Saturday, June 26, 2021

Heat Wave Discussion Deserves Stronger Climate Context

The immediate public interest is health and safety, avoiding heat-related illness and sharing information about resources for keeping cool.

Front page today (notes added)

But it is interesting to see the limits on the way we frame up that "the air is expected to become unhealthy...over the next few days." There is an explicit suggestion to avoid driving and use of other small engines and sources of emissions.

Why can't we extend this, since we have a more general and global sense in which our air has become unhealthy and dangerous? This should be our baseline now.

And there should be a stronger through-line of climate context in our reporting on this heat wave, as it is certainly exacerbated by our rising greenhouse gas levels. Our emissions and its effects on climate increase the frequency and severity of these events.

Climate Action Plan update

Separately, the City's published some materials from the last Task Force meeting, but they are not very well explained, and seem to represent a moment in process rather than a report on a milestone. They are sprawling and unfocused. They do not seem at the moment to warrant drilling into too much detail.

So a general observation about ambition. One of the slide decks is more focused. It is a "cost benefit analysis update" - but there is nothing on cost or on benefit in it. Instead, it is a list of 10 strategies, four of them ditched and four new replacements, that are getting more study:

  1. Charge for Parking
  2. Support energy efficiency and weatherizion of existing buildings
  3. Energy Efficiency Benchmarking (municipal buildings)
  4. Implement a gas tax
  5. Connect bikeways
  6. Complete Salem's sidewalk network
  7. Create dedicated bus lanes
  8. Increase tree canopy
  9. Make home EV charging accessible to renters
  10. Solar-ready new construction

But there is still no clear sense that whatever it is we are considering, it will have anticipated results commensurate with our explicit goal to reduce emissions by 50% in 2035. Is it gonna work? We still seem to be selecting strategies by how easy or palatable they are, rather than how effective they will be.

We are starting this crazy heat wave. Are our Climate Plan actions proper to the magnitude of disruption?

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