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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 10:07 am | Fair 52º


Trent Benedetti: Continuing a Climate Discussion and Heeding Expert Direction

In my March 15 column, I lamented the shrill tone often employed in climate change discussions. The column drew a response from Dr. Ken Macdonald in which the UC Santa Barbara professor emeritus expressed some of his thoughts on the topic. However, he was not shrill. In fact, he should be complimented for his civility.

The good doctor said something with which everyone ought to agree: “(we should) take the position of the vast majority of climate scientists ... seriously.”

Frankly, it would be foolish not to heed what those with relevant expertise have to say. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with maintaining a healthy skepticism. In fact, Dr. Macdonald acknowledged the important role skeptics play in the never-ending process of scientific learning.

Dr. Macdonald is one of many intelligent people concerned about human-caused climate change. In expressing anxiety, he reiterated “97 percent of climate scientists have concluded human-caused climate change is happening.” That is certainly something worth noting. If 97 percent of weathermen predicted rain, it is doubtful any of us would leave down our car windows.

As we consider the risk of potentially catastrophic climate change, it would be folly not to take into account what the 97 percent say. If we do, it becomes difficult to argue against common-sense measures to reduce man-made carbon emissions thought by many to exacerbate climate change. 

This is precisely why California implemented a statewide CO2 reduction strategy several years ago — a strategy that has been wildly successful. In short, California has for years been heeding Dr. Macdonald’s call to take climate change seriously.

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), our state is ahead of schedule to meet its CO2 reduction targets. The ultimate 2050 objective is to reduce CO2 80 percent below 1990 levels. Upon reaching its 2050 objective, California will have a low carbon economy as defined by the European Union. California is a world leader in combating climate change.

State efforts notwithstanding, Santa Barbara County has not yet adopted official county policies pertaining to CO2 reductions. But in coming days, both the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) board and the county Board of Supervisors will consider policies dealing with local CO2 emissions.

It is likely that APCD will weigh in first, as is appropriate. After all, the APCD staff are this county’s air experts. There is no other agency in the county nearly as well qualified as APCD when it comes to air-quality issues. This is an incontrovertible fact about which there can be no honest debate.

It is fortunate that our Board of Supervisors will have the benefit of knowing what our county’s air experts think before our supervisors consider adopting a policy regarding CO2 emissions.

Even though APCD has been working diligently on a CO2 reduction policy for an extended period, county supervisors nevertheless asked the county Planning & Development (P&D) Department to work on the same thing independently of APCD, even though P&D possesses absolutely no relevant technical expertise.

In any event, local policy should blend seamlessly with statewide efforts — efforts that have been successful for a long time. If our county does something different than our state, local businesses will be burdened with expensive local obligations for no reason.

We will soon know what the APCD board thinks. The APCD citizens’ advisory council voted 15-7 to recommend adoption of a policy that is consistent with what the state has been doing.

Whatever policy the APCD board adopts, the Board of Supervisors should follow suit. After all, APCD is the county’s air expert. And as Dr. Macdonald appropriately pointed out, the opinions of qualified experts should be taken seriously.

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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