How Silicon Valley is rising to climate challenge

Mercury News

Long before Silicon Valley counties declared a climate emergency, we knew that we were facing a climate crisis. For half a century, scientists warned of the looming threat. Yet, the collective legacy of climate action leadership has been far too slow, tepid and cautious.

Policy makers have too often tinkered around the edges of the market economy hoping it would somehow respond with miraculous solutions, despite the fact that market forces in the energy sector, a system dependent and premised upon abundant and cheap fossil fuel, was a basic root cause of the problem. Perhaps, it was hoped, the consumer would demand change. But as real income shrank over the course of the same half century, consumers lacked the financial resources to purchase homes, cars, electricity, and other products and services that would reduce their carbon footprint.

The result of this folly is now upon us. Our children have organized millions of people in the Youth Climate Strike demanding that we take action now. We cannot run from rising sea levels that will soon flood our communities if left unchecked.  We cannot hide from searing heat waves that will become more intense and more frequent, nor the resulting wildfires and droughts. As they absorb more CO2, our oceans are trapping heat and becoming more acidic which imperils the largest ecosystem on earth.

Fortunately, our local power, supplied by local community choice energy agencies in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, is now almost entirely greenhouse gas free, coming from sources like wind, solar and hydro.

Seizing the opportunity, cities across Silicon Valley, varying in size from San Jose and San Mateo, to Mountain View and Menlo Park, have shown climate leadership by adopting ordinances, including reach codes, to transition away from the use of fossil fuels in new buildings. More than 20 other cities in Silicon Valley are now exploring actions to promote the construction of all-electric new buildings, which is vitally important as buildings contribute approximately 40% of our carbon emissions.

The aim is to build future cities that feature decarbonized buildings and to challenge the market to provide the technology not wished for, but required to achieve this goal. A carbon free future is exactly what our children, our cities, and our region deserves. As local leaders, we plan on working together to make it a reality.

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