The Anchorage Assembly is preparing to vote on the Climate Change Action Plan on May 21. It’s a polished and yet rangy guideline to reducing the municipal government’s carbon footprint in the decades ahead.
Climate is changing, and both the science and near-religion of climate change has captivated city leaders with a sense of urgency to “do something about it.”
Already the city has converted more than 12,000 streetlights to LED lights, and says it is saving more than $780,000 a year, as LED lights use less energy
But every action has a reaction. A global study led by GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience found that the amount of artificial light coming from Earth’s surface at night has increased in radiance and extent by 2 percent every year for the past four years, creating light pollution that the researchers attribute to the conversion of streetlights to LEDs.
Researchers are particularly concerned about the blue light emitted by LED bulbs. The light may disrupt the biological rhythms and nocturnal instincts of wildlife. And in humans it can make it harder to see while driving at night, and, surprisingly, may make plants bud earlier in the spring.
But never mind that. The Climate Action Plan has other ideas, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 2008 levels by 2050, with an interim goal of reducing them by 40 percent by 2030. Reducing landfills, doing more composting, and using landfill gas to heat municipal buildings are some of the actions being taken already.
The plan would have the Muni convert to electric vehicles over time and entertains the idea of creating a “progressive pay-as-you-throw” garbage rates for households, to reward those who produce less trash.
There are also suggestions about looking at carbon taxes and expanding bike and walking trails and their maintenance.
While cynics may grumble, there’s a lot of good in the plan. It is, indeed, aspirational, even evangelical in nature, because that is how a progressively run government tends to be. It spends a lot of time convincing the reader of the problems associated with a warmer Anchorage.
But overall, it’s the type of plan that is full of worthy ideas (bike paths) that could be implemented over time without a lot of pain. Or it’s a plan that could sit on the shelf if the next mayor or Assembly wants to focus on something else.
There is no price tag attached to the Climate Change Action Plan, but it warns that the cost of doing nothing would be $150 million a year, so at least some reverse economic analysis was attempted. The hidden costs associated with the hundreds of action items will have to be debated in the months and years ahead. The presumption that by reducing greenhouse gases in Anchorage, life on the planet will measurably improve is woven throughout the document as an unproven premise.
The imperative of halting climate change has become an article of faith at every level of government, and the plan will be both scripture and prescription.
The Anchorage Assembly meeting starts at 5 pm on Tuesday, with the adoption of the Climate Change Action Plan showing up halfway through the agenda.
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