June 20, 2021
By, Ben Santer is an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, California.
My cousin, Leah Pressman who lives in Culver City recently told me about the efforts of local activists and the City Council to shut down a portion of the Inglewood Oil Field.
She reached out to me for a statement of support knowing of my life-long commitment to the study of climate change and the efforts I have made to alert the world to the acute and present danger we face due to climate change. I am happy to provide my thoughts about why this bold move by local government is so important.
I am a MacArthur Fellow and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. I’ve worked at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California for 29 years. My job is to study the causes of climate change.
Back in 1995, I was lead author of a key chapter in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. After years of work, a team of U.S. and international scientists concluded that, “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”
These 12 words changed the world. A global warming signal had been identified and attributed to human influence. The most important human influence was the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels caused by burning fossil fuels.
Since 1995, human influence on climate has become much clearer. Human “fingerprints” are identifiable in warming of the oceans and land surface, in changing rainfall patterns, in declining Arctic Sea ice extent, in sea level rise, in extreme heat, and in many other aspects of Earth’s climate. If these changes are allowed to proceed unchecked, future generations will grow up in a world with a very different climate from that of today. Our children and grandchildren will inherit climate debt they did nothing to incur. I don’t want to see that happen. I’m sure you don’t either.
Avoiding dangerous levels of warming will require transitioning from fossil fuels to cheap and efficient low-carbon energy. Making this transition is the challenge of our generation. Human-caused planetary warming happened on our watch. We must be part of the solution to this problem.
Meaningful solutions must involve local actions. Local action to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases paves the way for effective state, national, and international action. Leadership has to start somewhere.
Today, leadership could and should start here – with members of the Culver City Council. I respectfully request that you take the decision to phase out oil and gas production at the Inglewood Oil Field. Doing so would send a powerful signal, a signal reaching far beyond the boundaries of Culver City. The signal would be clear. It’s time for meaningful actions to reduce climate change risks.