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Majority of Elk Grove Planning Commissioners Say They’re Skeptical That Global Warming Is Real

Commission votes to strike any reference of greenhouse gases causing climate change from city’s Climate Action Plan

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.

Should Elk Grove's planning commissioners be concerned about global warming? Sound off in the comments.

Jim Bentley April 09, 2012 at 02:20 PM
One must look for the angle behind the comments. Villanueva is a realtor and pro-business minded individual who is highly unlikely to support language that might detract from business in Elk Grove. I don't the other two commissioners or their backgrounds to offer a comment for them.
william myers April 09, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Bill Myers This is official ignorance of the most damaging and, for citizens, most discouraging kind, It means that a majority of our commissioners simply are not doing their reading on one of the most important long term issues they need to relate to in their job. While the existence of climate change (NOT climate warming) has become something of a POLITICAL football, there is very little (meaning almost none) dissension within the SCIENTIFIC community--especially among biosphere and climate scientists--- about whether it exists or whether it is being fueled in part by growing human-caused omissions. What is up for open discussion are matters like speed of change, interactions between various phenomena during the process, and so forth. The original introduction dropped by the commissioners is a flat out factual statement of the best science accepted on all levels form State and national to international peer-reviewed scientific panels. The potential damage at different levels of greenhouse gas accumulations also are being increasingly well understood, although still under technical development, and the effects on health, agriculture, economic development, and so forth are right now being assessed by state and academic (UC) sources as our planning officials sit in abysmal ignorance of one of the most basic and potentially important of all scientific discoveries of our times. C'mon guys; break out the books, spend a little time catching up.
M.Legison April 09, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Nice to see the lemmings from the left still have the Al Gore nose ring in place. Of course we should be skeptical of global warming, and no one seems to be ignoring that climate change exists in some form. Realtor not supporting anything not business friendly? Really. Teacher not supporting anything except what the union tells them and what is good for their pocketbooks. Really!
Bwood April 09, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I, for one, do not believe the sky is falling, or at least not that fast. I think overpopulation is, and will continue to be, a more obvious and immediate problem in the world. The worlds hungry don't care about how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere.
Tom Waltman April 09, 2012 at 03:52 PM
I, for one, am amused that those speaking on behalf of the "scientific community" sound every bit as religious as those who support absolutist views of their deity or deities. I have a little experience with studying climate change, and while I don't disagree that human contribution to climate change is real, I am very skeptical when that reality is co-opted for political gain. It is really sad that the gains we made in the 70's towards understanding our environment and working in harmony with nature have gone so far sideways... to the point where we can't even have a conversation about what to do because the sides have polarized into heretics and revolutionaries.
Jane Gassner April 09, 2012 at 04:10 PM
R Legison, Your ad hominem attacks on those who oppose you are unworthy of someone with your intellect.
Connie Conley April 09, 2012 at 04:31 PM
No expert here. But I do agree for the reasons stated above by Nancy Chaires, Sarah Johnson and Bill Myers, this important issue should be up to the residents of Elk Grove to decide, not three members of the planning commission. How do we get a referendum on the November ballot?
M.Legison April 09, 2012 at 05:43 PM
But it is OK for those that agree with you to do so, correct, Jane? I am sure you will miss the hypocrisy in your statement.
Elaine Lee April 09, 2012 at 05:44 PM
This is a great example of the importance of public comprehensive questioning BEFORE we appoint or elect anyone to represent us. E
Mike Kurtz April 09, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I suspect these commissioners live in the Republican bubble where facts and information never enter. It is a far that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. And if it wasn't for carbon dioxide and its greenhouse effect this planet would be frozen and we would not be here!
Jane Gassner April 09, 2012 at 06:20 PM
No, M. Legison--Mary? Marsha? Madelyn?--it is not all right for anyone to use ad hominem attacks. But for some people, their ability to reason is such that that's all that is available to them. But such is not the case with you, and I'm calling you on it. There is a place for honest debate between us, but it has to be based on mutual respect.
Tom Waltman April 09, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Ooooops, forgot where I was posting. Let me restate my position: Yeah, we should crucify the heretics for there politically-based ideology before their skepticism infects the pure of faith. Please pass me a pitchfork and torch so that I may join the righteously indignant crowd in pummelling those who would dare to question completely established and immutable scientific facts. (For those of you who have studied human paleontology, how complete is our scientific understanding of climatology from say, even 50,000 years ago?) Yep, so much for courteous discussion.
O F April 09, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I'll bet the same climate deniers also believe the universe was actually created in 7 earth days. Let's replace the deniers with some common sense commissioners.
Tom Brown April 09, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Probably don't believe in evolution either. SMH
M.Legison April 09, 2012 at 07:12 PM
My primary concern for the election of planning commissioners is their position on climate change, because the city has so much control over it, and of course evolution vs. creationism runs a close second because if a person believes in creation they obviously could never be an effective commissioner. The progressives need to be smacked upside the head and join reality.
C Mac April 09, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Before anybody makes another comment on the reality of CO2, global warming, loss of polar ice, etc., please look at this webpage from NASA showing the key indicators for global warming. http://climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/ You are entitled to your opinions, but you cannot dispute the facts.
M.Legison April 09, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Actually, the "facts" from NASA have been in dispute for some time. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2011/07/27/new-nasa-data-blow-gaping-hold-in-global-warming-alarmism/
C Mac April 09, 2012 at 11:20 PM
