Perhaps his honor has been reading The WMEAC Blog these past few weeks. In his annual State of the City address, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell made a connection between global warming and extreme weather events such as this week’s Groundhog Day Blizzard…a case we’ve made here several times of late.
“I’ve had so many people ask me this week, ‘Where are you and Al Gore now?’” said Heartwell, whose speech calls for more trees, public transit improvements and a new program to reduce energy consumption in downtown buildings.
For those who question the blizzard as proof of global warming, Heartwell said warmer global temperatures means less ice on Lake Michigan, more evaporation and thus, more snow in the winter and more rain in the summer.
“It sounds weird but it’s true,” said Heartwell, adding he believes it’s the city’s responsibility to prepare for global warming, regardless of whether it’s man-made or part of the planet’s natural cycles.
“The earth’s temperature has already increased and will continue to rise,” he said. “That ought not to deter us from our mitigation efforts; we should still improve transit, reduce power consumption and plant more trees.”
The Mayor called for a trio of measures to address the issue on a local level.
Energy improvements for downtown buildings could be funded through bank-financed loan pools and grants by private foundations, Heartwell said. A similar program in Chicago helped cut energy costs for hundreds of downtown buildings, he said.
Heartwell noted the city has set a goal of increasing its urban tree canopy from 34 percent to 40 percent by 2040 – an increase of 185,000 trees.
He also endorsed a May ballot initiative that will raise more funding for The Rapid public transit system and its goal of creating a new rapid transit line.
We’ll have a more in depth analysis after the weekend.