Juneau’s role in climate change

  • By Gretchen Keiser
  • Friday, July 28, 2017 8:12am
  • Opinion

Juneau residents get it. We see climate change around us — a retreating glacier, spruce aphids, more rain, less snow, etc. We see the need to do what we can to cool our planet. And now our city has the opportunity to show that we mean it by joining the Climate Mayors’ Network, which currently represents over 360 U.S. cities and 1 in every 5 Americans. On July 31, the Juneau Assembly is expected to reconsider its June 26 vote in support of the Climate Mayor’s Network. We urge the Assembly to reaffirm their vote and join those forward-looking cities to uphold the goals of the Paris Climate agreement.

This small, seemingly token effort is actually a big deal. Our planet is facing a severe climate crisis that we are causing. We have an urgent responsibility to get working on the problem because there is no Planet B to move to. Our individual, local, national and global efforts to deal with climate change have been slow to respond to the scientific warnings that have been loud and clear for decades. We owe it to our children to leave them a habitable Planet Earth.

[Juneau protestors speak out on Paris agreement]

Signing onto the Climate Mayors statement does not commit the Assembly or the city to any binding legal document or any outpouring of city dollars to foreign lands. Instead, joining signifies that Juneau accepts the challenge and has the potential to become a model city as we switch to renewable energy and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We’re already well on our way, having the two elements that the Climate Mayor’s Network expects: a greenhouse gas inventory (we have actually done it twice: 2007 and 2010) and a Climate Action Plan approved by the Assembly in 2011. Our Assembly also passed two resolutions in the past that support actions to reduce emissions: Res. 2397b (2007) and Res. 2502 (2009). It’s now time to step up our efforts at the local level.

We have some advantages. We already have 100 percent hydro-based electricity production. And Juneau’s limited road system is a good fit for electric cars, enabling us to have one of the highest per capita rates of electric vehicle ownership in the country. We are also seeing large numbers of homes and buildings being converted from oil heat systems to electric heat pumps for the simple reason that heat pumps efficiently capture heat from our cool coastal air and cost less to run.

Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is a smart, long-term move for Juneau that will save money for families, businesses, and the city itself. Rather than send that money south to major oil companies, the dollars can stay here and strengthen our local economy. Reducing our energy costs makes living here more affordable for all of us and helps earn Juneau a reputation as a desirable community to live in.

Finally, we all recognize that Juneau is facing a number of tough local issues that weigh heavily on the community. A statement of support for local climate action sends a positive message to community members, both young and old. It fosters a “can do” attitude and motivates us all to pitch in. In spite of these divisive times, we need to come together because global warming is a planetary issue, not a partisan issue. Signing on to the Climate Mayor’s Network will get us a step closer to a unified, forward-looking community with a bright future.



• Doug Woodby is a retired fisheries scientist. Gretchen Keiser is a retired water quality manager and natural resource analyst. Both are members of 350Juneau, a climate action organization.



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