consumers in 2018, behind China and India, and carbon dioxide emissions are the single largest source responsible for a global temperature increase above pre industrial levels, according to National Geographic.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special report stating that to stop irreversible effects of Climate Change, the global temperature must not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, which means net zero carbon emission by the year 2030.

“Emissions, most of that’s connected to energy and that’s … something that’s out of the individuals hands,” Alicia Szebert, Palo Alto High School AP Environmental Science teacher said.

In recent years, Palo Alto has made many changes to its energy’s emissions. As of 2013, the city has been using 100% carbon neutral electricity and since 2017, Palo Alto’s natural gas is also 100% carbon neutral.

While the city is doing what it can to reduce climate change impacts, it is also up to the consumers to make conscious decisions in their lives. Buying from environmentally conscious companies and reducing your intake of trash and recyclables are two simple acts that will reduce your carbon footprint.

Some actions Paly students can take are commuting to school by biking, walking, public transit or with an electric car. All of these alternatives will reduce the carbon emissions that come with driving a gasoline powered car.

Furthermore, bringing lunch in a reusable container will reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging that often comes with packaged lunches from Town and Country Village. 

“If you’re buying more sustainably, if you’re using things that are less processed and less packaged, you’re going to ultimately be creating less and less emissions,” Szebert said. “Along every step of the process, extraction, processing, refining, all of that is going to create pollution and emissions.”

Another step taken by Palo Alto is the goal to be zero waste by 2030. 

One of the biggest changes made was Palo Alto’s plastic bag ban, in place since 2013. This legislation was reported to have reduced 20 million plastic bags from usage after the first year, according to the City of Palo Alto.

“Overall, reducing of plastic is definitely a good step. … It’s going to bring awareness,” Szebert said. “All the plastic bags that don’t exist, that’s less waste.”

Reducing plastic waste is an important step to becoming zero waste. Plastics take hundreds of years to decompose due to the chemicals and preservatives used to make them. 

There are still steps to be taken not just by local communities and individuals, but by big business and the state and national government. Legislation must be put in place to cap and eventually halt all emission by companies which are doing the bulk of the damage. 

The only way to reach net zero carbon emission by 2030 is to hold companies responsible for their contributions and make them stop. Write to your legislators, demand change and most importantly, vote for people who will make a difference.

PROUD TO PROTEST. Palo Alto High School students take time out of their lunch to participate in the international student climate strike on Sept. 20. Standing on the corner of Embarcadero and El Camino Real, these activists bring awareness of the issue to passersby. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s peninsula branch joined students at the protest. “We are for action against climate change. We are for people joining together to stand publicly,” said Judy Adams, member of the groups peninsula branch which opened in 1922.