Monday, January 30, 2017

Why Rochester, NY should release its Climate Action plan soon

Climate action plans (CAPs) are critical for addressing Climate Change locally and demonstrating to the public that their government has their priorities straight. Last year at this time, I wrote: “Why Climate Action Plans (CAP) are so important for every community” and in October I wrote this: “Connecting the dots between Rochester’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) and our disadvantaged communities”. Both articles give a robust argument for the release of the City’s CAP.

Mayor Warren has already spoken publically and forcefully about the role of government in addressing Climate Change:

"Cities must take a leading role in confronting climate change regardless of federal policy," Warren said. "I have no doubt this is what our citizens expect of us and will allow us to lead by example on this critical issue." (from, City aims to fight climate change, November 21, 2016, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

However, the City may decide to integrate the CAP rollout within rollout of the Comprehensive Master Plan  (technically, it is part of the Comprehensive Plan, but here I’m referring to its rollout to the public). Such a strategic embedding is not a good idea at this time. If this is done, and the CAP is not highlighted in the media separately, it conceals the compelling concerns our government has about Climate Change in our region. It demonstrates to the public and the media that Climate Change isn’t all that important.

Mayor Warren has taken a leadership role in defending Rochester’s status as a 'Sanctuary City' against the federal government’s new xenophobic attitude towards immigrants, and I hope she also maintains a similar degree of leadership regarding Climate Change. 

For a long time, a great complacency towards our environment has become entrenched in the US. The first Earth Day in 1970 came about because we had allowed our environment to descend to such a deplorable state that 20 million people rushed to the streets to protest. It resulted in the formation of a federal agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to preserve and protect our environment. Now, the EPA is under a massive attack by the new administration, hoping to severely reduce the size and effectiveness of our nation’s leading environmental agency.

Official: Trump wants to slash EPA workforce, budget The former head of President Donald Trump's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday he expects the new administration to seek significant budget and staff cuts. Myron Ebell said in an interview with The Associated Press that Trump is likely to seek significant reductions to the agency's workforce — currently about 15,000 employees nationwide. Ebell, who left the transition team last week, declined to discuss specific numbers of EPA staff that could be targeted for pink slips. Asked what he would personally like to see, however, Ebell said slashing the agency's size by about half would be a good start. (January 27, 2017, AP

Over the years, the EPA came to understand that our gravest environmental threat would come as a quick warming of our planet, Climate Change. All our myriad environmental issues—pollution, loss of biodiversity, water quality, etc.—would be intimately entwined within a human-caused increase in greenhouse gasses. Much of the legal force in our country to address Climate Change came from the EPA. Now, the EPA is being gutted and science itself is being attacked. The American public, which includes scientists, educators, government employees, and ordinary citizens, finds itself in the absurd position of having to defend science. We cannot be complacent about science and our life support system anymore.   

The public needs to feel confident that their local government is on the ball in a time when our federal government is scrubbing environmental information from its agencies. The State of New York, as well as its cities, now needs to take the lead. 

Consider sending your personal note and/or one from your organization to: Anne Spaulding, Director of the Office of Energy and Sustainability: requesting that the City’s CAP be unveiled soon and separately from the Comprehensive Master Plan (Earth Day 2017 is a great and timely opportunity for it). This would be just a year from the first public announcement that the Rochester CAP was in the works and moving to a final drafting stage. Watch this video of the press conference in City Hall last year that includes the City’s announcement of Climate Action Plan.

In a time when many of the lights are going out on governmental climate change information critical to the public and media, Rochester needs to step up to the plate. It is long past time to be shying away from Climate Change.


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