What Is Your Community’s Climate Action Plan?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 27, 2022 by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author; Image Credit: AdobeStock

The following is the requested feedback to Fairfax County’s draft Resilient Fairfax Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan, put forth for public comment from May 16, 2022 through June 15, 2022.

With so many lives at stake, as well as the survivability of the human species, it’s extremely important for every single one of us to voice our positions, and our objections when something seems amiss with our local community/county’s climate action plans as well as the timeline. Everything we do and don’t do in 2022 will be hyper-analyzed in the future. The IPCC, the UN, many global leaders and thousands of scientists have repeatedly warned about the urgency to act immediately. Yet so few local governments are following through.

“Every tenth of a degree matters.”

Peter Kalmus, data scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an associate project scientist at UCLA’s Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering

Dear Resilient Fairfax County, thank you for devoting so much time and energy into this herculean task. Although the plan is 90 pages, which made it challenging for the average busy Fairfax County resident to read, it’s very well written and expertly organized and presented.  

The most notable disappointment in this great work is that it appears to be the Swiss cheese plan to address the terrifying climate crisis, with big holes throughout that results in the Fairfax County Plan not aligning with the global climate targets, as well as Biden’s and the US army’s climate goals and plans, and many peer counties across the country.

It’s unclear why you didn’t simply borrow one of the many existing complete climate action plans, plans that don’t have holes, that are being used in cities, states and countries all over the globe.

Targeted Years of 2050 and 2085, rather than 2025 and 2030

Right from the jump, and throughout the detailed draft plan, there is a repeated emphasis on the years 2050 and 2085, rather than 2025 and 2030. Why isn’t there any action planned for 2023, 2024 and 2025? Tragically, it doesn’t appear that Fairfax County will begin work on any of the climate mitigation and adaptation strategies before 2025.

Biodiversity

The word “biodiversity” appeared only once in the entire 84 page content. Biodiversity was noted in a quote by the IUCN at the very end on page 84 just before the References begin: “Nature based solutions are ‘actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits.'”

Additionally, the nature-based solutions section repeatedly mentioned “trees” rather than biodiversity and trees. Why not include biodiversity wherever you have “trees” listed?

Was this omission intentional or have you not been following the many best-selling books about the importance of biodiversity in saving humanity from extinction, award-winning documentaries and podcasts, and the Kunming Biodiversity Conference and Proclamation? Why did you refuse to follow President Biden’s lead when he pledged his commitment to the aggressive 30×30 biodiversity conservation target a week after he was inaugurated? Why so many half-measures?

Everyone in climate circles KNOWS that boosting biodiversity (which includes diverse native trees) is now a top priority. The short-term goal is to scale-up biodiversity restoration quickly and effectively by planting native shrubs, perennials and groundcover, which includes grasses, under every native tree on every single landscape, and transforming a certain percent of back and side yards to meadows with tall grasses, with the vitally important deep roots, as well as native wildflowers.

Biodiversity dramatically boosts soil health, helps purify the air, lowers the heat island effect, restores the habitat for pollinators and birds and insects, and is a major climate mitigation solution based on how much more carbon drawdown it generates.

In New York state, the median down interstate 84 has been transformed into a dense, biodiverse no-mow median comprised of a wide variety of native, flowering groundcover species. This simple project created a biodiversity corridor that stretches nearly 100 miles. Not only that, it’s absolutely beautiful, and again, significantly increases carbon drawdown. So many layers of benefits at one low cost.

Many Fairfax County homeowners and neighborhoods are biodiversity superstars. Fairfax County residents clearly know the importance of creating biodiversity corridors in our neighborhoods and the remarkable benefits. It’s shocking that Fairfax County committee seemed to intentionally exclude biodiversity. Is this because someone doesn’t want to manage the wildlife, such as deer, fox and coyotes?

If other counties successfully manage restored wildlife, we can too. Los Angeles is building the largest wildlife crossing bridge (Annenburg Wildlife Crossing) that will stretch across 10 lanes of Hwy 101 in the Santa Monica mountains. Why is Fairfax County so reluctant to do what needs to be done? Why so much apathy? We need a wildlife crossing on Fairfax County Parkway which recently had a flock of geese stop traffic when it tried to cross the northbound lanes using their webbed feet rather than wings on a Sunday morning near the Monument Drive exit.

High Albedo Surfaces | Paint It White & Light Grey

There was not a single mention of white or light roofs, roads, sidewalks and parking lots to reflect the sun (which lowers the heat 10ºF inside the building, and 30º-50º on ground surfaces).

