Warren Karlenzig works at SustainLane. He is not responsible for any user-generated Content or links that show up on his blog. Also, what he says represents SustainLane, and he is protected by SustainLane.
Ocean levels have been consistently rising in the United States, so maybe people should reconsider buying that beachfront second home, right?
It turns out the rising ocean levels have many more implications on the US economy, particularly in regions such as California, according to eye-opening new studies cited in a series in The Contra Costa (California) Times.
Studies show ocean levels have risen seven inches off the California's Golden Gate in the past century, after rising about two inches per century since the last ice age. With melting glaciers and ice caps throughout the world, the rate of sea-level rise is accelerating in the upper range of what has been previously predicted.
California has been mapping since the fall how these rising sea levels, which are likely to accelerate even more with continued global warming, will impact everything from the state's water supply to its transportation infrastructure. It turns out that if the upper limit of ocean levels is reached as projected by the end of this century, portions of cities and virtually the major Bay Area airports in San Francisco and Oakland would be under water.
Storms, which contribute powerful tidal surges, would only make matters worse. Currently California faces less damage to coastal flooding than do states along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, markets where insurers have been pulling out of because of heavy recent hurricane-induced flood losses over the past years.
Policy to address global climate change, such as California's historic carbon emission-reducing AB 32, is a smart way to begin to mitigate major potential risks to the US economy from rising sea levels. California's coast and low-lying areas include much of the state's most valuable real estate along with its most valuable financial and high-tech industry centers.
Even the Pentagon is concerned about the implications that global warming-induced flooding may have for our national security. In fact, it was a Department of Defense-commissioned study in early 2004 conducted by the Global Business Network that helped to convince California state officials of the very real economic and security threat that global climate change represented.
So the Pentagon and the state with the largest population and economy are projecting global climate change-induced scenarios that may change our lives dramatically over the coming decades.
Should we take global climate change seriously, or do we continue to do business as usual until our ability to do business will be abruptly halted, as it was with Hurricane Katrina?
Yesterday (rebroadcast Saturday, January 27 at 3, 5 and 11 p.m. Eastern), we heard about the following cities:
1. Portland, Oregon
Portland provides a great example of what cities, citizens and businesses can do together to improve their quality of life along with the local economy.
Once having some of the nation's poorest air quality, Portland now has some of the best air and tap water quality nationwide, along with free public transit downtown, the highest bike-to-work rate, the most LEED-certified buildings, strong local food and an emerging alternative fuels economy. Plus the real estate community has backed the first residential home multiple-listing service with green features in history.
2. San Francisco
San Francisco is a close competitor with Portland for managing sustainability programs that help provide the nation's best solid waste diversion rate (recycling and commercial composting), and feature bold projects for solar and tidal energy generation. San Francisco's housing affordability remains an issue that forces many to commute long distances into the city. Fortunately the Bay Area features strong public transportation to help make that commuting less polluting and congested.
Mayor Greg Nickels, who appeared on "The Climate Code," is a strong national advocate for climate change policy, clean technologies, green building and effective sustainability policy management. Seattle, its port authority and King County, have been teaming up on biodiesel ferry and bus initiatives, while the city has strongly pushed for restoring native forests in the Emerald City.
My hometown, and each time I visit, I'm more wowed by what I see under Mayor Daley's leadership. Mayor Daley, who spoke on "The Climate Code" about wanting to go from #4 in the SustainLane rankings to #1, has been greening streets, freeways and even abandoned industrial sites.
Chicago blends the aesthetic with the technical aspects of sustainability: the world's largest green roof at Millennium Park underlies a Frank Gehry-designed bandshell, all part of an ongoing study to reduce urban heat-island effect.
5. Oakland, California
Oakland is a great "sleeper" in the top ten, with growing public transit use, policy supporting more local food, renewable energy and a move toward energy security. New Mayor Ron Dellums is instituting a "green collar" jobs program for youth and low-income workers, so that the clean tech jobs the city is trying to lure can equally benefit professionals, skilled people in the trades, unskilled workers and students.
6. New York City
With the country's best urban public transit system, New York is not resting on its laurels. Mayor Bloomberg is putting his weight behind city appointments, committees and processes that are making a sustainability plan a reality in 2007. Out of such activities, look for the city to assume a leadership role in developing alternative fueled vehicles, renewable energy (including tidal) and Gotham-scaled green buildings.
The Bean goes Green. Boston is poised to become the leading city for green building with its new zoning requiring that all buildings over 50,000 sq. feet be LEED (the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. Add that to high renewable energy use, great public transit, walkability and low sprawl, and you get a promising future. Weakness: recycling.
Philly's #8 has been a surprise to some, but the city is a great model for local urban food, with strong networks of farmers markets and community gardens. The city also is riding a wave of interest in sustainability from citizen groups, business (including the local Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), and just plain folks who have been attending large planning and visioning meetings. From that process the city needs a sustainability plan that city officials buy into, along with more recycling and renewable energy.
When cities claim that they can't build public transit like that of such "older cities" in the top ten, I always point to Denver. The city and 30 surrounding towns in 2004 passed a ballot measure to build out more than 100 miles of new light rail and other new public transit lines.
