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Our planetary predicament
“Every decade is consequential in its own way, but the twenty-twenties will be consequential in a more or less permanent way. Global C02 emissions are now so high – in 2019, they hit a new record of 43 billion metric tons – that ten more years of the same will be nothing short of cataclysmic. Unless emissions are reduced, and radically, a rise of two degrees C (3.6 F) will be pretty much unavoidable by 2030. This will make the demise of the world’s coral reefs, the inundation of most low-lying island nations, incessant heat waves and fires and misery for millions – perhaps billions – of people unavoidable” – Elizabeth Kolbert, 2020.
Elisabeth Kolbert says it very well. We live in the time of an escalating climate crisis. According to the UN IPCC (2018) consensus of scientists, ratified by governments, emissions must be reduced about 50% by 2030 (from 2010 levels) to have a decent change of limiting heating to more manageable levels. Mostly, however, governments are still failing to act. We cannot wait for them, we need our institutions to lead the way. For us, that means the University of California (UC), which is one of the biggest employers in what is effectively the 5th biggest economy in the world.
UC’s current plan is inadequate.
UC, which declared a climate emergency, signed by 10 chancellors, has a plan for its emissions called “carbon neutrality by 2025“. Unfortunately this is woefully inadequate. Problems include a lack of accountability, a reliance on both dubious offset mechanisms and biogas (about which experts have misgivings), and a very delayed reckoning with emissions from aviation and transportation (deferred to 2050), see here.
Instead, what is needed is decarbonization (i.e. genuine emissions reductions). This must be done by setting specific goals and creating accountability mechanisms. This is especially pertinent at UCSD which is currently one of the biggest emitters (> 300,000 tonnes per year of C02) within the 10-campus UC system.
Apart from not yet implementing serious emissions reductions, UC San Diego is also not yet taking seriously its responsibility to teach students about the climate crisis and about climate justice. Climate justice is a key concept in our organizing: it refers to the fact that those who have done the least to incur the problem historically, and currently, especially people of color, will bear the brunt of climate change.
UC San Diego and the wider UC system also still needs to make good on its claim to have gone “Fossil Free” in its investments (we need full transparency), and it must change the way it uses banking and insurance systems that finance the fossil fuel industry.
Enter the Green New Deal at UCSD
The Green New Deal at UCSD is a climate action group that arose to meet these very challenges. It started with the UCSD Climate Crisis March on 27th September 2019 – which was part of the week of global climate action, in which over 7 million participated.
The Green New Deal at UCSD has three major demands:
Teach: UC San Diego must teach its entire undergraduate student body about the climate crisis and climate justice
Decarbonize: UC San Diego much specify and meet decarbonization goals by 2025 [i.e. keep fossil fuels in the ground]
Fossil Free Finance: UC San Diego and UC must transparently divest from fossil fuels and quit all fossil-fuel related banking and insurance.
We also have a fourth major campaign: Coalition Building
Please see a 1 minute video of the formation of our movement and these four demands.
These demands relate to our four overarching campaigns, that you can view on this website, along with examples of specific campaigns. Please enjoy browsing our content, and we hope you are inspired to join. We operate in a democratic, grassroots way to strategically and creatively pressure the administration and the wider university to act quickly. Please see here for our Constitution and Standard Operating procedure.
Our philosophy of the value of local action is well articulated through this quote from the social ecologist and climate justice advocate Brian Tokar (2020):
As nearly 30 years of international negotiations at the UN level have failed to reach an agreement to sufficiently curtail the excessive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that drive catastrophic climate change, it is ultimately the cumulative result of countless actions at the local and regional levels that could most profoundly shape the future of life on earth.