For my most recent mailer on climate action, please click here.
Posted: August 12, 2019
Meet Davey and Thomas — otherwise known as my primary motivators for seeking a seat on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
My grandsons Thomas and Davey, ages 2 and 3, are growing up in Windsor.
Envisioning their future in a "green" Sonoma County and on a healthy planet
is what motivates my environmental action.
They’re my grandsons, but they could be yours or anyone else’s. Picture your kids, or your neighbor’s kids, or all the kids you have yet to meet, and join me in this effort: We all need to become better stewards of this place that we will leave to the next generation, and the next, and all the ones after that.
It doesn’t stop at the county line, or the state line or the national border or the coast. Our whole planet needs our help. It needs the help of our society and our nation and everyone who calls Earth home, and local government is a good place to start.
Sonoma County should join more than 900 jurisdictions worldwide and declare a climate emergency in recognition of the urgency of addressing climate change.
The Board of Supervisors should establish a policy that every action taken by county government will be done only after climate impacts are taken into account, and mitigated to the greatest degree possible.
Our county government should consider climate change first when:
- Updating the county General Plan
- Purchasing a new bus
- Dealing with food waste
- Requiring new buildings to use electricity instead of gas, and to generate that electricity on roofs or on site
- Phasing out the use of plastics for containers, drinking straws, and all packaging
- Investing a greater percentage of Measure M taxes in transit and less on Highway 101 widening, which is now fully funded in Sonoma County
- Encouraging pedestrian and bicycle trips by improving infrastructure and enhancing safety
- The list goes on and on...
Sonoma County has been a leader in Climate Action programs and activities, but we must step back on the gas if we want to stay out front in this critical race to save our planet.
Or, more accurately, step off the gas.
It’s no secret that gasoline and diesel — and the huge transportation sector that relies on them — are the biggest culprits when it comes to climate change issues. Almost two-thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions come out of our tailpipes in Sonoma County. Reducing that number is key to any climate-action planning.
But other gases — particularly methane — also pose a critical threat to our and other species’ ability to survive on Earth. Methane is a naturally occurring gas in our environment but is released in unnatural amounts by our extensive use of natural gas for heating, power and cooking. When burned, methane emits less carbon dioxide than coal, but when released directly into the atmosphere, as occurs extensively through leaks in the natural gas distribution and storage system, its contribution to climate change can be dozens of times worse than CO2. We can also significantly reduce methane emissions by reducing food waste and redirecting food waste away from the county landfill.
Establishing building-code requirements for new homes and other buildings to run only on electricity reduces the need for natural gas distribution, and emissions. It also allows electricity to be generated on-site which, paired with batteries, creates a self-sufficient building that is able to function normally during anticipated electric grid shutdowns during high-fire-danger events. A community of electric-only homes that run on solar power and rely on electric vehicles will be safer, more resilient and less expensive to operate and maintain.
Poor, underdeveloped countries around the world face some of the most severe and immediate impacts from climate change, making climate action an important social-justice issue. This also applies closer to home, and in Sonoma County we should ensure that lower-income communities are able to afford and enjoy the financial and health benefits of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
Also, Sonoma County and its cities should establish “urban greening” programs such as extensive tree-planting and community gardens to increase the ability of our landscape to act as a “carbon sink” and to decrease high temperatures through shade and natural moisture.
Sonoma County is lucky to benefit from a community ethic of respecting the environment and recognizing the threat of climate change. We successfully reduced the percentage of greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by homes and buildings from 34% to 23% of the county’s total GHGs from 2010 to 2015 — largely because of increased availability of wind, solar and hydro power from Sonoma Clean Power, traditional suppliers and Healdsburg’s electric utility.
In those same years, however, GHGs from the transportation sector increased to 61% in 2015, compared to 55% in 2010. Even with the proliferation of electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles, Sonoma County residents are driving more, thus causing more harm to our environment.
That means increasing the availability and affordability of housing — particularly housing that is close to jobs, shopping, schools and entertainment — is also a critical climate-action issue.
Protecting our planet from climate change — and thus reducing incidences of famine, flood, drought, wildfires and extreme weather — must be our highest priority. We need to do it for our kids and for our neighbors’ kids, whether they live around the corner or around the world.