By Giavonni Nickson
Indiana University selects the City of Gary to participate in its Inaugural Resilience Cohort
Gary is one of 13 communities that will spend the summer collecting information about community-wide and local government operations’ greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the cohort, Gary will have access to technical resources, a peer network, and training through ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, a nonprofit that specializes in helping local governments with emissions inventories.
The greenhouse gas inventory is a fundamental first step for Hoosier cities, towns, and counties committed to combating climatic changes. Indiana residents are already experiencing more torrential rainfalls in spring and winter, more river and flash flood events and more freeze-thaw events that wreak havoc on transportation infrastructure and potholes. Findings from the local government operations inventory will be used to help city employees identify greenhouse gas reduction strategies for municipal activities.
“We are delighted that these 13 Indiana communities have chosen to take a critical early step on the path to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing air quality,” said Ellen Ketterson, Director of IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “The findings from these greenhouse gas inventories will provide a roadmap for local officials to address emissions produced in their own backyards, improve public health, and strengthen the resilience of Hoosier communities.”
Information collected from the community-wide greenhouse gas inventory will be used to help residents and local officials understand Gary’s current emissions profile and to help city employees create an action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Managing air quality has increasingly been an area of focus for both national and local government as escalating temperatures, extreme weather events, and rising sea levels affect human health and economic vitality.
Over the past 150 years, greenhouse gases have increased, making the planet warmer. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports, human activities are responsible for almost all of the greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.
Information from the inventory will be used to help the city create an action plan to increase energy efficiency and improve air quality.
The EPA measures the impact air pollution has on human health and reports that short and long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with a wide range of social health effects including increased respiratory symptoms, and hospitalization for heart or lung diseases.
Gary’s participation in the inventory aims to improve the overall quality of life for residents in the city. The inventory project will be a stepping stone for the city to move forward with significant emissions reductions while playing a crucial role in driving climate action in the United States.
In 2017, the City of Gary participated in the global community of about 50 cities committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s signing of the Chicago Climate Charter. Seventy cities have signed the charter with affirmed commitment to address climate change.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is part of the Climate Mayors (Mayors National Climate Action Agenda), a group of mayors who have promised to work locally, and advocate nationally for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“While we have, and work with a number of agencies and groups as it relates to curbing greenhouse gas emissions in Gary, one of the first priorities on the Mayors National Climate agenda is to develop a community greenhouse gas emissions inventory,” stated Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
“The timing of IU’s first Resilience Cohort this summer is excellent, and we are excited to learn of the findings; as well, happy to be one of the participating cities.”
The City of Gary’s Green Urbanism Department, spearheaded by Director Brenda Scott-Henry, will lead the City’s first Greenhouse Gas Inventory Project this summer.
The City of Gary received extern placement Reena Azlan, a first-year master’s candidate at IU O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, who will complete her Master of Public Affairs in Environmental Policy in 2020.
Director of Sustain IU Andrew Predmore commented, “I am thrilled that the Resilience Cohort was launched this summer as part of the Indiana Sustainability Development Program. Not only are these students developing professionally through these work experiences, but they are also making real sustainability contributions by doing the foundational work needed to seriously address the challenges posed by climate change.”
The inventory process will provide 2017 and 2018 data on the amount of energy consumed, the diversity of energy supplied to the grid, vehicle fuel use within the city boundary, and the amount of waste generated within the city boundary.
Other Resilience Cohort participants include Bloomington, Carmel, Columbus, Delaware County – Muncie, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Greencastle, Goshen, Michigan City, Oldenburg, Richmond, and West Lafayette.
The City of Gary plans to start in June and complete the inventories by September 15, 2019.
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.