by Richard H. Baldwin and Phil White
There is a global climate change crisis. No question. And Ventura County is near ground zero in that crisis.
Take a look. We’re experiencing the worst of drought, fires, and water shortages. The projections of sea level rise that will impact our coastline are alarming. These local impacts have the fingerprints of climate change all over them. Additionally, the County suffers from unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution. Addressing these impacts make reducing greenhouse gas emissions critical, and we believe that the County can and should do something to fight back.
The County until recently was designated as a “severe drought” area, and changes to rainfall patterns have left the County with serious water shortage and fire hazard crises. This past summer, temperatures reached record highs and serious damage to agricultural crops resulted. The Thomas, Hill, and Woolsey fires together burned more than 380,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,700 structures. A CalFire division chief working the Carr fire last summer said “It is clear to me that firefighters are on the front lines of climate change.”
The California Coastal Commission estimates, in its medium scenario prediction, that the local sea level could rise 1.9 feet by 2050 and 6.8 feet by the end of the century. For a county with 47 miles of coastline, that degree of sea level rise would be devastating.
Yes, climate change is real, but there are solutions at hand to start to both reverse the warming trend and at the same time reduce air pollution. Remember the motto: Think globally. Act locally. While climate change is a global problem, Ventura County needs to do its share to solve the problem. The County of Ventura has started replacing some its gas vehicles with electric vehicles. Now it’s time for the County to act locally and consider adopting an electric vehicle program for all of its fleet that will help reduce both global carbon dioxide emissions and ozone air pollution here in the County.
The production and combustion of fossil fuels is the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. There are many ways fuels are used in our everyday lives — cooking on a gas stove, heating water and buildings, generating electricity, and propelling our motor vehicles. The result of producing and using fossil fuels for combustion is the creation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), as well as ozone air pollution precursors. These gases, and a few others, trap heat in the atmosphere and cause the earth to warm up. Fuel combustion emissions also increase air pollution levels. The largest source of GHGs and ozone precursors are motor vehicles. We want to focus on reducing emissions from light duty vehicle fleets.
The largest vehicle fleet in Ventura County is operated by the County of Ventura, followed by the 10 cities, the many school and special districts, and major companies. We believe the County can and should lead the way to converting its large fleet of light duty vehicles to EV’s as they are replaced on their normal replacement schedule. Adding more charging stations is another important action to make the operation of electric vehicles more convenient and efficient.
A 2019 Northwestern University study shows that electric vehicles charged from the grid, which is a mix of renewable and fossil fueled power plants, are still cleaner than using gasoline powered cars. Electric vehicles charged from 100 percent renewable sources of electricity have zero direct greenhouse gas emissions.
The Board of Supervisors has already taken major steps to address climate change, such as the large solar electric array at the parking lot at the County Government Center. The most recent climate action the board (and a number of cities) took is the creation of the Clean Power Alliance, which connects Ventura County electrical consumers to renewable energy sources.
The next important step the Board of Supervisors can and should take is to convert the County fleet from gasoline and diesel to electric power, and set an example to the other cities, districts, businesses, and residents in the County to do the same.
As two Ventura County professionals with over 80 years of environmental and air quality experience between us, we strongly recommend that the County Supervisors take action now. Doing so would reduce local ozone air pollution levels and would demonstrate that Ventura County takes global warming and climate change very seriously, and is prepared to fight back.
Richard H. Baldwin, Ventura County Air Pollution Control Officer 1982-2002; Phil White, County Planning Commissioner – District 1, and former Ventura County APCD Director in the 1970s.