We have long known Ventura County was extremely vulnerable to the effects of a warming planet. Our fires, droughts and threatened coastal infrastructure put us at risk.

But it was still shocking to learn from a report in the Washington Post that we are the fastest-warming county in the lower 48 states. With a temperature increase of 2.6 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times, our warming has already exceeded the 2 degrees Celsius threshold set by the Paris Climate agreement. 

We have seen the catastrophic effects of a warming world in the fierce winds that whipped the Thomas and Woolsey fires out of control and we will not forget the suffering it caused our families and neighbors.

Then we learned from a new study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that our coastal waters are acidifying at twice the global rate, threatening life in the ocean and with it our fishing industry. This is a lesser known effect of a changing climate.

The push for policies that will slow the catastrophic effects of climate change needs to begin everywhere and at once.

Ventura County must make a bold statement about climate with its General Plan Update. This is the document that sets the policies that drive all land use decisions for the next 20 years. Indeed, at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting dozens of speakers asked for more local policies that will help the county reduce emissions.

Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG) has analyzed the county’s General Plan draft with the help of nationally recognized air quality expert Dr. Steven Colome and the prestigious environmental law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP.

While its goals are laudable, the county’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) fails to provide enough emissions reduction to meet the state-mandated climate goals. The plan is seriously incomplete and lacks the technical and scientific input needed.

Climate change is caused by fossil fuel production and consumption. The CAP addresses the consumption side by merely encouraging, but not requiring, electric fuel vehicles and clean power for homes and businesses. But Ventura County is the third largest oil and gas producing county in California. As such, we must do our part to reduce oil production through thoughtful, rigorous policy to phase it out. This is not addressed.

The county is accepting comments through February on the Environmental Impact Report that accompanies the update. To submit your comments, go to https://vcrma.org/vc2040.org/review. CFROG has a list of talking points to use at www.cfrog.org.

We have seen that our state's early, groundbreaking policies to reduce emissions have spread to other states, the nation and the world. Here in Ventura County, where the effects of climate change have become frighteningly real, we are motivated now more than ever.