When people think of combating climate change they usually think big.
International accords, federal mandates, state regulations – all have been big-picture tools used to reign in greenhouse gases. Laws and trade deals oversee everything from auto efficiency and power plant emissions to the rise of green industries like solar energy. And those forces, in turn, help to drive or abate global warming.
Now, that dynamic might be changing.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, the key piece of legislation in the Obama administration’s fight against global warming. Trump’s move is likely to spark legal battles with national and international environmentalist groups, who generally want to see the United States lead the world in beating back climate change.
But even before that fight begins, environmentalists have already launched a second front against warming – this one waged at the level of city planning documents.
“We’ve always tried to focus on the local level,” said Roger Gloss, an organizer with Orange County for Climate Action, a group that hopes to reduce global warming through local efforts. “But given what’s going on in Washington, the bottom up approach is more important than ever.
“If Washington is not going to do anything, or go in the wrong direction, then anything that’s going to happen has to happen from the bottom up.”
How small scale? Consider:
In 2015, days after 195 countries agreed to enter the Paris Climate Accord – a deal aimed at cutting greenhouse gases in the U.S. alone by 26 percent over the next eight years – the city of San Diego made its own ambitious climate pledge. San Diego, by making changes to its general plan, vowed to cut its greenhouse emissions in half by 2035, shift half the city’s fleet vehicles to electric power by 2020 and recycle almost all the methane created at city-owned water treatment and sewage plants.