Long Beach Poly Students Get Behind-the-Scenes Look at Paris Climate Talks via Skype Q&A with Sen. Ricardo Lara

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Photos and video by Keeley Smith. 

The group crowded around the image of State Senator Ricardo Lara today, asking hard-hitting questions about climate change.

“What do other countries think about the U.S. and our attitudes on climate change?” They asked. “When will we ban fracking?”

They got an up-close look at the action happening 6,000 miles away at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate talks in Paris.

And they were still in high school.

More than 40 students from Daniel Adler’s Advanced Placement government and economics classes at Long Beach Poly High crowded inside a portable on campus, a boxy classroom painted in muted tones of cream and beige—drab colors that belied the bright and passionate students it held.

Lara was on hand via Skype to talk about his proposal to drastically reduce Short-Term Climate Pollutants (STCP) by 2013, legislation he announced yesterday, which will be formally introduced in 2016. 

Lara visited the Paris climate talks as part of the California delegation, where he announced his set targets to achieve a 50 percent reduction in black carbon emissions, 40 percent reduction in methane and a 40 percent reduction in f-gases in California by 2030. The bill has been two years in the making, as it was spearheaded by 2013’s Senate Bill 605, which directed the Air Resources Board to create a strategy to combat Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.

“A lot of us are guilty of using these; these are man-made gases,” said Lara to the group. “When you spray aerosol hairspray, or turn on the air conditioning, these are all kinds of f-gases that are actually harmful to the environment.”

Lara said presenting California’s platform to the world through the California delegation at the UN was a highlight in his legislative experience. In fact, California was the only sub-nation represented at the U.N., said Lara.

 
Long Beach Poly High Students Loop In on Climate Talks in Pari...

More than 40 students from Daniel Adler’s Advanced Placement government and economics classes at Long Beach Poly High School crowded around Senator Ricardo Lara via Skype today, where they were looped in on the 21st Conference of the Parties climate talks in Paris.Read more: http://lbpo.st/1OS1h71

Posted by Long Beach Post on Wednesday, December 9, 2015
 


“Announcing this with the governor was really interesting, because you had all of these different countries, Chile, Cameroon, and... the state of California,” said Lara, to the audience’s laughter.

“You know, I got chills, because I’m so proud of being from California, and to see us right up there, with world leaders from different countries, and to have the State of California on its own, representing our platform to the world, was something that was really memorable and something that I’m never going to forget,” he said.

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The intro evolved quickly into a lively back-and-forth of questions and answers. Lara took the time to address them all—questions ranging from the targets the bill is setting, to electric vehicles, to policies working elsewhere that can be applied in California.

The recurring theme in Lara’s proposal centered around providing incentives to businesses and individuals to find ways of using clean energy and environmentally-friendly transportation, given California itself is the world’s seventh largest economy.

Lara said that California’s creation of the solar industry has in turn benefited hundreds of employees, providing jobs and benefits to a crucial portion of the state's population. And that portion looks to grow.

Long Beach Poly High Students Loop In on Climate Talks in Pari...

More than 40 students from Daniel Adler’s Advanced Placement government and economics classes at Long Beach Poly High School crowded around Senator Ricardo Lara via Skype today, where they were looped in on the 21st Conference of the Parties climate talks in Paris.Read more: http://lbpo.st/1OS1h71

Posted by Long Beach Post on Wednesday, December 9, 2015


“Do you have any ideas on how to reduce the prohibitive up-front cost of buying an electric car?” asked Timothy White, a senior in Adler’s AP Government and AP Economics classes. Lara reiterated market incentives, the fact that people in electric vehicles (EV) can use HOV lanes, and making sure people know that with rebates and lower gas costs, the Nissan Leaf and other models of cars are actually more affordable than gas-powered cars in the short-term, as well as the long-run, even if models like those Tesla offers aren’t.

“What do other policies that have worked for other countries [consist of], that could work in California?” asked another student. Lara rattled off a list of accomplishments made by Sweden and other countries, in which particle pollution was decreased by separating trash and recycling, using the waste to fuel public vehicles. 

“They recycle everything—trash in their home, glass, food waste, paper and other plastic of color,” said Lara. “They’ve been able to really capture this, and what they’ve done and what we haven’t done is use trash for energy.”

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Lara said Sweden's entire bus fleet was powered by fuel from trash. Sweden and France have been able to master the technology so that 95 percent of particulates from the process are captured before entering the environment. Lara said Los Angeles could learn from this, since the county currently ships its trash to Burbank and no one really knows quite what to do with it.

Eamon Jarrett, a junior in AP Economics, asked the senator when the state would ban fracking, to which Lara responded in general terms.

“He basically said...eventually,” said Jarrett. “I think it’s really cool that we got to talk to him, although I was kind of disappointed with his answer to my question. I feel like he deflected it."

Jarrett attributed Lara’s reluctance to put a time frame around a fracking ban to the senator’s campaign for a fourth term.

On the whole, students were pleased they could put their hands-on government and economics learning into action. It was yet another opportunity offered to students through Mr. Adler’s classes, in addition to mock government sessions, speech contests and a program that offers free taxes to disadvantaged people, allowing them to put their classroom learning into practice.

“I think it’s really interesting and it really affects us,” said Emma Skinner, a senior in Adler’s AP Government class. “Coming from someone who runs our state —it makes me feel more important as a citizen—that my voice is heard. It’s really nice to know people are out there fighting to save our environment.”

Others noted the close ties that the generation graduating from high school now has to climate change—it’s been a publicized issue for most of their lives. In fact, Lara said acknowledgement of climate change has been a strong unifying thread throughout the series of talks. "Everyone acknowledges that climate change is real,” said Lara.

“I really loved it,” said Alyssa Wren, a senior in AP Government. “We’re used to brushing off issues when we are kids, but I just turned 18, and it’s real now. Climate change is going to be a main problem we focus on when our generation is leading the country.”

Adler was excited for his students and said having Senator Lara available to the class enhanced his teaching in the best way possible.

“I thought the way everything went was fantastic,” said Adler. “We talk a lot about current events—in government class especially—and to have him [Lara] actually Skype with us makes it real.”

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