I have to write a more balanced and thoughtful post on tonight’s #PAGov sustainability forum for Next City, so allow me to indulge in a bit of a rant here.
For an event advertising itself as a sustainability forum, those questions fucking sucked. What are the greens thinking with this shit?
Yes, the supply-side energy production issues are incredibly consequential for the environment. But do you know what’s even more consequential? The demand for energy!
The issue of how much energy we need to heat and cool our homes and offices and fuel our vehicles did not come up once as a question. And yet, car-related emissions account for about half of US greenhouse gas pollution. PA’s climate report says our land use and built environment policies acccount for about a quarter (I think more) of the greenhouse gas pollution.
So we’re looking at in the ballpark of between two-thirds and three-quarters of our state’s climate change problem coming from cars and buildings, with the extent of the pollution determined by how much driving people have to do to get between home, work, and other regular destinations.
We didn’t get a single question about land use and the built environment. We didn’t get a single question about transportation. I get it. It hits all the brain’s political pleasure points to unload on those nasty natural gas fracking companies and Corporations. But the actual climate change villains in our state are suburban and exurban commuters who drive long distances to work, heat and cool huge houses on one acre lots, and demand all that energy in the first place.
Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and other central cities emit way way less carbon pollution than their suburbs because suburban land use regulations make it illegal to put the buildings closer together, and so suburban residents have to do more driving than people who live in areas where local government allows walkable mixed-use development. That’s the bulk of our climate problem. That’s what a “sustainability forum” should challenge politicians on. But we got exactly zero questions about any of this, and only Allyson Schwartz even mentioned the words “sustainable communities” a couple of times.
I’m not lumping in PennFuture because I think they do a good job, but the rest of the environmental advocacy space in this state is seriously fucked.