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Cambridge Sets Pace for Clean, Sustainable Cities

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Cambridge Sets Pace for Clean, Sustainable Cities

Fossil fuels continue to contribute to negative effects of climate change.

Fossil fuels continue to contribute to negative effects of climate change.

Peter Fulweiler

Fossil fuels continue to contribute to negative effects of climate change.

Peter Fulweiler

Peter Fulweiler

Fossil fuels continue to contribute to negative effects of climate change.

Julian Knight, Opinion Editor

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As American politics have become increasingly divisive, it has become easy to lose sight of specific policy issues. But climate change and the use of fossil fuels are issues that all Americans have a stake in; they should be apolitical, and bipartisan efforts to combat them should be of the utmost importance.

Gone are the days in which the solution to climate change entailed regular recycling and using energy-efficient light bulbs; the UN’s recent report predicts that humanity is quickly running out of time to prevent an excessive rise in global temperature.

There have been numerous attempts over the years to combat the impact of humans on the environment, from protests against the Keystone XL pipeline in 2015 to the banning of plastic bags here in Cambridge. But the most wide-reaching proposition is a carbon tax—a system of taxes and fees levied on the producers of fuels depending on their carbon content. In this November’s midterm elections, the state of Washington had a ballot question referendum that would have placed a fee on fossil fuel emissions. I-1631, as it was called, would not only have cut Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2020; it would have raised more than $1 billion three years after its institution. The referendum was rejected by 56.3% of voters, some of whom cited the unfairness of such a tax on working families. Yet opposition to the ballot proposal didn’t come solely from these working-class interests—the oil industry provided much of the $31 million raised in opposition, likely in an effort to protect themselves from the damage such a tax would do to their profits.

This situation in Washington is far from unique, as under the Trump administration, many protections, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, were scaled back. There is little direct change that ordinary citizens can institute outside of election season. However, statewide referenda offer the promise of the people taking charge of their health, the environment, and their future by rejecting the power of fossil fuels and using their votes to directly limit the extent of harmful climate change. This is something that is already underway in Cambridge, as the 2002 Cambridge Climate Protection Plan promised an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; in fact, Cantabrigian policies surrounding climate change are centered around reducing such emissions through a variety of means, including an increased reliance on walking and bicycling, the introduction of more renewable forms of non-fossil fuel energy, and construction of energy efficient buildings (including CRLS, which received a LEED designation upon its 2009 renovation). Of course, these are steps in the right direction, but as the federal government moves away from acting against climate change, it will be up to cities and states to tackle the issue alone. Now, they must stand not only against fossil fuel companies, but against the Trump administration’s new policies to take charge and, in the case of Cambridge, levy carbon taxes, divest from fossil fuels, and promise to continue to fight this global issue on a local scale.

About the Contributors
Julian Knight, Opinion Editor

What elementary school did you go to?

King Open

What other activities are you involved in at CRLS and/or in the community?

NHS, Tuesday Meals...

Peter Fulweiler, Contributing Writer, Illustrator

What elementary school did you go to?

Baldwin

What other activities are you involved in at CRLS and/or in the community?

Soccer, Lacrosse, Basketball,...

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Cambridge Sets Pace for Clean, Sustainable Cities