Scarp: Gore may think globally, but we should act locally - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Scarp: Gore may think globally, but we should act locally

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Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2007 10:20 am | Updated: 5:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Former Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to reverse climate change is mostly a global approach. It’s why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week in Oslo, Norway.

His acceptance speech singled out two of the world’s largest nations, the United States and China. He admonished them Monday to make systemic changes, the Associated Press reported, or “stand accountable before history for their failure to act.”

Gore’s a big-picture guy who concentrates on getting worldwide attention to climate change. But planning for the planet’s survival also requires efforts on smaller levels, in local areas.

That is to say, those of us who simply inhabit the Earth and who don’t have seats in the United Nations General Assembly or global corporate boards — and our descendants — will have to develop some new attitudes as well if we are to maintain good planetary environmental health indefinitely.

The director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Steve Owens, told a small audience for his Arizona State University-sponosored lecture in downtown Phoenix Tuesday that rather than wait for still uncreated solutions from Washington, states have taken matters into their own hands.

We always hear about how fast the polar ice caps are melting or Brazil’s rain forests are being depleted. Owens told of how sources right here in Arizona contribute to those outcomes.

While greenhouse-gas emissions from the entire U.S. rose 22 percent between 1990 and 2005, Arizona’s have risen 56 percent in that same time, Owens said. If nothing more is done to reduce them, by 2020 Arizona’s emissions will be at 148 percent of 1990 levels and at 200 percent by 2040.


Unlike other states with more easily identifiable “smokestack” industries, 77 percent of Arizona’s contribution to greenhouse-gas emissions are from two sources, Owens said: electricity generation, from such sources as coal-fired plants, and transportation, that is to say, vehicles on our roads.

Owens said Arizona’s task may be tougher than other states. It’s easier to approach one smokestack owner about reducing emissions than it is to get hundreds of thousands of Arizona drivers on board, he said.

But we have to try. ADEQ has set Arizona’s goal as reducing GHG emissions to 2000 levels by the year 2020 and to half that by 2040. Owens said Arizona has joined several states and Canadian provinces in the Western Climate Initiative to reduce emissions.

“There’s probably no more of a 'red state’ than Utah,” he said of the conservatism of one of WCI’s states, which shows that combating climate change is not a “liberal Democratic initiative.”

Which, even though its best-known figure is Al Gore, is nonetheless true.It’s neither red nor blue, but green.

And it starts with individuals.

Contact Tribune columnist/editorial writer Mark J. Scarp at (480) 970-2351 or

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