No, actually the "facts" are not in dispute, which are scientific measurements. What a few "anti-alarmist" pundits dispute is the effects of historically high measurements of CO2 gas in the atmosphere. With our current commissioners, I guess we'll just take our chances on what those effects really are.
Sundance April 09, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I would just like to point out that the Berkeley temperature reconstruction is still undergoing peer review and that it only covers the 29% of the planet that is land. It is not proof of anything because the Berkeley project didn't investigate causality. I would have preferred a peer reviewed reconstruction like the 'Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project' which recreated involved 30 scientists collecting 131 years of weather and climate information in 6 hour increments. This was real data as opposed to IPCC assumptive modeled data and it shows no change in weather/climate patterns for the 131 years that human population grew and added CO2 to the atmosphere. Here is the report: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1253&context=usdeptcommercepub&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fq%3Dtwentieth%2Bcentury%2Bclimate%2Breanalysis%2Bproject%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%26as_vis%3D1%26oi%3Dscholart%26sa%3DX%26ei%3DsmODT-zdD4-G8QSgu73HBw%26ved%3D0CBoQgQMwAA#search=%22twentieth%20century%20climate%20reanalysis%20project%22
Sundance April 09, 2012 at 11:23 PM
continued from above: There are growing uncertainties in the IPCC models as they continue to diverge from the satellite and ocean buoy temperature measurement and a problem of missing heat has yet to be explained by the scientific community which has been unable to reconcile the missing heat with the Earth's modeled radiation budget. The climate predictions from the IPCC models are now close to being falsified and for those of us with physics, math and computer modeling background the problem is evident. Here is the problem as layed out by PHD physicist Clive Best. http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=3303 In communicating with some IPCC reviewers for the upcoming IPCC AR5 report I see no improvement in IPCC model resolution and no reduction in large uncertainties that exsist in the AR 4 report. I think Elk Grove is better off waiting for more reliable climate data before declaring that man is accountable for climate change. There are local and regional impacts that need to be identified before a meaningful plan can be put together. Such a plan should include specific reduction targets with measurable results before the city spends tax dollars on any project. I see so many cities in Europe wasting huge sums of money on things that have no impact on climate change.
Sarah Johnson April 10, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I have no problem waiting for further peer review, etc. The real point is that these Planning Commissioners, and most of the rest of us, have no expertise to make a call like this.
M.Legison April 10, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Exactly, nor does the City. They should not be incorporating these "agenda" items until their validity is confirmed. The commissioners took the proper stand.
Pushpa Naresh April 10, 2012 at 04:36 PM
E;laine and Connie. You are right on the spot. Before any changes are made let us take it to ballot. Three people don't make changes EG residents will decide that.
C Mac April 10, 2012 at 05:00 PM
The report you site above was developed to further refine climate modeling software with assumptions based on historical recorded data. As stated in the report, "The 138-year span of the 20CRv2 dataset should make it even more useful for a variety of climate applications ranging from assessments of storm track and extreme event variations to studies of drought and decadal variability to investigations into meteorological history." The refinement of data is an ongoing process to increase the accuracy of climate prediction software, for short-term forecasts. This report details the scientific assumptions the modelers must make to re-enact historical weather patterns and events using US DOE supercomputers. To say that it "shows no change in weather/climate patterns for the 131 years..." is a complete misrepresentation of the report and the intent of the report to increase the accuracy of climate modeling software.
Tom Waltman April 10, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Okay, so the city's goal is to reduce it's impact on the environment by opting for choices that reduce emissions, etc. Correct? Did the deletion of the language in any way impact the measures that were adopted? So, these heretics voted FOR language that accomplished the mission, but deleted language they felt was unnecessary? They voted FOR the language that supported the end goals of those pro-climate change folks. And people want to remove them for doing that? Okay.
Sundance April 10, 2012 at 08:04 PM
It was meant to do alot more than what you claim. It was meant to compare past extremes with current extremes and the scientists were surprised that no significant change in extremes had occcurred over time. Compo commented on the lack of change in extreme incidences. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-01/w-t2c012411.php The AMS has already published a report showing IPCC climate models are already falsified at the 90% level. What is the basis for Elk Grove to declare that climate change is the fault of man?
Felicia Mello April 10, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Commissioners did ask for some specific changes to the emissions-reductions strategies, like deleting the language on mandatory energy-efficiency standards that I mention in the story. How significant are the changes? It will be easier to tell once city staff has produced the new draft. I'll do a side-by-side comparison when the documents are available, probably by the end of this week. Interestingly, most of the changes to specific emission-reduction measures were reached by consensus, drawing support even from the commissioners who agree with the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is happening.
Tom Waltman April 10, 2012 at 09:13 PM
So in effect, the language changes relating to "man-made global climate change" or whatever the current term is had little to do with the substance of the measures. And there was general agreement among the commissioners about the substantive language. Okay. It is disheartening to see this kind of political polarization over something so important to our future.
M.Legison April 11, 2012 at 05:20 PM
More disputes on the NASA findings from astronauts and scientists: http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/washington-secrets/2012/04/astronauts-condemn-nasa’s-global-warming-endorsement/469366. One should never fully trust data from public or private entities that depend on government funding. Public funding is often corrupt, thus the recipients may be too by desire for survival.
smm April 11, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Omg. I didn't know our planning xommissioners were so out of touch with reality. Don't believe in global warming?! So do they think that 98% of the world's scientists are wrong and they know better? No wonder the new civic center that's being planned is so un-green!

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