Focus the Nation: The Turning Point
On Jan. 31, CSU, Chico took part in the largest teach-in in U.S. history. About 1,600 campuses held Focus the Nation events.
For the last two years, campus sustainability coordinator Jillian Buckholz helped organize community leaders and university faculty for the event. About 500 students, faculty, staff, and community members attended discussions throughout the day. At an evening town hall meeting and workshop, 100 participants gathered to discuss the issues while local politicians heard their suggestions for fighting global climate change.
Speaking to a capacity crowd during the “Solutions and Global Climate Change” session, Mark Stemen, Geography and Planning, said that actions must be taken now regarding global climate change. Stemen referenced the address by James Hansen, a leading U.S. climate researcher and director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, at the 2006 Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento. “I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most,” said Hansen.
If the world continues with its current scenario, Hansen said, temperatures will rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 7.2 degrees F) and “we will be producing a different planet.”
“We are at a turning point,” said Stemen. “We might not make it, but we just might. And we are part of that turn.”
In the session “Solutions and Global Climate Change,” Stemen, with CSU, Chico graduate student Halli Bovia and CSU, Chico alum and greenhouse gas specialist Daniel Salazar, spoke about local initiatives related to greenhouse gas emissions. Salazar, who performed a greenhouse gas inventory of CSU, Chico with a group of students about a year ago, has since done an inventory for Fort Bragg and is now working on one for the City of Chico, with the help of three CSU, Chico students.
The City of Chico project is being overseen by the CSU, Chico Research Foundation, The Institute for Sustainable Development, and a sustainability task force created by the Chico City Council. While Salazar and his team are in the early stages of the project, he shared preliminary results in the city’s energy use: it’s nearly half the U.S. average, with 49 percent for commercial use, 44 percent for residential use, and 7.5 percent for CSU, Chico. To perform the inventory, the team is using Clean Air and Climate Protection software made available by the ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability.
When the inventory of the city is complete, Salazar’s team will make recommendations for reduction strategies and control measures. They will also identify an emissions reduction target that is in line with the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement and Assembly Bill 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act. AB 32 has a timeline of 2008 for mandatory reporting and 2010 to reduce emissions to 2000 levels. “The inventory itself is not a solution—it is a stepping stone,” notes Salazar.
Salazar’s CSU, Chico campus audit revealed that 58.6 percent of emissions came from energy use and 33.2 percent from transportation, mostly commuting. Bovia, who has done a greenhouse gas inventory of Butte College, found that only 28 percent came from energy (partly due to Butte College’s large solar power system), 32 percent for student commuting, and 22 percent for staff and faculty commuting. Her recommendations to Butte include energy reduction in the form of phase II and III solar projects and working to reduce people’s commute with options like an open bus system for faculty and staff.
A call to action
Schwab and then Chico Mayor Scott Gruendl worked together to bring the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement before the City Council. On Oct. 17, 2006, the Council, after some discussion and hearing several dozen citizens speaking in favor of the signing, voted 4–3 to adopt the agreement. A 15-member sustainability task force was formed, of which Schwab is the chair. She said that after the city’s greenhouse gas inventory is complete, the next step will be for the city to set target reductions and create a climate action plan.
The next speaker, Redding Mayor Mary Stegall, gave an overview of some of the renewable energy programs of Redding Electric Utility (REU), locally owned and operated since 1921. To leave future generations with a cleaner, healthier environment, REU has contracted for wind power from the Pacific Northwest and biomass power from Northern California, and continues to invest in solar power throughout the Redding community. “We are proud of our carbon footprint,” said Stegall.
In his overview of California responses to global warming, including AB 32, Red Bluff city attorney and environmental lawyer Rick Crabtree mentioned a recent lawsuit brought last year on San Bernardino County by Attorney General Jerry Brown. In March 2007, San Bernardino County approved a comprehensive update to its General Plan. While the county’s General Plan environmental impact report (EIR) contained a discussion of greenhouse gas emission issues, it concluded there was no available methodology for determining whether greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the General Plan update are significant. The EIR concluded that further analysis of mitigation of greenhouse gasses would be speculative.
Brown sued the county, alleging that the EIR did not properly analyze greenhouse gas impacts and did not adopt feasible mitigation measures to minimize those impacts. In the ensuing settlement, the county agreed to adopt a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan, with the goal of reaching1990 levels by 2020, as set by AB 32. Crabtree noted that the San Bernardino settlement may become a road map for compliance for other counties and municipalities.
Hal Thomas, special deputy district attorney of environmental crimes for Butte County, said he spoke as an individual at the event. Remembering the first Earth Day in 1970, Thomas said “Our generation was not too successful” in bringing about major environmental changes.
Thomas said it is the students’ “generational burden” to fight global warming, and that there are ways for them to do so. Ending global warming on a political scale will require regulating behavior and influencing the market, taking such measures as ending suburban sprawl, instituting a high-speed rail system, and either increasing gas prices or making less-efficient cars illegal. “Individual liberties will have to give way to the collective good,” he concluded.
—Marion Harmon, Public Affair and Publications