Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sustainability Case Studies--Chapter 7. Greenhouse Gas Management: A Case Study of a Typical American City

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This is the seventh post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability:  Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the chapter review.

Today's post is on Chapter 7, Greenhouse Gas Management:  A Case Study of a Typical American City by Rachel M. Krause and J.C. Martel of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas. Greenhouse gas management is growing in importance around the world given our pressing issues with climate change and this chapter provides an excellent case study from Kansas City, Missouri.

The Chapter starts with a rich background on a variety of issues associated with climate change and greenhouse gas management. It provides scientific background on the topic and highlights how to measure and manage greenhouse gas emissions. Following this, the background section also provides a summary of climate protection efforts at different levels of government:  international climate agreements, U.S. Federal policy, U.S. state and regional efforts, and municipal climate protection efforts. This summary of government approaches to climate protection efforts is one of the best summaries out there. It asserts that while there are some strong international efforts, U.S. federal policy is weak and state policies are scattershot. Much of the heavy lifting on climate change policy is actually occurring at the municipal level.

The chapter than moves into the case study of greenhouse gas management in Kansas City. After receiving criticism that it wasn't doing enough to address climate change, the city moved aggressively in the last fifteen years to combat the problem. It hired key staff, reorganized government, and set aggressive greenhouse gas targets. The mayor appointed an 11-member steering committee to work on climate change policy which was supported by four technical work groups and 100 community volunteers. A climate protection plan and a greenhouse gas inventory were initially created and follow up plans and reports were created including a follow up aspirational goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 50% of 2000 levels by 2050.

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The chapter goes on to review the steps the city took to try to achieve their goals. The city divided their efforts into two phases. The first phase focused on city operations and the second phase broadened this phase to include the broader community. Strong focus was placed on improving energy efficiency in buildings and in constructing retrofits when necessary. In addition, efforts have been made to reduce on-road greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The results have been positive, but the city is not on track to meet it's goal. However, the city operations have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 25% of its 2000 baseline which means that the city operations are on track to meet their goal.

The chapter then moves into Lessons Learned and Challenges and Barriers sections. One of the most important factors in Kansas City's recent success is that it had strong leaders who worked as policy entrepreneurs to promote the initiative. These leaders have been able to prioritize environmental initiatives and create a stable institutional framework as well as dedicated financial support. The leadership empowered city employees to follow. The initiative was also supported by community partners and important stakeholders like The Chamber of Commerce and Kansas City Power and Light. Three particular challenges were noted, however:  data collection, sound budgeting, and political (liberal urban initiatives in a conservative state).

Overall, the chapter provides one of the most interesting case studies on greenhouse gas management that I have seen. Because it also contains excellent background information on greenhouse gas policy and climate change, it is an excellent choice for supplemental reading on any unit on greenhouse gas policy.

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Click here to for more information about the book
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Here are some discussion questions that can be used when using this chapter in a lesson on energy planning, renewable energy, or sustainability management within local governments.

1. In the introduction, the chapter discusses the different types of activities associated with climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. Describe the differences.
2. What is a carbon dioxide equivalent?
3. Compare and contrast U.S. and global climate change policy.
4. Why are cities the crucible of climate change protection efforts in the United States?
5. Describe three main initial decisions that Kansas City took that influenced its climate change trajectory.
6. Describe Kansas City's greenhouse gas mitigation efforts. Were they successful?
7. How important do you think it was that the city worked with key stakeholders like Kansas City Power and Light and the Chamber of Commerce?
8. If you were to recommend next steps for the city to take to enhance its greenhouse gas initiatives, what would you recommend?

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Previous posts in this series:

Chapter 5. Drinking Water Infrastructure Inequality and Environmental Injustice:  The Case of Flint Michigan
Chapter 6. Sustainable Renewable Energy:  The Case of Burlington, Vermont

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