Climate Protection Earns B+ Marks
Because of the difficulty of the subject matter, a B+ in climate protection is respectable. In this town of high achievers I doubt that we’ll let up in our mission of implementing the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and our city’s mechanism for implementing it, the Climate Protection Action Plan. In order to tackle what is arguably the planet’s most serious environmental threat, climate warming, our city government signed on to both the agreement and the plan in 2007 and 2009, respectively. Laguna has an incentive to improve: anything less than the highest grade in implementation bodes ill for our city’s next generations.
Despite a mountain of scientific studies emanating from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as universities worldwide, progress on addressing global warming has been halting in our country. Paid lobbyists from the oil and gas companies, who hold sway in Congress, have blocked federal action. At the state level, California’s path-breaking 2006 measure to combat global warming, AB 32 (the Global Warming Solutions Act), is tied up in a court battle over procedural matters. Thus, it has fallen to America’s cities and their mayors to move on the issue of climate change, and our city government (along with more than 1,000 others in the U.S.) has risen impressively to the challenge.
I say that because Lagunans saw the results of our city’s hard work in implementing the Mayors Agreement and our Action Plan at the City Council meeting of Jan. 9. City staff prepared an update on actions completed and ongoing. Councilwoman Verna Rollinger tellingly asked her colleagues and other officials: “Is there a way we can track our progress?” She was referring to agreement’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. Though we don’t know what Laguna’s emission level was in 1990, Council members seemed to agree that better use could be made of metrics, for example, measuring electricity consumption, in order to gain a data-based sense of our progress in reducing carbon-burning energy sources.
Chris Prelitz, a leader in Transition Laguna and authority on green technology, and Richard Picheny, an attorney who spoke for Village Laguna, both gave helpful input on the need to not let aesthetic considerations trump the installation of solar panels, for example at the Senior Citizens Center, in combating climate warming. Prelitz and Picheny both valued aesthetics; however, they urged finding ways to combine efficacy and design in green building projects. To reduce her family’s carbon footprint, Mayor Jane Egly uses a timer on her shower at home: 5 minutes and it’s over.
Michelle Clark, speaking on behalf of our Chamber of Commerce’s Environmental Committee, voiced support for the city’s steps towards climate protection. After discussion, Council voted unanimously to task the new Environmental Committee with preparing a sustainability element for the plan and directed the city manager to request energy audits from the city’s electricity provider and work with staff to lower carbon emissions. These further actions are encouraging.
If we grade on a curve, our city’s B+ remains strong. Our neighboring cities do not seem to have climate protection plans, nor to acknowledge the existence of global warming. Newport Beach, however, without referencing climate warming is taking steps to build sea walls in preparation for a rising ocean that would threaten property. Instead of working to reduce warming, which would require an acknowledgement of the human-caused phenomenon, that city is preparing for one of its disturbing consequences. To lead neighboring municipalities by example, our city must start with each of us. Let’s begin with five-minute showers in 2012; that would be exemplary and inch Laguna closer to an A.
Tom Osborne, author of two books, is a retired Santa Ana College history professor, a former Environmental Committee member, and a recent recipient of the city’s Environmental Award.