Tucson leaders to consider ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration

Published: Sep. 7, 2020 at 10:25 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - On the heels of record-breaking summer month, city leaders are set to take a serious look at Tucson’s temperatures and sustainability moving forward.

Tucson City Council will discuss a declaration of a ’Climate Emergency’ at September 9′s meeting. The resolution includes a request in regional collaboration for a “more ecologically, socially and economically sustainable city.”

Mayor Regina Romero said declaring an emergency would be more than making a statement.

“We don’t have time to waste,” said Mayor Romero. “It’s life or death and it is a public health issue as well.”

According to a memorandum filed by Mayor Romero and Council Member Paul Durham, Tucson is facing a real climate change threat in public health and safety that can increase the local risks and worsen the effects of major hazards such as wildfires, drought, extreme heat, and flooding.

“We can expect more very hot days and hot nights as we move into the future,” said Gregg Garfin, Associate Professor and Associate Extension Specialist for the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Garfin is also the part of the Arizona Institutes for Resilience and University Director for Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.

“Without reducing the root causes of the human-caused part of climate change, the emissions of heat trapping gasses, and we continue on the path of high emissions that we’ve been on, we can expect Tucson’s temperatures to be more like those of Death Valley by the end of the century,” said Garfin.

Garfin has worked for 20 years to bridge the gap between science and decision-making as communities adapt to changes with the climate. He touched on reports regarding the lack of investment in energy sources and what could be a less reliable water supply. The supply, important for cities like Tucson, that rely on the Colorado River as a major source.

“If we don’t have a reliable energy system, then we lose access to computers, lost work productivity, spoiled food, damaged electronic equipment,” said Garfin. “Every day that we put off taking action on climate change, it’s another day that we are adding to the burden of future generations to take on the costs of a changing climate - which are quite considerable.”

Mayor Romero said the declaration would put the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, along with a quarter-million dollars, in motion. A focus would for all departments to develop strategies to accomplish carbon neutrality by 2030.

“We are going to aim and offset and eliminate the carbon emission we currently generate as a system. So our transit system, our transportation and mobility department, our water department...” said Mayor Romero.

The resolution also directs all department to prioritize and align efforts with the Paris Agreement and the Green New Deal. Dozens of organizations and Tucson residents have signed support of the city’s response to the global climate crisis. The message to Tucson City Council includes:

“As a Tucson community, we feel this emergency declaration would be a significant positive step in city policy and for the safety and wellbeing for the residents of Tucson.”

“Basically boils down to, you can pay for it now or you can pay for it later,” said Garfin. “If we pay for it later, it will cost a lot more.”

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