Members of the Spokane County Air Pollution Control Authority board debated global warming Thursday, and one member questioned the science cited by backers of the Kyoto treaty.
The debate was sparked when the interim director of the control authority asked the board if the agency should send a letter to Mayor Dennis Hession requesting that Spokane join 200 other cities that have agreed to take actions to reduce global warming.
“I really have questions as far as, really, the validity of the science of a lot of this,” said at-large SCAPCA board member Michele Pope. “It looks to me like it’s lobbying for more regulation…. To me that just doesn’t sit well.”
Jeff Corkill, an Eastern Washington University chemistry professor, was the only SCAPCA member who argued that it should send the recommendation.
“I would just completely disagree completely with that,” Corkill said, regarding Pope’s discussion about global warming. Sending the recommendation to the mayor “fits into the missions of SCAPCA in that the aims of this accord are to improve air quality.”
The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, requires 35 industrialized nations to cut emissions of gases blamed for rising temperatures, according to the Associated Press. The treaty has been ratified by at least 140 nations, but the United States has said the restrictions are flawed and could hurt its economy.
“First of all, the United States doesn’t even participate in the Kyoto Protocol event, and the paper here, it says, they’ve been looking at data for the last decade,” Pope said. “Well, looking at climate trends, you have to look farther back than 10 years.”
Corkill said the science overwhelming shows a link between global warming and air pollution.
Hundreds of scientists “have recognized that global warming is for real and that ignoring it is to the detriment of future generations of Spokane, Washington and the United States.”
Last year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors started an effort, led by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, to persuade cities to adopt global warming measures on their own. More than 200 municipalities, including New York, Chicago, Tacoma and Billings have agreed to the Kyoto pledge, which asks cities to increase fuel efficiency of their vehicles, reduce sprawl, increase recycling and take other actions.
SCAPCA Interim Director Ron Edgar said the agency isn’t charged with monitoring greenhouse gases. However, adopting Kyoto measures would help other emissions that SCAPCA does measure, such as particulate matter.
“That is why I actually was asking the board that we consider supporting this agreement or at least asking the cities to consider,” Edgar said.
Other board members said the control authority should stay out of city business unless asked to comment by the mayor. They also said the Kyoto measures, especially ones involving land, go beyond SCAPCA’s mission.
“I do not believe that it is within SCAPCA’s primary mission to intervene in land-use decisions,” said Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke, who sits on the SCAPCA board.
At the end of the discussion, board members decided to approach mayors to see if they want SCAPCA to provide a recommendation.
Reached Thursday evening, Hession said he plans to explore the possibility of joining the global warming effort.
“Whether all the science is there to support global warming, we know there are impacts of burning fossil fuels,” Hession said. “We have a lot at stake if it’s true.”