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As Philadelphia declares a heat emergency, Biden fails to declare climate emergency
Opinion

As Philadelphia declares a heat emergency, Biden fails to declare climate emergency

Alarm bells ring, yet politicians refuse to take action locally and nationally. But we need all of it.

The City of Philadelphia declared a heat health emergency, extending the original declaration through Sunday, July 24th at 11:59 PM. Temperatures are in the mid to upper 90s, with little relief overnight.

Residents are at risk of heat illnesses. Older adults, people without air conditioning, small children and others are especially at higher risk of heat stress.

Philadelphia is in no way a silo. Temperatures of over 40C in the UK smashed records on Tuesday, alarand wildfires are scorching Spain and France.

However, these extreme weather events are not just about the hot days, but a symptom of the larger problem: climate change.

There’s some silver lining as these weather events become more frequent. News outlets are talking about the link between heat waves and climate change more frequently, like this recent story on NBC10. 32% of news segments connected the heat to climate change, which is an increase compared to when only 4% of network stories linked hurricane Irma to climate change.

Climate criticism is beginning to flood pop culture news, too. The latest celebrity backlash of Kylie Jenner frequently taking 17-minute flights on her private jet, deemed her the nickname “Climate Criminal.”

Yet politicians refuse to take bold action. Joe Manchin almost singlehandedly halted climate action last week, after suggesting a climate and new taxes framework. Although Biden called climate change an emergency, he did not make formally declare it was one, which would ramp up the production of renewable energy products and systems.

It’s not just Washington, DC that is hesitant on bold action. Local governments refuse to take bold action, even when alarm bells are ringing.

Take another example: the Great Salt Lake is literally drying up. Beyond endangering birds, ski resorts and human drinking water, it can literally turn the air poisonous, causing residents to breathe arsenic. Solutions to help conserve water in the lake, like requiring water-efficient sinks and showers or blocking communities requiring homeowners to maintain laws, have failed. And the population of Salt Lake City is expected to double by 2060.

Philadelphia has mixed climate reviews. While the City has made progress with some climate goals (i.e. reducing carbon emissions in buildings), Philadelphia halts basic programs and solutions like fining businesses for circulars. Residents have lost trust in the Streets Department after witnessing trash and recycling being combined, despite the city saying otherwise.

It’s easy to point fingers at one entity and say it’s their responsibility. Just like internet commenters asked why they use paper straws and recycle while Kylie takes 17-minute jets, we can easily look to corporations polluting with a singular product.

But this isn’t a debate about whether individuals, cities, or federal governments need to take action. In order to have a livable planet, we need all of it. We need the government to take bold action, regardless of one Joe. We need companies to commit to better environmental policies. And we need the common Joe to choose renewable energy, consume less and buy locally.

We need it all.


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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