Letter to the editor: We must work together to fight climate change’s devastating effects

The climate crisis is here. It is not a looming threat that will only come back to bite us in 10 or 20 or 30 years. It is actively wreaking havoc on communities worldwide right now, including ones in our own backyard. Whether it be a bad air quality day,  dangerous landslide or flooding of a local road, we are living amidst this crisis.

But there is something we all can do. University members who live in Allegheny County can help address the impacts of the changing climate by taking the Regional Climate Action Plan survey from Pitt’s Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT). Taking this survey will help provide us with a better picture on what actions our local leaders need to take when it comes to climate change.

The collaborative nature of the something like the Congress of Neighboring Communities can play a vital role in our region. Our work is centered around bringing together municipalities in Allegheny County to address some of the most pressing public policy issues of our region, including climate change.

Over the past several years, CONNECT has worked on developing a climate action plan that will act as a blueprint and “menu” for surrounding communities on how to reduce emissions, create resiliency, catalyze economic growth, and bring about environmental justice. The climate crisis does not respect municipal boundaries, so our work in this area must be grounded in shared values and cooperation.

You can read the plan here. Feedback on the plan and participation in the survey from residents — especially from young people and communities of color — will help ensure that our work reflects the incredible diversity of backgrounds and interests in the region.

Further, there is a moral imperative to act as well. The climate crisis disproportionately hurts the most vulnerable members of our society and will diminish opportunities for growth and safety for our children and grandchildren. So, as world leaders are continuing to meet and debate the best ways to address climate change in Glasgow, we should not stand idly by when we can act boldly here at home. For the sake of our environment, economy and future — we must do so.

And an institution like the University of Pittsburgh — an undeniably powerful economic engine in southwestern Pennsylvania — has a comparative advantage in regional climate action. Initiatives such as the Year of Data & Society and institutional plans like the Plan for Pitt can provide the resources and framework to empower our University members in improving the outcomes and opportunities in our neighboring communities.

The support of CONNECT by the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs highlights how we can enable students and staff to embark on impactful work to the communities around us.  Such empowerment will in turn provide more long-term viability to our mission and work here at Pitt. Commitments and partnerships in addressing climate change will enhance resiliency and inclusive growth for institutions and local municipalities alike. It is a win-win, and we shouldn’t pass up on such a deal.

This work is not easy. In fact — given the magnitude of the challenge — it shouldn’t be. Yet, when we put our minds and hands together and embody the spirit of collective action with our University and the broader community, we can make a lasting and positive difference to the people of our region. 

Eric Macadangdang

Climate Action Planning Intern

University of Pittsburgh Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT)