Climate Policy for Cambridge

Burhan Azeem
Jun 17 · 4 min read

Here’s the problem

We are far too optimistic when we talk about climate change. We aspire towards a 1.5°C temperature rise instead of 2°C, hoping that this might allow some island nations to survive (1). This is wishful thinking. We imagine our world is currently heading towards decarbonization; we think, with all this energy for change, we are taking strong action on climate change.

We 👏 Are 👏 Not 👏.

In the last 40 years — even after the IPCC panel and Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth — we’ve produced half of humanity’s total emissions. On top of that, emissions are rising, and they are rising faster than ever (2).

We know what will happen if we let this continue. Cambridge winters will be without snow or ice. Our city will feel like Florida (3). We’ll endure six times as many natural disasters as we do now. Our oceans will acidify. Several animal species will face mass extinction (4). The science is bleak, but our future is in our hands.

We can prevent this climate crisis if we act now and fight for transformative change. Here in Cambridge, we are the most progressive, prosperous, scientific, and resourceful community in the Commonwealth. Progress can and should start with us. And if we are to succeed, we will need to be bold.

If we don’t lead, who will?

What we can do:

The two most important factors — by far — are transportation and housing.

Transportation

Transportation accounts for 20–30% of a family’s emissions. We need to invest in green, efficient forms of transportation. We need to make it so easy to get around Cambridge no one feels the need to own a car.

We need to invest heavily in transportation at every level.

This means ensuring that every sidewalk is well maintained, easily walkable, and doubling down on services like snow removal so that it is always easy to get around.

This means clearing up our streets and ensuring it is easy and simple to get around. We need to separate our bike lanes from the streets and build proper bike paths. It is safer and easier for everyone — pedestrians, bikers, and drivers. We also need to complete our bike network quickly.

This means investing in public transit. We need to get to a place where the entire city has reliable transit access and that we are never waiting for more than a few minutes. We need to prepare for emergency scenarios for when the T breaks. We will need to work with the state and the MBTA to increase capacity. We need to make the best use of our existing routes by building bus-only lanes across the major corridors. W

Housing

Housing is the #1 contributor to climate change. In the most direct sense, housing policy is climate policy. We need to build more housing and build it greener.

This means allowing for the construction of more homes. It is better for the environment if you live in a dense, transit-oriented community like Cambridge. This is the single most important policy. We can cut our emissions by half — or more — just by where you choose to live (5). We should let far more people choose Cambridge.

Urban regions like Cambridge are greener (5). We should allow more people to live here.

This means making those homes multifamily. The emit a fraction per person as compared to single-family homes. We should allow for the construction of multi-family homes and apartments throughout the city.

This means making new housing green. We should push to be more aggressive on net zero policies and provide adequate funding to support such projects. We also need to ensure these projects are resilient to increasing risks of floods and other natural disasters.

P.S. We should use the microphone of public office and the court of public opinion to hold our biggest emitters accountable. We should push our universities to divest from fossil fuels and to our big tech and biotech companies to become net zero.

Last Comments

I understand the climate crisis on a deep level and know how to tackle better than any other candidate. I understand sustainability. I have built solar panels & batteries, studied the cause of our climate crisis, and took it to the heart becoming a biker and a pescatarian.

Earlier this year I was at the Hartford Basin in CT, studying how shifts in Earth’s orbit led to historical climate change and dramatic shifts in water levels.

References

  1. NYTimes report on the effects of 1.5 and 2 degrees warming. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-report-half-degree.html
  2. Bloomberg articles on the rise of CO2 emissions https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-11/global-emissions-rose-the-most-in-7-years-bp-review-shows
  3. Citylab article on the temperature change of Cambridge https://www.citylab.com/environment/2014/07/how-much-hotter-will-your-city-be-in-the-future/375284/
  4. We know a lot about the effects of Climate Change from historical events that were very similar. The PETM is such an example. https://www.britannica.com/science/Paleocene-Eocene-Thermal-Maximum
  5. Map of Emissions from UC Berkeley. Zoom into the Cambridge Area. https://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps

Burhan Azeem

Written by

Candidate for Cambridge City Council

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