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Others must fill climate change leadership void

Climate Change Harvey

Interstate 69 is covered by floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey in Humble, Texas, in this Aug. 29.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

One of Asheville’s lesser-known treasures is the National Center for Environmental Information, one of the world’s leading archives of such data. Gathered about it are various outfits dedicated to putting NCEI data to use. A major component here is The Collider, a nonprofit workspace in the old Wells Fargo building facing Pritchard Park.

Today, folks in The Collider find themselves filling a void left by the national government. President Donald Trump refuses to recognize the indisputable fact that the Earth is warming and that human activity in releasing gases that trap the Earth’s heat — so-called greenhouse gases — plays a significant role.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris accord to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, an agreement supported by nearly 200 nations, and put in charge of environmental policies people who oppose those policies. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has played down the effects of global warming as not necessarily “a bad thing.”

We imagine the residents of Pacific Ocean nations threatened with inundation as sea levels rise would disagree. The Pentagon also knows better, as its Diego Garcia air base in the Indian Ocean is threatened.

The amount of the human role and the significance of other factors in climate change can be debated. So can many questions of what we can and should do. But the fact that the earth is warming is beyond denial. Asheville recorded its two hottest years on record in 2016 and 2017, more than 2 degrees above normal, according to the National Center for Environmental Information.

“It’s not even a discussion for us because we operate from the principle and the fact that the climate is changing,” Megan Robinson, The Collider’s chief operating officer, said. “We’re not saying X, Y and Z are the causes — someone else might be saying that.

“But we’re saying it’s changing and we’re fostering this innovative and creative space for solutions that are ultimately going to impact the life, safety and prosperity of society everywhere.”

In a way, the location is natural. “I would say Asheville has been on this train for a while now,” Bridget Herring, the city’s energy program coordinator, said during the ClimateCon conference at The Collider last month. “Climate change, as we’ve seen, is quite a large issue, and the way you eat an elephant is one bite at time.”

The city has instituted a goal of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050, including a 4 percent annual cut in carbon footprint, which relates to greenhouse-gas emission. Mayor Esther Manheimer was one of 274 mayors to sign a letter of support last year for the Paris Agreement.

Buncombe County commissioners voted in December to move away from fossil fuels for electricity and its vehicle fleet. The county is committed to use only clean and renewable energy for its operations by 2030 and for all county homes and businesses by 2042.

“It is critical that we strive to operate as efficiently as possible, both from an energy and cost perspective,” said Jeremiah LeRoy, county sustainability officer.

Asheville and Buncombe are not alone, as noted by the number of mayors who signed the Paris petition. Local and state leaders all over the nation, including North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, understand that other levels of government must fill the void left by Washington.

The feds must step up at some point. But we at least can minimize the damage until this nation once again has a president fit to hold the office.

The Asheville Citizen-Times

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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