Mayor Hickenlooper has made sustainability the foundation for the city's future, through economic development that will be integrated with the new public transit. The skinny: 4x current public transit ridership in 15 years and a vital new American city.
Minneapolis wants to increase its energy and food security, as Mayor R.T. Rybak described on "The Climate Code" yesterday. The city will continue being the leader in renewable energy for Midwestern cities, while bolstering farmers markets and community gardens (it's already #1 in that area), and green building.
The year of 2006 in review from the perspective of sustainability in
state and local government, presented in order of importance.
Though we have been doing this blog only since May, so much has gone
on since then that we are overwhelmed by the evidence that the nation
is experiencing a collective tipping point. As Old Abe used to
1. Climate Change Policy Milestones: California, led by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the state General Assembly, passed legislation to reduce climate change emissions by 25% by 2020.
Soon after British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Schwarzenegger
and others in a climate change task force, and the English government
released the Stern Report.
The report, from the former chief economist of the World Bank,
forecasted that global economic output would be reduced by 5-20 percent
if global carbon emissions increase unabated.
Seattle's Climate Action Plan,
released in September, followed up with detailed management tasks for
business, local government and citizens in order to reduce the city's
carbon emissions. This comes as the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement,
started by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels in 2005 as a way for communities
to meet or beat Kyoto carbon-reduction targets, has grown to include
349 mayors representing 54 million Americans.
3. Portland to Institute Green Real Estate Multiple Listing Service (MLS) : Portland will as of 2007 have a green MLS
for all residential real estate in the city and surrounding areas. Now
homebuyers can look up and see if their perspective new or existing
dream home has energy efficient appliances, super-insulation and
renewable energy systems. Seattle and San Francisco are said to be
4. New York's Sustainability Planning: Mayor Micheal
Bloomberg this fall put the mechanisms in place for the city's first
sustainability plan, with the appointment of a Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability
and a high-level Sustainability Advisory Council. How these city-led
multi-stakeholder efforts evolve will determine the fate of everything
from the city's nation-leading public transportation, open space and
poor air quality, to its economy and competitiveness.
5. Portland Biodiesel Requirement: Portland (OR) passed a renewable fuels ordinance
requiring that the city's gas stations provide 5 percent biodiesel of
all diesel fuel sold by July 2007 and 10 percent by 2010. This has
stimulated local production of biodiesel start-ups, and will enable
local farmers to have a market for biodiesel crops such as as canola,
which can be grown in eastern Oregon.
6. Denver Greenprint: Denver launched an ambitious "Greenprint Denver"
in July that lays out how the city can integrate development of its
transportation, land use, neighborhoods and economy. Backed by Mayor
John Hickenlooper, who gave a sustainability themed state of the city
address this summer, the effort is happening in conjunction with
neighborhood groups, activists, subject experts and business leaders.
The city is coordinating the effort through its offices of planning and
sustainability. This is what New York City's plan (see #4 above) could
look like in 12 months if Gotham is able to rally behind Mayor
7. Record Summer Heat Wave: Global climate change went from theory to actuality during the past 18 months with Katrina and Rita, and then with a deadly heat wave this past summer.
The heat wave began in California, killing 139 people and hundreds of
thousands of cattle and chickens while nearly shutting down the state's
electric grid with all-time record demand, before it rolled east into
Chicago and New York. New York City and Chicago avoided the high death
tolls, but also saw record electricity demand. How will cities prepare
for such future events, which may be even more prolonged and intense?
8. Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle Campaign: Mayor Will Wynn of Austin, Texas, spearheaded the Plug-in Partners campaign
to get cities, states and government agencies to put in orders for
plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which can get more than 100 miles per
gallon of gasoline. The campaign, which kicked into high gear in
Washington, D.C. in January when Mayor Wynn presented on Capitol Hill,
saw at least three manufacturers--Toyota, GM and Nissan--vowing to
produce the plug-in hybrid at "some point in the future," possibly even
with prototyping in time for January car shows.
9. Oakland (CA) Local Food and Zero Fossil Fuel Goals:
Oakland, California, under the outgoing Mayor Jerry Brown
administration, launched two ambitious citywide sustainability goals.
The city's sustainability office vowed in its Food System Assessment
to procure 30 percent of its food locally, with a major study completed
outlining how the Bay Area city can improve local food production,
distribution and urban-rural linkages. Led by an 11-member oil
independence task force appointed by its city council, "Oaktown" vowed to become fossil fuel free by 2020. The city, ranked as #5 on SustainLane's City rankings, is coming on strong as a leader in green city pioneering.
10. Best Practice Sustainability Knowledge Base Launched for Government: SustainLane Government went live in October 2006 with a free open-source knowledge base for state and local government. The site, at www.sustainlane.us,
has already received more than 65 best practices and ordinances on
sustainability. More than 130 U.S. cities, counties and states have
joined the site, with Canada's cities and provinces joining in early
2007. SustainLane will also be publishing a book on its US City
Rankings in April 2007 called How Green Is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings.
Warren Karlenzig will discuss the
SustainLane US City Rankings on The Weather Channel's "Climate Code"
show Sunday, January 21st at 5 p.m. Eastern Time, and in The Wall Street Journal later this month.