CLIMATE ACTION PLANS - FACT OR FICTION? EVIDENCE FROM MARYLAND
Welch, Timothy F.
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On a sweltering summer day in 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen sounded the alarm, in a congressional hearing, that human activity was changing our climate and without action, the world would face grave danger. Since that time, the United States government has ignored international climate policy efforts and failed multiple times to enact federal guidelines to address this serious problem. In the last decade, state governments have begun to formulate their own climate policy in an effort called Climate Action Planning. Climate action plans seek aggressive reductions and form the backbone of most statewide environmental policies but they often suffer from a lack of scientific analysis, unrealistic expectations, little funding, non-existent implementation strategies, and have no enforcement mechanisms. While plans have proliferated across the nation, little has been done to examine closely the ability of the policies to achieve climate change mitigation goals through enumerated strategies. This thesis fills part of the research void by examining all of the built environment emissions reduction strategies specified in the Maryland CAP. The analysis proceeds by developing multiple models calibrated with local empirical data. The results of this analysis show that Maryland, even with a successful implementation of its CAP will not meet its carbon mitigation targets. Further analysis reveals that a full state, national, and global implementation of similar carbon reduction targets would not alter the trajectory of climate change. To address climate change adequately, Maryland should take a three-prong approach. First, strengthen the mitigation strategies that show the greatest potential to reduce CO2 while abandoning strategies that do not. Second, extend the current set of strategies to include the low hanging and quickly implementable mitigation `fruit'. Third, in the face of serious and inevitable climate change, begin to adapt the built environment for better resiliency to more extreme conditions. The thesis concludes with a call to action for urban planners to address ambiguities that relate to the climate change and the build environment. The timing is "ripe" for planners to take the lead in what will certainly become the next great wave of planning.