Take action for the climate

Jeff vonKaenel

Against a gloomy backdrop of high unemployment and cuts in city services, a committed group of city staffers put in extra hours and effort to produce the city of Sacramento’s Climate Action Plan.

The plan warns of the changes that global warming could bring to Sacramento. It predicts, among other things, that extreme heat waves are expected to increase in number by 10 times in the Sacramento region and could become an annual event by 2100. The plan promises to “help Sacramento become a model of sustainable development and a leader in the conservation of energy, water and natural resources.” The plan divides that work into seven strategies: sustainable land use; mobility and connectivity; energy efficiency and renewable energy; waste reduction and recycling; water conservation and wastewater efficiency; climate-change adaptation; and community involvement and empowerment. It is an impressive document in its overall vision.

While hearing the super smart and unbelievably wonkish Senior City Planner Erik de Kok explain the Climate Action Plan at the public forum on November 18, I was overwhelmed by its boldness. We have our work cut out for us if we are to achieve the plan’s goals of reducing our city’s 4.1 million metric tons of CO2 greenhouse gases by 15 percent by 2020, 38 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050.

Listening to different individuals talk about how they personally reduced their own carbon footprint, I remembered the question, “How does one eat an elephant?” Answer: One bite at a time. To attack the challenge of global warming, it will definitely be one bite at a time, and it will require all of us to help out.

The Climate Action Plan goals will require the city to partner with other regional organizations such as SMUD, Regional Transit and Sacramento County. We at the SN&R would like to help with strategy No. 7: community involvement and empowerment.

But what struck me most about this plan is how one change will lead to another. For instance, by having the city require denser developments and smarter land use, public transportation will become a more feasible option. With more access to public transportation, people could reduce their driving and many families could go without a second car. By supporting more energy-efficient homes, we will be creating more conservation-related jobs. And we’ll spend fewer dollars bringing in Canadian natural gas to heat and cool our homes.

The list goes on. Actions such as reducing water consumption, establishing better bike lanes and increasing the recycling and reusing of materials all play a role in making Sacramento a more livable city. It is an ambitious plan. It is a big elephant. If everyone took just a few bites, though, both the elephant and 80 percent of our greenhouse gases would be gone.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.