Leah Stokes

This winter, Assistant Professor of Political Science at UCSB Leah Stokes presented a talk entitled "Climate Change in our Backyard: Impacts, Policy and Politics" as part of UCSB Library's Pacific Views: Library Speaker Series

During her talk, Leah discussed the research behind her book Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States and connected it to the UCSB Reads 2020 book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush.

Our Events & Exhibitions Librarian Alex Regan asked Leah how she is thinking about climate change in light of the pandemic. Read their exchange below. 

Alex: In January, you spoke about some of the climate change effects we are already seeing in the Santa Barbara region. Is the current pandemic affecting how you think about climate change and political activism locally?  How about nationally?

Leah: We have seen with COVID-19 that ignoring science has consequences. We’ve also had an opportunity to see what life would be like if our air wasn’t choked by pollution from cars. You can now see the Channel Islands, and folks in LA may be experiencing clean air for the first time in their lives. The fact is that if we were using electric vehicles and clean electricity, we could have clean air every day. We wouldn’t need to shut down the entire economy or make people stay at home to do this. We could just use the technology we already have. 

On the one hand, we are predicting a reduction of 8% of carbon emissions globally this year. That isn’t a lot given all the changes we’ve had to make. It’s clear that without federal government leadership, we can’t go far enough fast enough. In order to limit warming to 1.5 °C, we would need emissions to fall by around 8% every year from now until 2030. We need Congress to focus on a green economic stimulus to help us our economy in a clean and healthy way. 

Alex: Do you see any commonalities between the current COVID-19 crisis and the climate crisis?

Leah: We see how inequality plays into both crises. People of color are more likely to live with dirty air, because environmental injustice puts more coal plants in their backyards. And that also makes them more likely to die from COVID-19, since air pollution has been shown to dramatically increase mortality. Both challenges also show us that we need to focus on prevention before it is too late and that we need science-based solutions on the scale of the problem. 

Alex: What are you reading, watching and/or listening to right now?

Ann: I am always watching Gardener’s World, a BBC show starring Monty Don, because I am an avid gardener, and I’m doing that even more during these strange times. I also just finished reading Rebecca Solnit’s latest memoir, Recollections of My Nonexistence.  For my online #climatebookclub, we just read Hope Jahren’s The Story of More

Listen to the audio recording of Leah's Winter 2020 Pacific Views talk here.