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Baby Steps on Climate Change 

by PAUL K. HAEDER & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & pokane's learning curve as it adopts strategies to stave off some of the most chilling effects of peak oil and climate change seems steep. & r & & r & Our mayor has bought into the idea of a post-carbon city. Two steps in that direction are hiring a sustainability director -- Susanne Croft -- and creating a diverse citizen-based and expert-laden Task Force on Global Warming and Peak Oil.





It's heartening that Spokane made history last month by being the first city in the U.S. to undertake both a global climate-change planning initiative and a peak oil preparation plan as its platform to handle those two huge global forces.





But it will be an uphill battle. The effects of $200-a-barrel oil and warmer, wetter winters are too numerous to mention; the bottom line is that our county and city governments should be scrambling to redesign our communities to make sure basic services like snow removal, garbage pick-up, health delivery, food security and public transportation are delivered.





"We're entering uncharted territory with world oil production plateauing and atmospheric carbon reaching record levels," said Daniel Lerch of the Post Carbon Institute at the downtown library on Feb. 6. "Cities need to identify the new risks they face, because there isn't any state or federal government agency that's going to do it for them."





Under Dennis Hession, Spokane signed onto the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (more than 700 cities are signatories). Now, under Mary Verner, the scope of the sustainable action plan is limited to studying and getting workgroups to come up with reports on the vulnerabilities we face in the area of health, transportation, land use, food and energy allocation.





We'll have to see if Spokane, bastion of regressive thinking, can clear away the logjam of bad land use and idiotic environmental choices with which we have historically been tagged -- despite lawmakers who deny global warming and the roadblock presented by the mainstream media.





Thank God for state Sen. Chris Marr (D-Spokane), who supports Local Solutions to Global Warming (SSB 6580), set out by Futurewise and the Washington Environmental Council. It's a no-brainer bill approved last month by the state Senate to manage growth so that global warming emissions get reduced.





This Growth Management Act adjustment bill is simple:


& lt;li & It would reduce greenhouse emissions by tying it to GMA caveats & lt;/li &


& lt;li & It would measure land use-related greenhouse emissions & lt;/li &


& lt;li & It would give incentives -- grants -- to cities and counties that are already taking action by changing land use and transportation planning to reduce greenhouse gases. & lt;/li &





The bill is more than an anti-sprawl measure. It's a way to help cities and counties deal with the effects of steadily rising gasoline prices.





This bill is inspired by sound research. In fact, typically staid architects are moving to reduce the greenhouse footprint by designing buildings that tighten energy standards big-time. Edward Mazria of the American Institute of Architects has calculated that 49 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings regulated by local governments. That study was done for Santa Barbara, but it's obvious that Washington's buildings are just as impactful.





So will Mayor Verner put wallop in her words? "By aggressively pursuing strategies now that prepare us for future energy and climate uncertainties, Spokane will manage challenges while increasing our competitive advantage over other cities. It just makes sense."





We need a compact flourescent mandate soon, without grandiose consensus-building-and-no-mandate meetings: All homes, businesses and public buildings must use CF bulbs. We need our city and county to merge and share services across the board. We need alternative energy and transportation fast. We need all private and public schools, including educational campuses, to change to 100 percent recycled and zero-chlorine paper policies. Forced water restrictions, too.





It doesn't take another study to show that keeping thermostats in both public and private buildings at 80 degrees in the summer and 65 in the winter will cut energy use, save dollars and reduce carbon dioxide pollution.





The writing's on the wall: Climate will be radically altered by 2050, and King County, as an example, is planning to spend more than $330 million just to strengthen levees.


Are we ready to plan for more forest fires, more invasive bugs, and lyme-disease and West Nile virus-tainted mosquitoes?





It's heartening that Lerch was in Spokane to advise Verner on our city's need to plan for energy-price volatility. Let's hope her task force work doesn't turn into a "defining the problem" mutual admiration society. We need policies like Santa Barbara's that mandate builders -- architects and developers -- follow strict building guidelines.





That means clamping down on the building industry. If the industry can't join the global warming discussion, and if its lobbies continue to muddy the waters with flagrant ignorance and Fox News idiocy about free markets controlling the climate change and peak oil mitigation, then builders need to be forced to change.
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