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On Global Warming

Maybe we could invite Al Gore to Illinois to talk to the governor about mass transit funding (which he wants to cut), or coal power plants (which he wants to build) — two issues highlighted in recent Newstips on local efforts to address global warming.

January 10. Local activists — with interests ranging from the environment to economic development, alternative energy, sustainable agriculture — meet to ask: “Now that we know, what can we do?”

February 2. Environmental Illinois’ Global Warming Blueprint offers thirteen strategies to reduce global-warming pollution in Illinois. One issue highlighted:

“The biggest source of global-warming emissions in the state is coal-fired power plants, which account for 38 percent of carbon dioxide pollution in Illinois. Emissions from coal plants increased by over 50 percent — significantly more than any other source — between 1990 and 2002, according to the report.

“Some of the state’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants will be retired under a recent agreement between power companies and the state to reduce mercury emissions, Stanfield said. But with the cost of natural gas rising, 14 new coal plants have been proposed for the state.

“Illinois should limit CO2 emissions from existing coal plants – as eight northeastern states have already done – and should declare a moratorium on new plants, the report argues.

“‘You can’t say you’re for solving global warming and be issuing permits for new [coal] plants,’ Stanfield said. ‘You can’t do both.'”

August 22. Four urban transportation groups including Chicagoland Bicycle Federation issue a report comparing transportation policies in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

“One goal is to spur competition with other cities when Chicago issues its emissions reduction plan later this year as part of the Clinton Climate Initiative, an international effort to reduce urban greenhouse gas emissions. ‘Chicago’s plans should be in line with, or better than, these other cities,’ [CBF’s Rob] Sadowsky said….

“Chicago’s new Complete Streets policy aims at making all streets safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, and the city’s Bike 2015 plan set a goal of converting 5 percent of all trips under five miles to bicycle over the next eight years.

“But by focusing on moving autos quickly, the city’s traffic management department often undercuts other initiatives promoting biking and walking, Sadowsky said, and Chicago’s zoning code doesn’t do enough to promote transit-oriented development.

“He said the city could reduce emissions with congestion-mitigation policies such as variable parking rates, and the state urgently needs to fix the funding formula for public transit, so the system can be expanded to address global climate change and rising gas prices.”

October 3. Per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMTs) are rising too fast — in the Chicago region, up 34 percent between 1980 and 2005 — because sprawl forces people to drive whenever they want to go anywhere, and increases the distances that must be driven. These increases will more than offset any emissions reductions gained by more efficient vehicles and cleaner fuels, according to a report from the Urban Land Institute and Smart Growth America.

Michael Davidson of the Chicago-area Campaign for Sensible Growth “said long-term stable funding for the RTA is a ‘perfect example’ of policies needed to reduce congestion and emissions. ‘If we don’t have a great transit system with dedicated funding, we’re going to have more people spending more and more time on our roads,’ he said.”

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Category: climate change, coal, global warming, transportation

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