Additionally, transforming surfaces to white, light grey or silver, will help save our icecaps. The albedo effect. We only have 2.5 years to save the Doomsday Glacier, which if completely melted, will result in a sea level rise of 2 feet.

Fairfax County knows the importance of white surfaces. The school buses all have white roofs to lower the heat. Bridgewater Corporate Center at end of Government Center Parkway in Fairfax, painted its parking lot light grey to cool the surface.

Image Credit: Noreen Wise

Asphalt is 50ºF warmer than the air temperature. Car tires can become soft in the heat. For each 10ºF of warming on a summer day, the air pressure will increase one pound PSI. Tire range varies between 30-35. If it becomes too hot, the tires will pop when the temperature and pressure keep rising above the tire range.

North Carolina has light cement roads / highways so the roadways won’t buckle in high heat. White and light also helps cars stop quickly on hot days. Car tires on sizzling black asphalt don’t have the same traction when both the tires and asphalt become soft. Cars can slide when they have to stop fast at a changing light. There will be more car accidents during high heat because of this failure to transition to white and light grey high-albedo road colors. 

Raleigh, NC
Image Credit AdobeStock

Switching to light-coloured roofs and roadways would have the equivalent effect on greenhouse grass emissions to taking one billion cars of the road for 11 years. *2009

Steven Chu, Nobel laureate, Physicist and Former Energy Secretary under President Obama

Fairfax City just replaced tan cement sidewalks on Lee Highway to white cement. There’s now a line in the middle of both the sidewalk and the median, where Fairfax City white cement meets Fairfax County dark tan cement. Sadly, Fairfax County has black asphalt sidewalks lining much of Lee Highway.

I mentioned the importance of high albedo through chat during two public virtual meetings held by Resilient Fairfax. The county obviously knows how effective high albedo surfaces are, yet chose to ignore this solution, which makes me loose faith.

Los Angeles is painting many miles of road grids white.

NYC has painted millions of square feet of rooftops white. Schools in Massachusettes and NY are painting their roofs white to lower the heat inside the schools which cuts electric bills and reduces CO2 emissions by 29%.

Fairfax County is stuck on ONLY planning for green roofs. “No” to white roofs. This is NOT accidental, it’s a sad choice.

Additionally…

•No mention of living walls to lower the heat island effect in urban areas. The Kennedy Center has a fabulous living wall on its new Reach building. Georgetown has living walls on buildings lining the canal. Philadelphia has living walls throughout the historic downtown as well as up and down Independence Mall. Downton London, England has city blocks filled with living walls.

Reach Building, Kennedy Center
Image credit Noreen Wise

•No mention of countywide, weekly compost collection using green bins that would be placed curbside with the black and blue bins. Many cities across the globe added curbside compost collection years ago.

•No expectations mentioned for corporations, especially large corporations of which Fairfax County has many. Corporations are often the biggest carbon emitters and need to be regulated.

•No mention of climate refugees from inside US. The UN warned that countries/states have to build refugee crisis into their Climate Plans. Again, that’s refugees from INSIDE our country. Dulles Airport is a major draw for people across the United States, especially those who can’t take the drought lifestyle anymore, or who have lost everything, again, in a wildfire. Millions of people from the Western states, as well as Southern coastal states, will potentially descend on Northern Virginia. Yet no mention of this likely occurrence is in the Fairfax Plan, despite UN’s insistence that it be included.

Again, thank you for everything you did so well. It’s a great accomplishment. As for all the issues you ignored and even rejected, these will create life-threatening circumstances for many innocent people who reside in the county. When extreme climate weather events occur, there will be some residents who point to this draft plan and ask why you ignored the UN, esteemed climatologistsns such as Michael E. Mann and Peter Kalmus, and global leaders like Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Nobel laureates like Stephen Chu.

NASA scientist and climate activist Peter Kalmus warned that every tenth of a degree matters. Dr. Michael Mann warned that 1.5ºC is catastrophic warming. We’re already at 1.2ºC, just three-tenths away from catastrophic. Swiss cheese climate plans result in our community being many tenths of a degree off of where we need to be. There is not a single Fairfax County resident who wants to reach 1.6ºC or irreversible 1.7ºC. Yet, Resilient Fairfax Plan seems to be the action plan for doing just that.

© Copyright 2022. ALL Rights Reserved.


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