Challenges in Discussing Climate Change in the Sierra Nevada
For the past three years I have been working on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction projects throughout the Sierra Nevada. My involvement in this work has led me to a better understanding of the relationship between a community’s actions and the emission of GHG’s. Through the development of GHG inventories for local governments from Mariposa County to Nevada City, it has become intuitive for me to correlate activities such as driving a car, heating a home, and even placing garbage in a receptacle, to emitting a certain amount of GHG. And even more, it has become apparent that there are many possibilities for reducing the amount of GHG’s that are the result of our daily activities. However, through my work I have found that this intuitive connection is not always well understood among members of our regional communities.
Upon completion of our inventories, we present our report to a city council or a county board of supervisors. In these presentations, there is always opportunity for the public to comment on the presentation. More often than not, this public comment period is filled with passionate opposition to the work that we are doing and to the elected officials that are in support of that work. These comments sometimes turn personal, putting me into a position where I’m forced to defend my own character and beliefs.
I don’t feel comfortable in these confrontations and admittedly take many of these comments personally. It just seems so clear from my perspective: I am presenting a set of data that has been rigorously reviewed and is a result of a science and protocol that I believe in. It is not always perfect, but it is the best tool that we have available to us right now to quantify our impact on the environment … and there is simply no getting around the fact that we do have an impact. Doing our absolute best – imperfect though it may be – to understand what’s happening is the first step in the process of debating and defining how we should respond.
In the end, we need a combination of education and understanding. As an organization, Sierra Business Council respects that people are passionate about their way of life and constitutional freedoms. At the same time, we need to help our communities understand that there is significant science connecting the dots between the emission of GHG’s in our daily activities and negative impacts to our health and environment.
There exists a set of common values among Americans that includes the desire to live in a free and healthy community. With freedom, however, comes responsibility. I believe that by collaboratively finding ways to reduce our GHG emissions without reducing our freedoms, we can achieve those common goals.