Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bipartisan Action on Climate Change

Two positive stories in one day? Who would have thought it possible?

Eli Sanders reports in Saturday's New York Times on a remarkable effort begun by Democratic Seattle mayor Greg Nickels. Along with 131 other mayors from across the country and the political spectrum, Nickels has pledged to bring his city into compliance with the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, an accord the Bush administration has rejected. The mayors represent nearly 29 million people in 35 states, and more cities are joining the coalition each day, Nickels' office told the Times - just Thursday, New York's Michael Bloomberg became the latest mayor to bring his city to the fold. Each mayor pledges to work toward "a reduction in heat-trapping gas emissions to levels 7 percent below those of 1990, by 2012."

To meet that goal, cities are thinking outside the box and getting really quite imaginative: Seattle is "requiring cruise ships that dock in its bustling port to turn off their diesel engines while resupplying and to rely only on electric power provided by the city", while Salt Lake City "has become Utah's largest buyer of wind power." Bloomberg said that New York "is trying to reduce emissions from the municipal fleet by buying hybrid electric-gasoline-powered vehicles," along with other steps.

Mayors say they've joined the coalition for varying reasons, but most cite the continued economic viability of their cities as the main reason. Nickels "pointed out that the dry winters and the steep decline projected in the glaciers of the Cascade range could affect Seattle's supply of drinking water and hydroelectric power," Sanders reports, while the mayor of New Orleans said that rising ocean levels "threaten the very existence of New Orleans." Republican Alan Arakawa of Maui, HI said "I'm hoping it sends a message [to the Bush Adminstration that they] really need to start looking at what's really happening in the real world." Nickels said other mayors' concerns included coastal flooding, hurricanes, and even drought in the case of Bellevue Nebraska's Jerry Ryan. Ryan, a Republican who described himself to Sanders as a strong Bush supporter, said "he felt that the president's approach to global warming should be more like his approach to terrorism. 'You've got to ask, 'Is it remotely possible that there is a threat?'' he said. 'If the answer is yes, you've got to act now.'"

Mayor Nickels' office has put up this comprehensive website about the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, including a complete list of the cities involved. If your city isn't on the list, encourage your mayor to sign on with this effort, and prove that it doesn't take top-down leadership to make a difference, and that global warming concerns are not a partisan issue.

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