What We Can Reasonably Expect From Our Cities

Photo by mediafury. Some rights reserved.

Photo by mediafury. Some rights reserved.

A new report released last Friday in draft form by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee (or more succinctly, the NCADAC) has been raising heads and eyebrows this week across the energy/environmental sector, as would any official suggestion from the government that things may be worse than we think on the global warming front.

The report specifically suggests such harbingers of doom such as an 11 degree rise in temperatures by the end of this century, an eight inch rise in sea levels (the consequences we were reminded of late this year), and more obscure-yet-troubling byproducts of climate change such as more pollen in the air (making allergies worse) and more ticks in general (making everything worse). And of course, every big picture idea in the report has its own local implications depending on where you live. For low altitude coastal cities like (oh, say) Seattle, flooding is a very real possibility. In Georgia, the reports threaten “hundred year storms” that could start occurring annually, and in California, future flooding has implications for power plants that are closer to sea level.

So, the point? We have to start thinking locally. The federal government can only make climate change so much of a priority, with everything else going on (though for whoever’s interested, the EPA just released their FY 2013 Annual Plan). Grist has a nice piece up today that suggests that urban centers are expected (and often do) “take the lead” on adopting climate change policies, and even inventing and enforcing their own when they see fit.

In a liberal city like Seattle, it’s easy to see local efforts to combat global warming in effect, even in smaller municipal gestures like compost bins and bike lanes. However, the report cited in the Grist article (by UCLA urban planner Rui Wang) claims that cities by and large adopt more basic, less work-intensive climate change policies first, and that they do it piecemeal. Cities willing to take on the more rigid measures were most often those which had already exhausted implementing the easier policies.

The report argues that often the easier measures are those that benefit both the city/business and the environment (we in the 9 – 5 world are probably familiar with simple corporate efforts to “go green” such as reducing printed paper around the office or setting goals for lower building energy – these measures help contribute to a green effort and ultimately save the company money), where the more difficult actions are those that most often will harm or interfere with budgets and do not have as many “tangible benefits” for its implementers. It’s an interesting-if-not-exactly-new concept, and worth giving some consideration no matter where you live.

One response to this post.

  1. […] However, as we also learn this week that 20% of Canada’s glaciers could melt by the year 2100 if the global average temperature rises 5.4 degrees or more in the interim time (a rate that fits with projected models), it seems to me that doing everything we can to protect Canada’s majestic natural beauty is in our own best interest! After all, a loss of all that glacial ice would result in a 1.4 inch rise in global sea levels, and we’ve discussed how that kind of change could negatively affect all sorts of other things. […]


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