Global warming strategy debated

By | August 3, 2007

Montgomery County officials are looking into whether a bond can be issued to pay for greenhouse gas reduction projects as part of a larger strategy to fight global warming.

Although local governments regularly float bonds to pay for large long-term projects, it’s not clear if cutting global climate change fits into a pre-existing category.

“The county can only do what the Legislature said it can do in writing. … We just can’t willy-nilly do whatever we want,” Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairman Tom Ellis said at Thursday’s meeting.

Without a national strategy to cut greenhouses gases, state, county and local governments are going ahead with their own plans to curb climate change. Many have urged their citizens to do likewise.

Philadelphia has already adopted a greenhouse gas reduction plan, and Bucks and Delaware counties are both looking into doing so, said Steve Nelson, the county’s deputy chief operating officer.

Global warming falls within the county’s general purview of health, safety and general welfare because the potential effects include increased rainfall and flooding, as well as extremely hot days, Nelson said.

Armed with a graduate student’s thesis about changes Montgomery County can make, a task force appointed in January is expected to report back on its recommendations by the end of the year. It will set emissions targets for 2012, 2017 and 2025.

Montgomery County‘s emissions history is not encouraging. From 1990 to 2004, carbon dioxide emissions in the county grew 34 percent while population only rose 14 percent, Nelson said.

“As you can see, the trendline is not going in the direction we would want it to,” he said.

Robert McKinstry, a Penn State professor who has helped states figure out how to curb warming, said the U.S. needs to cut emissions of greenhouse gases at least 96 percent by 2100. 

“That’s a long ways off, but it’s a big goal,” he said.  “It’s certainly achievable.”

The best approach to solving the problem is adopting a “Chinese menu approach” of choosing 10 ways to save money and reduce greenhouse gases, he said. 

Jacob Fenton can be reached at (215) 957-8166 or