Cleveland Heights needs a climate action plan

In the April Heights Observer, Alan Rapoport expressed the opinion that the city needs to focus on quality city services and not waste time and resources on issues that are, in his view, unrelated to these services.

He pointed out that one of the first actions of the new city council was passage of an ordinance to adopt a climate action plan. He stated, “That plan will sound good to some who want to save the planet, but it will not improve life on the local level. Such planning will consume time that could be spent on other projects.”

Unfortunately, such an ordinance was never passed by the council. Further, his dismissive comment betrays an elementary understanding of climate issues, what is at stake, and who the stakeholders are. These issues demand more thoughtful attention.

We already see climate change effects in our area and in our city. March broke the record for the most tornadoes in a single month in U.S. history. Some of these struck close to home. More severe storms and torrential rains caused by climate change have resulted in flooding in our city. Horseshoe Lake may be among the casualties. Our drinking water source, Lake Erie, has evidenced disturbing changes due to climate change, including formation of toxic algae blooms, species shifts, and dead zones. Rising temperatures recorded in Greater Cleveland and the heat-island effect are especially hard on those who cannot afford air conditioning or insulation for their homes. Holden Arboretum researchers have observed changes in flora and fauna. Furthermore, projections of catastrophic conditions globally are beginning to unfold as we watch melting ice sheets, wildfire destruction, and flooding of coastal areas. 

Despite what those in denial say, climate change is happening; it is real. Somebody must do something about it, but who?

Internationally we have had hopes for the Paris Climate Accord, but every year the representatives seem to convene and argue and go home without much accomplished. At the federal level, the Democrats have an agenda, but are hamstrung by Sen. Joe Manchin, who has ties to the coal industry; and the Republicans have made climate change a culture-war issue. Our state legislature is riddled with corruption, and the Republicans who dominate it are of the same mind as those in the federal legislature.

So, by default, the responsibility for action on climate-change mitigation has fallen to the local communities. Perhaps this is as it should be, because most of what happens will happen at the local and individual level by, for example, communities switching to sustainable energy, implementing government programs; or individuals insulating their homes, or pressuring corporations to act more sustainably [in making] purchasing decisions.

Many communities throughout the nation, including the city of Cleveland, have developed climate action plans. These plans direct action to reduce carbon emissions and protect valuable resources like drinking water. Ultimately, they will save taxpayer money by switching to sustainable energy and improving energy efficiency, as well as taking advantage of available grants and programs.

Cleveland Heights has already signed on to the Power a Clean Future Ohio coalition and is now in a position to take advantage of the resources it provides. We are now committed as signatories to reducing our carbon emissions by 30% by 2030. Our community needs a well-thought-out climate-action plan to achieve this goal.

Gerald Sgro

Gerald Sgro is a longtime Cleveland Heights resident and a retired research biologist

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Volume 15, Issue 5, Posted 11:08 AM, 04.29.2022