Weather Prompts Need For Climate Change Action Plan

So far this year Lakwood residents have experienced record high sustained temperatures. During the month of July, City of Lakewood infrastructure channeled one inch more rainwater than is normal. On July 19, five inches of rain fell in two hours which resulted in the flooding of a First Energy Substation. It was reported that 43,000 Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) customers were without power in Lakewood for an average of 93 minutes.

In an article published in the last issue of the Lakewood Observer, Mayor Michael Summers described ongoing discussions between his administration and CEI representatives and noted that Lakewood residents have gradually increased demand on the electrical grid. Mayor Summers summed up the situation: "Putting all of these factors together--prolonged extreme heat, torrential downpours and excessive demand for power--caused an extreme situation which resulted in extreme power outages."

Local governments throughout the nation are assessing the impact of climate change on their communities. New York City, Chicago and King County, Washington are leading the nation in formulation of climate change action plans. While the size and structure of the City of Lakewood is on a different scale, changes in weather conditions should be part of a risk assessment for a town of 56,646 residents as well as for an urban behemoth.

Climate change action plans tend to consider two things: mitigation (reduction of emissions) and adaptation to the effects of a changing climate. These plans anticipate damage caused by weather extremes and avoid emergencies that complicate and delay routine maintenance and capital projects. Planning for the impact of climate change is a good idea.

Work on the Chicago Climate Action Plan began in 2008 and communicates urgency represented by

*Extreme heat in summer

*Many more heavy rain storms

*Growing flood risks

*Stresses on public health

*Threats to the City's economy

The New York City Panel on Climate Change was also established in 2008. The 2010 report of this group predicts that "We will be challenged by increasing temperatures, change in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels and more intense and frequent extreme events. Historical climate precedents are no longer valid for environmental planning.”

Closer to home, the City of Cleveland established an Office of Sustainability in 2009. Sustainable Cleveland 2019 is described as a "shared call to action." The goal describes "a 10-year campaign for building an economic engine to empower a green city on a blue lake by the 50th anniversary of the infamous Cuyahoga River fire." Cleveland's initiative appears to be the most current and comprehensive planning in the area.

Cuyahoga County has an evacuation plan dated July, 2007 that contemplates flooding, severe storms and tornadoes but does not address the systemic challenges described in Mayor Summers' recent news article.

Ward 2 Council Member Tom Bullock is chair of the Public Works Committee and expresses a positive outlook for the City of Lakewood's preparation for and response to the impact of changing weather conditions. He calls Lakewood an "early adapter" to sound public energy practices and notes that Lakewood has eight active energy efficiency projects in various stages of completion. Council Member Bullock observes that often a public health initiative or the exercise of fiscal responsibility is also environmentally wise.

Several Northeast Ohio mayors have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Most of these communities do not yet have a climate change action plan. Likewise, the City of Lakewood has not developed a comprehensive plan to address problems that are likely to occur because of changing weather conditions. However, there appears to be openness to such a plan.

Northeast Ohio is home to several non-profit organizations that support environmental stewardship and sustainability. These organizations include the Sierra Club and E4S. EcoLakewood sponsors art projects and Earth Day programs that educate and promote awareness. Public activism and elected leadership make a powerful team.

trudy hutchinson

I am a Lakewood resident and I have written one article for the Observer. I would like to write more.

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Volume 7, Issue 17, Posted 8:32 AM, 08.24.2011