Opinion: Green Light


Has City Hall Prioritized Climate Change?

I honestly can’t say City Hall has prioritized climate change. Can you?

When a councilmember’s call for agreement on a non-binding, aspirational resolution anticipating an updating of our 2012 climate plan is taken up at 11 p.m. on the evening of March 15, by which time councilmembers were exhausted, one wonders. When our city manager intimates (without offering evidence or argument) that each of the 22 items in the resolution would cost $1 million, one wonders. When I go on the City’s website and type in “climate change” a number of the links are either inoperative, out of date, or offer the explanation: “Oops, the page you are looking for may have been removed, renamed, entered wrong or is temporarily unavailable!” Does this seem like prioritized concern so far?

Now when I go to the City of Petaluma’s website, I see this statement:

“Our Vision: Acting decisively by joining and inspiring others across the world to initiate a massive local economic impulse and model 21st century green architecture, landscape design, and engineering to restore ecological balance and economic stability. To this end, we aim to achieve greenhouse gas carbon neutrality for the City of Petaluma by 2030.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, comprising the world’s leading scientists, says we have until the end of this decade to reduce carbon emissions 50% in the hope of avoiding the worst consequences of global warming (ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/). I should add that Petaluma (like Palo Alto and Irvine) has been the recipient of a $1 million “Cool City Challenge” grant awarded because their city hall prioritized climate change and aspired to do a lot.

OK, I know Petaluma is a Bay Area city and is larger than Laguna Beach, so some may say I’m comparing apples to oranges. Down here in the Southland we can’t expect the same level of environmentalism as in the highly activist Bay Area, whose cities are larger than Laguna.

Maybe a look at what a Southern California coastal city is doing would be a fairer comparison. I found an article on Solana Beach in the Del Mar Times, dated August 28, 2020, titled “Solana Beach resolution declares climate emergency, need for more action.”
“The City now joins more than 1,000 other local governments around the world that have declared a climate emergency. The resolution was proposed by the city’s Climate Action Commission.”

That city’s population was listed as 13,356 in 2019, considerably smaller than Laguna’s. City Manager Greg Wade averred: “Declaring a climate emergency pledges substantive actions, elevates local urgency and awareness and sends a clear message of commitment to the community and the world that the City will combat the climate crisis.”
Has anyone reading this column ever seen information on our city’s website or in newspaper coverage quoting our officials reflecting Solana Beach’s level of concern about our warming planet? I haven’t either.

Returning to Council’s climate decision on March 15, a majority thought the list of 22 goals should be scaled down and authorized Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen to work with Councilmember George Weiss to bring back a simplified resolution tailored more to what our city government could reasonably do. Yes, this is good but not likely to earn a Cool Cities Challenge million-dollar grant. Nor likely inspire much action from other cities. Having taught for 40 years I learned early that the less I expected from my students the less they delivered. The more I expected, the better they performed.

If Lagunans want more from City Hall on climate, we must expect more and communicate that to our councilmembers. That’s how Laguna’s Climate Protection Action Plan of 2009 came into existence. Write, email, or phone councilmembers if you want action on global warming.

Tom chaired the work group of scientists, businesspeople, and educators who wrote Laguna’s 2009 Climate Protection Action Plan. He co-leads the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Email: [email protected]

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  1. If Laguna is sincere about addressing Climate Change, we must end ocean discharges of secondary sewage and urban runoff.
    Laguna Beach sends all of it’s wastewater to the ocean and has 0% recycled water. Let’s invest in a healthier ocean free of our contaminates.
    We are the solution to ocean pollution.

    “The oceans also regulate the global climate; they mediate temperature and drive the weather, determining rainfall, droughts, and floods. They are also the world’s largest store of carbon, where an estimated 83% of the global carbon cycle is circulated through marine waters.”

    More at:


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