While Feds Waffle, Cities Lead The Way On Climate Change

Despite promises, President Obama has made little progress, and cities and communities are taking matters into their own hands.
By @TrishaMarczakMP |
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    Skyline of Providence, R.I. (Photo/Jack Newton via Flickr)

    Skyline of Providence, R.I. (Photo/Jack Newton via Flickr)

    For coastal cities across the nation, combating climate change is a local issue.

    Located on the Atlantic Coast, Rhode Island is in vulnerable territory when it comes to rising sea levels, a side effect of climate change that coastal dwellers are keeping in mind. This was one reason the state’s capital city recently voted to withdraw all of its investments in fossil fuel-related companies.

    Seth Yurdin, the councilman responsible for proposing the measure, painted the picture as a local one, citing the risk Rhode Islanders face in regard to coastal erosion and rising sea levels.

    “It’s really a local issue on top of a big-picture issue,” Yurdin told the Providence Journal.

    While the issue of climate change is still controversial in some corners of the nation, the council passed the resolution by a vote of 11-1, welcoming a policy that will halt all investment in fossil fuel companies within the next 5 years. At that point, the Board of Investment commissioners will be directed to stop all investments in the coal, oil and and gas companies.


    National trend

    This grassroots-style movement takes place in the midst of a national debate over how to tackle climate change.

    While President Barack Obama vowed in his most recent State of the Union address to make the issue a national priority, he has made little progress, and cities and communities are taking matters into their own hands.

    Last week in Seattle, the city council voted in favor of a resolution that aims to make the city carbon neutral by 2050.

    Seattle’s move comes after 3 years of work on a blueprint intended to help the city to reach its short- and long-term goals — the Seattle Climate Action Plan.

    “Although there had been years of mountain evidence, 2012 felt like a watershed moment for climate change awareness in the United States,” Mike O’Brien, chair of the city council’s Environmental Committee, wrote in the report. “The level of severity of climate disruption we saw across the country confirmed that now is the time to take bold action to reduce our climate pollution and to prepare for the impacts of climate change.”

    The Seattle Climate Action Plan targets everything from building energy to waste and transportation. With goals ranging from city-wide bicycle use to methane levels emitted from landfills, it clearly aims to dwindle the city’s impact on climate change. The plan also, however, acknowledges the reality that Seattle, even with measures now in place, will have to deal with the impact.

    Part of the preparation phase includes putting in place a method of dealing with impending coastal erosion. Other plans aim to keep climate change impacts in mind when drafting natural disaster response plans.

    Seattle and Providence aren’t the only cities to draft their own climate change-related policies. A report released by Driving Sustainable Economies profiled more than 100 cities throughout the nation that have implemented their own plans.

    The report discovered another benefit to taking action, citing an economic boost to those who have taken a green approach.

    “One out of every two actions that cities are making to reduce emissions in their municipal operations is focussed on efficiency,” the report states. “Cities report over $40 million in saving per year from tackling climate change.”


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