Flagstaff plans for drier future

2012-09-20T05:05:00Z 2012-09-20T08:32:32Z Flagstaff plans for drier futureCYNDY COLE Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
September 20, 2012 5:05 am  • 

Flagstaff's mayor made a tough-to-keep promise in 2006: The city would cut its greenhouse gas emissions by about one-third by 2012, to pre-1990 levels.

Flagstaff's greenhouse gas emissions had been growing at the time Mayor Joe Donaldson signed onto the Kyoto Protocol-type agreement -- up 41 percent from 1990 to 2005, the city's consultants figured.

Hitting his goal would require Flagstaff residents to drive some 23 percent less, for example, or use 28 percent less electricity.

But whether because of the economic downturn, chance or people intentionally doing a range of things -- no one is sure -- the city might actually get pretty close to that once-lofty target, recent data indicates.

These were the sorts of conservation tactics discussed Tuesday, when about 50 politicians, employers and conservationists met at the Museum of Northern Arizona to hear a presentation on climate change and discuss what they were doing themselves.

The audience dwindled quickly when the presentation by author William deBuys ended and it was the audience's turn to give specifics.

Auto dealership owner LaVelle McCoy looked at a map showing wet areas would become much wetter, and dry areas drier.

"Are there any feasible means of tapping into the water as a resource that is going away for us?" he asked.


A Northern Arizona University professor offered greenhouse gas inventories for businesses that wanted them.

Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club pointed up at the lights illuminating the meeting (ahead of museum plans for solar panels), raising the topic of electricity and Arizona's biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions: Navajo Generating Station, the coal-burning power plant in Page.

"We're all customers getting our electricity off coal," he said.

That was the target, too, of Roger Clark from the Grand Canyon Trust.

"A firm commitment to change comes from the ground up," he said, "not from the top down."

The Flagstaff City Council is adding new solar panels that will supply 38 percent of City Hall's energy, plus new solar panels at the Aquaplex.

Local government officials need the ability to deny housing developments in places that lack water, said Coconino County Supervisor Carl Taylor.

NAU is looking to limit its own emissions, and to build the issue of sustainability into courses for every undergraduate, regardless of major.


City Councilmember Scott Overton wasn't at Tuesday's presentation, but answered questions later.

He said the city's job was to be prepared for anything.

"Regardless of how the planet changes, if you can avoid the question of: How is it warming? Is it warming? Is it cooling? Let's just assume there is change. We can't do a lot in terms of the cyclical nature of the Earth, in terms of whether it's warming or cooling," Overton said.

He said climate change was a real issue, but that it shouldn't be City Hall's only focus.

"Certainly, there's an element of science that says the climate's changed. I think there's an element of disagreement as to how it's changing and why it's changing," Overton said.

Mayor Jerry Nabours also responded to questions on Wednesday about the city's plans related to climate change.

"There's really not a particular issue in front of us right now," he said.

Flagstaff's own plans state the city should prepare for heat waves lasting two weeks or longer, more and bigger wildfires, people experiencing heat-related illness, and possible shortages of drinking water.

Strains on city goods and services from outlying communities and bigger utility bills are also projected, along with possibly less snowfall.


Those drafting the plans recommended the Flagstaff City Council look at temperature and precipitation changes in most of its future decisions and plan accordingly, from designing new roads and buildings to emergency services.

Studies that city officials cite project temperatures will be 1.9 to 3 degrees warmer by 2020 and 5 to 8 degrees hotter here by 2100.

Weather data compiled by a retired U.S. Geological Survey researcher showed Flagstaff's average temperatures had increased 1.7 degrees from 1950 to 2007, mainly because of nighttime temperatures in fall, winter and spring that weren't as cold as historic nighttime lows.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at or at 913-8607.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. JWDH
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    JWDH - September 22, 2012 9:50 am
    You do not have any real science to back it up....
  2. Charlie
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    Charlie - September 21, 2012 9:36 pm
  3. Charlie
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    Charlie - September 21, 2012 9:27 pm
    Please look up the difference between climate and weather. To use the ability to predict one to judge the other does not make a valid point or a bit of sense. Thankfully scientists rely on observation, facts and peer review, and not 'common sense'.
  4. Charlie
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    Charlie - September 21, 2012 4:55 pm
    Oh those silly scientists. Sitting around with nothing to do...hmm lets shoot a movie and tell everyone we landed on the moon! Maybe one landing a rover on Mars! They even think that there is a planet out there called Mars. Ha! And that whole 'gravity' thing. Boy they sure bought that 'theory' didn't they?! I sure wish us scientists had something better to do than sit around making things up. Maybe we should just tell everyone what they want to hear. Life sure would be simpler that way.
  5. Matthew Quigley
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    Matthew Quigley - September 21, 2012 4:55 am
    Juniper writes: "to change our ways and reduce automobile use; urbanization; water use; deforestation (yes, all of us!) starting now." The writer is an example of another environmental extremist telling all of us how we should live our lives. The effort by the City is merely symbolic. Anyone with common sense knows that the effort and expense will have zero impact on the environment.

    5 to 8 degrees warmer by 2100. Give me a break. We can't even predict next month's weather by 5 to 8 degrees.
  6. JWDH
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    JWDH - September 20, 2012 5:42 pm
    Silly science....not to much fact. A lot of worry. At NAU in 1973 they taught us we were about to enter the a ice age and we would be out of oil by the year 2000. Our scientists can not predict hurricane activity let alone what our climate will be like in the future. Many have decided that it is warming because they want to and that we are the cause of the unproven warming activity. Now there is a leap of faith, but then to believe in global warming right now is faith.
  7. navajo4life
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    navajo4life - September 20, 2012 3:13 pm
    i hope ngs closes, current navajo ntn president has old ideas about energy, majority of the people, especially younger, try to urge cleaner energy, but what phoenix and californians want is cheap energy, that's where all of it goes, not the navajo people. so glad for flagstaff's forward planning regarding energy. we need more recycling here, and better energy practices, even apartments up to sustainable codes.
  8. Juniper
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    Juniper - September 20, 2012 10:49 am
    Kudos to our Museum for holding this important event. Readers of Flagstaff are smart enough to realize that "5-8 degrees hotter by 2100" does not mean "a reality Flagstaff must get used to;" it will mean, quite simply, the death of the eco-system of the Colorado Plateau. We must come together to do everything in our power to change our ways and reduce automobile use; urbanization; water use; deforestation (yes, all of us!) starting now.
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