Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: #ParisAgreement

Signatories of the Paris Climate Accord
Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  As Blogger observed on Monday that last week was a very busy news week: the horrific act of vehicular terrorism in London and President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, which is today's subject.

Specifically, what cities can do to fight climate change without the Paris Agreement.  If you go to today's edition of The New York Times (; June 7, 2017; date accessed same day) you will find a well written opinion article by Paris Mayor Anna Hidalgo and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto on how cities are more united than ever to fight climate change titled, "The Mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris: 'We Have Our Own Climate Deal.'"  Even the individual states are banding together to fight climate change.  Led by California (naturally) Governor Jerry Brown (the new face of The Resistance), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, a bipartisan group of states have joined together to form the United States Climate Alliance; committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement.  CityLab's Laura Bliss offers suggestions on how American cities can fight climate change in her article, "5 Ways U.S. Cities Can Fight Climate Change Without the Paris Accord."

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Laura Bliss begins with a basic truth, "President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord could damage U.S. credibility in global diplomacy for years to come-..."  However its affect on carbon emission and the U.S.'s path toward climate-change doom, is questionable.

Federal climate action has long stalled by the great congressional puppet masters of fossil fuel lobbyists such as the Koch brothers.  The non-binding goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Centigrade.  Some pundits have argued that the agreement  could be stronger after the world's second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide leaves.

Woman unloading a car
Photograph by Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo
The more pressing question: "What are the most powerful ways localities can action to make lasting reductions to their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)?"  Ms. Bliss offers us five suggestions, adding "Rinse and repeat the first two in particular."

1. Build housing near transit

Here's a sad thought: "A 2016 BuildZoom study found that no U.S. city has kept up with increased demand for housing through development focused in dense urban cores before World War II." (; date accessed June 6, 2016).  Liam Dillion wrote in the Los Angeles Times on March March 6, 2017,

Cities where housing supply met demand only achieved that balance by sprawling outward.  (; March 6, 2017 date accessed June 6, 2017)

Essentially, as more Americans move further away from the jobs and shopping are, they are commuting longer distances, typically by var.

Reducing GHG means reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which translates to American have to walk, bike, and use public transportation to work and recreation more frequently than they do right now.  For developers, it means building more and densely-packed homes near jobs, retail, and transportation options is the most effective way to make driving a less attractive alternative.  Ms. Bliss writes, "This requires a radical reset on land use practices-undoing single-family zoning and incentivizing multi-family developments-that few cities seem prepared to make.  But the stakes are higher than ever."

Upshot: Research by the Urban Land Institute has found that compact development cuts VMT by 20 to 40 percent, compare to average outer-edge suburbs.  (; date accessed June 6, 2017)

Leaders: Austin, Texas is laboring to encourage more density through zoning revisions.  Seattle is urbanizing more than any other city.

Shared mobility
U.S. Department of Transportation
2.  Create transit options people like

Here is another basic truth, public transportation requires three key elements: reliability, affordability, and efficiency.  If you do not have any of these three components, that gleaming subway or bus system is worthless.  Unfortunately, "Years of calculated disinvestment sadly mean that many urban transit systems can now be described that way, especially from the point of view of low-income residents."  Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft bode ill for the future of public transportation's relevance in many cities.  Nor do autonomous driving cars, "which many believe will cause VMT to spike."  Public commitment to shared mobility alternatives will be crucial to lowering urban emissions.

Upshot: Public reduces U.S. CO2 emissions by 37 million metric tons annually-rough half a percent of total annual emissions.  (; date June 6, 2017)

Leaders: Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston

3. make buildings more energy efficient

One of the primary sources of GHG in the United States is electricity generation and buildings accept for almost half of energy used.  Ms. Bliss writes, "Cities with a big supply of large buildings that enforce upgrades to heating and cooling systems-through building codes. efficiency targets, financial incentives, and other tools-can shrink carbon footprints and save on energy bills."

Upshot: New York City's efforts to green its building stock are expected to GHG emissions by 2.7 million metric-tons-similar to removing more than 560,000 cars from the road.  (; November 22, 2016 date accessed June 6, 2017)

Leaders: Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston

4. Rethink driving

Roads are a valuable commodity; some cities are charging drivers a use fee that commensurates with their value thus, signaling people to drive less.  Also, increasing parking fee and eliminating parking minimums from zoning codes could induce people to drive less.  Ms. Bliss adds, "The latter could also help bring down housing costs and building energy footprints."

Upshot: London's congestion-pricing scheme cut citywide car traffic CO2 emissions by roughly 1 percent.  Stockholm saw similar gains ( date accessed June 6, 2017)

Leaders: San Francisco, maybe.  Props to the state of Oregon for testing the country's first per-mile driving fee.

The Rise of Electric Cars
5. Invest in renewables and electrics vehicles

Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen) tweeted:

This chart's conservative.  Industries don't turn on a dime, but when disrupted they can move much faster than this.  Alex Steffen (@AlexSteffen)  May 30, 2017

Ms. Bliss reports, "Dozens of U.S. cities have now pledged to move toward 100-percent renewable energy sources, bolstered by local utilities that have invested in solar and  wind thanks to Obama-era subsidies."  President Donald Trump's plans to throw out the Clean Power Plan could put an end to these subsidies, however, decreasing costs of renewable energy generation have already surpassed predictions; municipalities (and large companies) that publicly commit to renewables can also signal the energy market that renewables are the future.

Along that line, invest in electric bus fleets and charging station of electric cars can alert automakers that "large urban markets demand cleaner drives."  Increasing the number of electric cars on the road can cut emissions-"but this has to go hand-in-hand with cleaner energy.  Plugging your Tesla into a dirty grid doesn't necessarily net gains for the environment." (; June 29, 2015; date accessed June 7, 2017)

Upshot: Converting all of New York City's public buses to an electric fleet would reduce annual emissions by roughly 575,000 metric tons of CO2.  (; date accessed June 7, 2017)

Leaders: Portlang; Burlington, Vermont; the state of California

Bonus: Fight voter suppression in the 2018 midterms

What does fighting voter suppression have to do with fighting climate change?  Laura Bliss writes, "Minority voters are more likely than whites to express concern about climate change and support policies to combat it; they're also routinely target by tactics to block them from polling booths."  Full withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accord will take about four years and likely to carry over into the 2020 General Elections.  Thus, any hope of electing representatives and senators with climate-friendly agendas who will push forward federal climate legislation will depend on a full-on effort to uphold the most basic act of democracy.

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