The City of Elk Grove’s newly-drafted Climate Action Plan outlines a number of tactics to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the city, from installing bike lockers to building electric car charging stations.
But what it won’t contain, if the city’s Planning Commission has its way, is any mention of greenhouse gas emissions from cars, industry and other sources causing the Earth’s climate to warm.
Three out of five commissioners said at a meeting Thursday they doubt such human-caused climate change exists, and voted to remove any reference to it from the document.
“There’s an explicit assumption that carbon dioxide is going to result in the temperature going haywire and all kinds of problems happening,” Commissioner Brian Villanueva said of the document drafted by city staff. “I for one believe that is a very incorrect assumption.”
Villanueva's comments and those of other commissioners appear in a video of the meeting posted on the city's website.
Cities throughout California are developing climate action plans in the wake of the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which set a target of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020. Elk Grove’s plan is set to go before the City Council in May, after the Planning Commission makes a recommendation on whether council members should approve it.
But Commissioner George Murphey said he didn’t see the point of the plan.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do by getting rid of carbon dioxide other than maybe some health benefits,” he said.
Commission Vice Chair Frank Maita added: “What I would consider myself is skeptical of this, very skeptical.”
The world’s major scientific organizations studying climate—including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the National Academy of Sciences—all agree that the Earth is warming and that the change is likely caused at least in part by humans.
A 2011 review of worldwide weather records by U.C. Berkeley scientists skeptical of climate change produced similar conclusions.
Planning Commissioner Nancy Chaires, who voted against the amendment, said in an interview that her colleagues’ comments took her by surprise.
“I along with the majority of the scientific community and most Americans believe we do have some contribution to make in making the environment worse or better,” she said.
Chaires said she worried the plan as amended “would not be reflective of the views and priorities of the residents of Elk Grove.”
Commission Chair Fedolia “Sparky” Harris also voted against deleting the global warming language.
Elk Grove emitted more than 737,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas in 2005, according to the draft plan, with cars and trucks contributing the lion’s share. The plan focuses on creating more environmentally-friendly transportation options and encouraging developers to use green building techniques.
Several commissioners said they agreed with some of the specific strategies in the plan, but objected to linking them to what Villanueva called “end of the world type predictions.”
“Conservation, that’s pretty hard to disagree with,” said Maita. “Being an agriculturist, I think we could be described as the first conservationists, the first environmentalists even.”
As an example of the kind of change commissioners wanted city staff to make, Villanueva pointed to a sentence in the document's introduction that reads, "The large-scale industrialization and urbanization of the last 100 years have increased the amount of GHG emissions in the atmosphere, creating a threat of increased global temperatures that could have an adverse environmental effect."
He asked staff to take out the second part of the sentence so it would simply say that emissions have grown.
The commission also unanimously opted to delete a section saying the city might enact mandatory energy efficiency standards for commercial buildings if voluntary programs didn’t reduce emissions enough.
And commissioners agreed to strike any mention of the word “green” from the plan—though they kept the phrase “green building,” conceding that it would have little meaning without the word “green.”
The revised Climate Action Plan will come before the Planning Commission again April 19.
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