State officials must act quickly to impose tougher environmental restrictions if they hope to reverse the rapid global warming-related pollution increase in Arizona, an environmental policy report released Monday says.
But gubernatorial advisers working on a list of state policy recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are leaning toward incentive programs and other voluntary measures, not strict mandates.
The report, by the nonprofit Arizona Public Interest Research Group, is an attempt to influence state policymakers and help them determine which policy changes would provide the best results, Arizona PIRG Education Fund executive director Diane Brown said.
“We need to get a handle on this problem,” Brown said. “We think that action needs to be taken immediately.”
Tougher renewable energy and fuel standards, reduction of urban sprawl and incentives for buying hybrid-electric cars are among 14 recommendations in the report, titled “A Blueprint For Action: Policy Options to Reduce Arizona’s Contribution to Global Warming.”
Meanwhile, a task force created by Gov. Janet Napolitano in February 2005 is working on its own set of policy recommendations and is scheduled to release them by June 30.
Steve Owens, director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, said DEQ is responsible for organizing the governor’s Climate Change Advisory Group and facilitating discussions among its 35 members.
The group — made up of representatives from the power, fuel, mining, agriculture, development, tourism and health care industries along with members of nonprofit groups, Indian tribes, government and the general public — is considering about 50 proposed policy changes, Owens said, most involving opt-in programs for industry and consumers.
“We don’t believe that it will be necessary to have any strict controls or mandates,” he said.
Brown disagreed, saying that any meaningful effort to curtail the emission of gases that cause global warming must involve compulsory pollution cuts.
“We need to have certain requirements in place for the transportation sector, for homes, businesses and industry to significantly reduce global warming,” she said.
Since 1990, greenhouse-gas emissions in Arizona have increased by 56 percent, and by 2020 they are expected to be 147 percent above 1990 levels, Owens said. The increases are due primarily to the state’s rapid population growth.
“That’s one of the highest rates in the entire country,” he said about the pollution increase.
Computer models designed to predict climate change over the coming decades show average temperatures in the Valley could increase anywhere from 4 degrees to 13 degrees by 2080, according to Alan Thorpe, a leading British atmospheric scientist who visited Arizona State University this month to discuss global warming predictions.
The temperature boost is likely to cause a series of related environmental changes, such as extended drought, longer and more active forest fire seasons, decreases in water supply due to evaporation, shrinking forests and disrupted wildlife habitat as heat drives out water and food sources.
Other possible effects include the spread of rodentand mosquito-borne diseases, and an increase in heat-related illness and deaths.
Still, Owens said it would be difficult to impose new pollution restrictions across the board because each industry has its own unique set of challenges and limitations when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Finding a one-size-fits-all approach is very difficult to do,” he said.
Continued population growth also presents a major problem, Owens said, because even if per-capita pollution decreases, the overall amount is likely to keep rising. Growth has kept some Arizona cities from participating in local initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases.
In July 2005, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously approved a resolution that calls for cutting the amount of global-warming pollution to levels below those in 1990.
As of April 7, 224 mayors from 39 states, representing 44 million U.S. residents, had signed the resolution.
Not a single Arizona mayor has signed. Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said because Tempe has a city manager form of government, the mayor doesn’t have the authority to sign such an agreement.
Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman said he first heard of the resolution was Sunday, when a representative of Seattle Mayor Gregory Nickels emailed him about it.
Berman said he would need to determine the cost of adhering to the resolution before deciding whether to sign it, but that he is concerned about the local impact of global warming.
“I’m not a tree-hugger, but I’m not stupid, either,” he said.
Owens said the degree of greenhouse-gas reduction the mayoral resolution calls for simply may not be possible in the fast-growing state.
“That’s the single biggest question that underlies what the (advisory group) is doing,” he said.
Brown said Arizona officials should at least toughen existing pollution standards, as many other states already have done.
“We need to have some policies in place that take us further, faster,” she said.
Both Owens and Brown agreed that states must enact their own legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the federal government has failed to address the problem.
“A focused national approach toward global warming is needed,” Owens said. “That’s obviously not happening now.”
Read the report
•The Arizona PIRG report is at www.arizonapirg.org and click on “reports”
•Visit the Governor’s Climate Change Advisory Group Web site at
A new Arizona Public Interest Research Group report about ways to reduce Arizona’s global warming pollution recommends the following policy changes:
•Adopt a “clean cars program” that would encourage hybrid-electric cars and impose limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions
•Require insurers to offer “pay-as-you-drive” automobile insurance, in which rates are calculated by the mile
•Adopt measures to reduce sprawling development and encourage the use of transit and other transportation alternatives
•Establish a renewable fuels standard, so that a portion of all motor fuel comes from renewable sources
•Improve the efficiency of new commercial and residential buildings
•Install more solar and thermal energy systems on homes and businesses through incentives and new financing methods
•Expand the state’s proposed Renewable Energy Standard so that 30 percent of all electricity comes from clean, renewable sources
•Stop growth in emissions from coal-fired power plants
•Reduce government emissions by purchasing renewable power, halving energy consumption in new buildings, increasing energy efficiency and purchasing more efficient vehicles for state fleets