It is too easy to mock the idea of a county government trying to do something about the massive problem of climate change — too easy and just dead wrong.
No, Frederick County cannot solve this global problem. Yes, it should be the job of national governments in the United States and around the world to address the problem.
But when our national government refuses to even concede there is a problem, local communities of every size must look to themselves and see what steps they can take.
That means officials at the state level, the county level, the city level and even among smaller communities all have roles to play. While giant leaps toward combating climate change are most desirable, small steps have their place, too.
Two Frederick County Council members, Jessica Fitzwater and Kai Hagen, are working together on a resolution that would declare a climate emergency and establish an ad hoc Climate Emergency Mobilization Workgroup to come up with steps we might take right here in our community.
Good for them.
Fitzwater and Hagen, who have been working on the resolution for months, envision a group drawn from the local scientific and environmental community who would meet with county officials for a year.
After that time, the group would make formal recommendations for action items to the County Council.
Fitzwater told News-Post reporter Steve Bohnel that the creation of a work group is a “natural next step” toward the goals of Livable Frederick, the county’s master plan, which the council adopted in September.
“Basically, [it’s] just recognizing that the county has a role to play in combating climate change and making sure we have some action steps to bring forward,” she told our reporter.
“We aren’t climate scientists, we’re part-time citizen legislators, but we as a county need to make sure we’re making decisions through the lens of climate change, and that’s what I’m hoping to do,” Fitzwater added.
Sometimes, small changes at the local or state level have the potential to make a real difference in the climate battle. Take, for example, the push for more mass transit. The first idea may be to ease traffic on our roads, but the resulting change might also be beneficial to the environment.
Right now, a transportation plan being developed in Montgomery County could include a rapid-service bus from Frederick County to northern Virginia.
News-Post reporter Ryan Marshall recently wrote about the I-270 Corridor Transit Plan, now in its early phase, that would utilize new toll lanes along Interstate 270. Bus rapid transit would carry riders on express routes with limited stops.
According to 2018 data from the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, nearly 24 percent of Frederick County residents work in Montgomery County. An additional 3 percent commute to Washington, D.C., and almost 6 percent go all the way to Virginia.
While the prospect of reducing traffic on I-270 is exciting, the removal of 50 cars by each bus would represent a significant reduction in emissions, especially if the buses were powered by electric motors.
Even a proposal like the one made recently by County Executive Jan Gardner for a shuttle bus service in small towns around the county might be able to reduce dependence on auto trips. And every little bit can help.
A serious work group study should be able to propose numerous ideas for cutting carbon emissions at the county level.
Someday, we hope, the climate change deniers that include the Trump administration will be replaced by public officials willing to make hard choices about saving the environment. But until that time comes, we must all do what is within our power.