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Of Climate Destabilization and Alphabet Soup
Public participation is needed to meet the goals of Sustainable Community Strategy under California's landmark climate change law, SB 375.
Do you believe human-caused climate change is real? If so, you need to get down to the Fresno Council of Governments and let your strong voice be heard.
In an effort to deal with climate change, California law now requires MPO’s to include SCS’s in their RTP’s. “Woah!” you say. “What’s with the alphabet soup?” I sympathize. The soup is a big part of the problem and keeps people in the dark about what’s going on and what’s important. Local media haven’t helped nearly enough to explain how important this soup is. Believe me, despite the soup, what I’m going to ask you to do below is important.
An MPO is a “Municipal Planning Organization.” In Fresno County, the MPO is called the Fresno COG—the Fresno Council of Governments (COG), which includes representatives from each of the 16 cities in Fresno County. The Sierra Club and a couple of other NGO’s—Non-Governmental Organizations—also have seats on some Fresno COG committees. Unfortunately, the progressive NGO’s always lose the votes for reasons explained below. But you can help change that.
SCS means “sustainable community strategy,” it comes from the landmark California law, SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008. This important law addresses the crucial issue of global warming and climate change by requiring California cities and counties to change their planning strategies. Local and county governments must now plan their communities and transportation systems in a way that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are side benefits in low-income housing and reduction of air pollution.
That brings us to RTP—“Regional Transportation Plan.” With SB 375, the SCS—the sustainable communities strategy—will become a major force in the RTP. Regional transportation plans will now have to be designed to reduce driving of cars and small trucks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which come from burning gasoline. Carbon dioxide is the primary cause of climate change. Because we use gasoline and other fossil fuels, such as coal and diesel, global atmospheric carbon has increased by about 25% in the last 50+ years. This gradual unbalancing of what scientists call the global carbon budget is what is causing global warming, climate change, and climate destabilization.
All good, right? We have SB 375, and we’re working on it. Yes, except for one thing. The Fresno COG is dragging its heels on designing an aggressive plan for reducing carbon emissions. The reason is pressure from corporations and corporate groups like the Building Industry Association (BIA) and the transportation industry. These guys don’t want to have to change their business models.
It’s the same story the world over. This is why climate conferences in Kyoto, Copenhagen, and Rio have been failures. The powerful corporations used their money—remember the Koch brothers?—to make sure there were no actual agreements at these global conferences on reductions of carbon emissions. The same thing on a smaller scale is happening in Fresno. This is why we need more public participation—which means you.
You can make a difference by paying attention to what’s going on at the COG and making your strong voice heard. You can study agendas at the web site and attend meetings of the various COG committees, especially the PAC (Policy Advisory Committee), the TTC (Transportation Technical Committee), and the big kahuna, the Policy Board, and tell them you are tired of air and water pollution, climate change, and planning that serves only the 1% at the expense of the 99%.
With your help, Fresno can set an example for the rest of the world. If you want to help, use my contact information below.
Chip Ashley is a member of the Sierra Club and local activist on issues of the environment, environmental justice, social justice and city and regional planning. Contact him at 559-855-6376 or wattsvalleypreservation [at] gmail.com.