PHOTO BY ERIK AULT
Wednesday, December 21, 2022; Winter Solstice, Wendy Park, 2800 Whisky Island Dr: The winter solstice sun rises behind the lake freighter American Courage at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. From this point forward, total sunlight hours will gradually increase until the next solstice.
by Erik Ault
On January 10th, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) revealed details of its Climate Action Plan. According to its website, “NOACA is a transportation and environmental planning agency serving Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties.” The main goal of the plan is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan was presented at five sites within the region as well as telecast online.
“Climate change poses a serious threat to northeast Ohio,” opened Grace Galluci, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of NOACA. “Often it’s the most vulnerable people that suffer the most.”
Joseph MacDonald, NOACA’s Director of Strategic and Environmental Planning, showed the results of a regional poll asking citizens for feedback on climate change. Despite broad agreement that climate change is a reality to which human activity is contributing, the data revealed that people are uncertain if our region is prepared to handle environmental changes. But it also showed that people are optimistic that something can be done. “There is a feeling that there is something they can do not only to prepare for climate change but also to mitigate or lessen the effects of climate change in our region,” he remarked.
Tim Kovach, NOACA’s Air Quality Manager, presented the findings of a Greenhouse Gas Inventory which estimated regional greenhouse gas emissions and removals. The Inventory showed that the greatest contributor to greenhouse emissions was the residential sector through people’s use of natural gas and electricity which comprise 25.7% of all greenhouse gasses. Transportation followed closely with 25.5%.
Of the five counties covered by NOACA, Cuyahoga emitted the most greenhouse gasses at 64.2% even though it represents 60% of the residents. According to Tim, this is because Cuyahoga maintains infrastructure that serves the entire region, such as airports or large manufacturers. Because of this, in Cuyahoga County, industrial energy was the greatest contributor to greenhouse gasses with the residential sector coming in third.
The Inventory also accounted for net removal of greenhouse gasses by the forest and trees; but these were able to remove only 3.3% of emissions. Unless steps are taken to address this, our region will still be contributing to an increase of greenhouse gasses.
Kathleen Moore, Manager of Environmental Planning, identified the climatic hazards likeliest to threaten northeast Ohio. The top three were extreme heat, heavy precipitation and flooding, and severe thunderstorms. These changes will most threaten those who are unable to adapt such as people who live in areas with older infrastructure or the homeless.
During the presentation, instant feedback was solicited from participants. Many comments were skeptical of climate change and the goals of NOACA. Responding to this, Grace Galluci remarked, “Even if one person changes their behavior and we have an improvement…that is positive change. Imagine when that is duplicated and replicated, over and over again exponentially. For those of you who are still skeptical, that’s OK. We want to hear about it, and have you engage with us so that we can share the information that we have and develop a plan that works for everyone.”
The plan is scheduled to be finalized and approved by the board in June. Updates to the plan can be found at any library within the region or online at eneo2050.com.
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