Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The most effective way to reduce transport miles, the transport carbon footprint, is to pile people on top of each other, to replace city parks and low rise dwellings with towering high-rise apartments. So why aren’t affluent Californian greens enthusiastically supporting this most effective measure to combat climate change?
NIMBYs could ruin Berkeley’s best chance of fighting climate change
By Nathanael Johnson
on Jun 14, 2018
My hometown, Berkeley, has a long history of making sweeping gestures at the bete noire of the moment. It called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. It made mobile phones provide radiation warnings. And back in the 1980s, it declared itself a nuclear-free zone.
But now Berkeley has a foe that it could actually do something about. This week the city declared a state of “existential climate emergency” and said it plans to eliminate all city greenhouse gases as soon as possible. The city also pledged to start drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, turning itself into a so-called “carbon sink” by 2030. It hasn’t defined how it will do this.
Cities that have pledged to eliminate their carbon emissions really can make a difference. In April, researchers found that cities in California can prevent a major portion of the state’s emissions all by themselves. But doing so would require huge changes, including a political reorientation.
The researchers looked at Berkeley specifically and found that the most significant way for the city to shrink its carbon footprint was by building more housing — filling in parking lots and vacant areas.
The problem is, it’s fashionable to say you support housing in Berkeley, then add a list of conditions and caveats that would make it very hard to to build anything. One of Berkeley’s subway stations is surrounded by a massive surface parking lot, which could turn into condos. But at the first community meeting to discuss the idea in March, neighbors lined up to oppose that change. The city council later opposed a state bill that would have made it easier for the regional rail system to build new housing.
If not high rises, how about covering the landscape with wind turbines? Every building could have a wind turbine, every park could be packed with turbines, all producing a steady infrasonic whooshing sound anytime the wind blows. All that grass and leafy stuff could be cleared to make way for solar panel arrays. After all transmission losses are reduced if the power is produced locally.
My experience is the noisiest advocates of climate change want everyone else to make the “necessary” sacrifices – they always find a caveat to justify their little perks, like enough frequent flier miles for a return trip to Mars, or not following through on climate recommendations like building more high density housing. So it is no surprise that the urban Nimbys of Berkeley, California seem no different to the rest of the climate hypocrites.