Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Climate Change Action: Focus on U.S. Cities

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Thinking and writing about all of the looming climate-related crises headed our way can get depressing.  As part of an effort to pull myself out of the muck, I want to start focusing some attention on things that are being done to prevent or adapt to climate change.  Both will have to be engaged with increasing resources in the future.  As with all planning, it’s best to start with where we are today.  To that end, I want to present some work I found and get other folks thinking and writing about it.

A Dr. Boyd Cohen has put together a top-10 list: “Top 10 Climate-Ready Cities in the U.S.“.  Now, I hate most top-10 lists, especially those dealing with pop culture topics.  That’s mostly because I seem to disagree with the specific placement of entries to the list.  Most of the time, nobody knows how a top-10 list was assembled.  What criteria were utilized to generate the list?  Well, in this case, the criteria are at least presented by Dr. Cohen.  Whether you and I agree with the inclusion of the criteria doesn’t matter, mostly because it’s not our list.

Here are the factors Dr. Cohen considered:

I have used proxies and a methodology for ranking the largest cities in the U.S. based on a range of factors including political commitment (as measured by number of commitments the city has made with the U.S. MayorsCarbon War Room Cities ChallengeClinton 40, and ICLEI membership), green buildings (LEED buildings per capita), university leadership (AASHE membership/capita), transit access and use (range of metrics on heavy and light rail usage per capita), clean tech investment (venture funds based in city with clean tech investments in 2010) and energy and GHG emissions (from a range of sources)*.

And here is the list that Dr. Cohen put together (from 10 to 1):

10. Chicago

9. San Jose

8. Philadelphia (tie with New York City)

7. New York City (tie with Philadelphia)

6. San Diego

5. Denver

4. Washington, D.C.

3. Portland

2. Seattle

1. San Francisco

There are various reasons each city ended up where it did, as the post I linked to discusses.  The post also includes this quote from London’s mayor Johnson, which I like:

“Cities are firmly at the vanguard of the global charge to deliver large scale carbon reductions and energy efficiencies. In seeking to set the pace and work together, cities have immense clout to stimulate low carbon world markets to unleash economic opportunities for their citizens.”

Cohen’s list and post are a good place to start, I think.  There are different solutions being brought to bear in different places.  Those solutions should be shared and spread so as to achieve more impact.  Remember, we do not face a technology problem in fighting climate change.  We face a will-power problem.  Personal action only goes so far.  Action needs to grow collectively to have the kind of impact it needs to have.

What do you think of the list?  What do you think of the particular implementations that are already in place?  Are you aware of additional steps being made (such as FasTracks in the Denver metro area, which should increase mass transit use) in any of these (or other) cities?

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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