Monday, July 03, 2017

Rochester, NY passes Climate Action Plan

Rochester, NY enters the ranks of other responsible communities actively planning for Climate Change like Portland, Oregon; Chicago, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

On May 23, 2017, Rochester City Council passed the City’s Climate Action Plan (CAP):

“City’s Office of Energy and Sustainability, working with consultants it engaged for that purpose, has developed the Rochester Climate Action Plan (CAP), which proposes a community-wide target greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal of 40% from the baseline year of 2010 by the year 2030 and provides an implementation framework consisting of strategies and actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” (page 92, Resolution No. 2017-13 Resolution endorsing the Rochester Climate Action Plan Council Legislation Passed May 23, 2017, Certified Ordinances passed.)

Rochester’s climate action efforts are not just part of an explosion of US states and cities stepping in to fill the leadership void on Climate Change since the Trump administration has turned a blind eye to this crisis. Our City has been working on its Climate Action Plan for quite a while beginning by tending to its own carbon footprint with the municipal operations Climate Action Plan in 2013. The CAP will eventually be included in Rochester’s Comprehensive Master Plan, whose purpose is “a means to promote and protect the general health, safety and welfare of the people and to lay out a course of action for the future social, physical and political development of the community”.
Our leaders don’t have the luxury of denying clear and present dangers to their constituents. In the CAP, Mayor Warren says,

“The people of Rochester understand the sense of urgency that must be brought to bear against increasingly damaging impacts of climate change. By taking steps to protect Rochester’s environment, we are creating a healthier, more vibrant and livable community for all of our citizens. This is why Rochester is working toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By sharing our success with other cities across the nation, we expect our local efforts to have a global impact.” (Page 3, Mayor Warren, Rochester Climate Action Plan)

There are many benefits for each community having a CAP and I talked about that in the beginning of 2016: Why Climate Action Plans (CAP) are so important for every community.

Rochester’s CAP

The CAP starts out (as do all other community’s climate action plans) highlighting and emphasizing the science behind Climate Change. Then it describes “What Climate Change Means for Upstate New York”: Increasing temperature and changing precipitation patterns, impacts to the Great Lakes, reduced winter recreation, impacts to agriculture, and impacts to human health and equity.

The CAP then proceeds to describe why Rochester needs a climate plan at all. The plan builds on a previous effort the City itself has initiated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With the development of this present CAP, the City widens its scope of the plan so that it’s part of a state and nationwide strategic plan to address Climate Change.

Throughout this plan, area residents are reminded how addressing this crisis goes hand-in-hand with making Rochester a modern, thriving community. The plan focuses our view of local issues through the lens of Climate Change: The Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP), The Harbor Management Plan, Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative, and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

By providing many benchmarks in population, greenhouse gas emissions, housing, energy use, and human health, our community will be able to measure our progress on these issues. This will allow Rochesterians to adjust our goals so that we are actually moving on a scale and timeframe that will matter.


For Rochester, in particular, there is a real opportunity to thrive despite a warm and disruptive future (for a while anyway.) Every community everywhere is going to warm up but we in Rochester are not going to warm up as much or as quickly as many places around the world, including our southern cities. It’s not that Rochester and other rust belt cities are better prepared for Climate Change right now. It’s because our temperate location offers us an occasional respite from the heat. This is to say, we aren’t going to be nailed as hard and as soon with dangerous heat, water shortages, and sea level rise as many other cities in our country and around the world.

Extreme Heat Waves Will Change How We Live. We’re Not Ready Extreme heat struck across the Southwest U.S. this week, sending temperatures in Phoenix soaring to near 120°F and grounding airplanes that were unable to operate in such warm weather. Heat waves are nothing new, but they have increased in frequency and severity in recent decades as a result of climate change. And each extreme heat event reveals another way our society simply isn't built for such high temperatures, from our transport systems to the agriculture industry. "We’ve built entire infrastructures with particular temperatures in mind," says Matthew T. Huber, an associate professor of geography at Syracuse University. "When temperatures get really high, we don’t have the material capacity to deal with that." (June 23, 2017) Time [more on Climate Change in our area]

This opportunity shouldn’t be lost, an auspicious opening that includes rapidly ramping up the resilience of our infrastructures, not only for oncoming extreme weather, but for a great influx of climate refugees. In order to capitalize on this advantage, we need to plan. We need to envision a healthy, sustainable future, a time beyond today. All other creatures on this planet exist within an immediacy; only we Homo sapiens can think ahead of Now. (Sure Fido starts getting anxious and runs about the house even before you get home from work. But your dog isn’t thinking and planning for you in the sense that we humans would. (Sorry, I don’t mean to denigrate Fido or in any way heap scorn on his wonderful species.))

Our hope is that the City’s CAP motivates Monroe County to work with Rochester and develop a more expansive plan. Sadly, Monroe County (where Rochester is only one community) is still languishing in Climate Silence.

Soon, the City’s CAP must be integrated into a complete, national, and even international plan. Climate Change is a planetary crisis and needs to be addressed on that scale. This urgent need for national and global connectivity also highlights why it is so tragic that the US pulled out of the Paris Accord. Rochester’s CAP can do a lot. But it remains somewhat isolated and disjointed when it is not part of a planetary plan.

It’s worse than sad that we now must continually push back against the present Trump administration’s anti-science, anti-environment, and anti-Climate Change agenda at a time when the window of opportunity is quickly closing.

Time passes. 

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