By Steve Brigham
The Earth Hour City Challenge, conducted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), is a year-long competition among cities to prepare for increasingly extreme weather and to promote renewable energy. Participating U.S. cities receive resources and gain recognition for their efforts to curb carbon pollution and prepare their communities for the harmful consequences of climate change.
Three weeks ago, we had the privilege of working with WWF and the city of Tucson to convene a summit, The Power to Prepare Tucson, in conjunction with the Earth Hour City Challenge. The meeting was hosted by Tucson’s Office of Conservation and Sustainable Development.
The city, in collaboration with the University of Arizona, had just completed a climate vulnerability assessment to understand the climatic threats locally and to help determine strategies that will help the city and its residents to better prepare in the future.
The summit focused on two areas of impact identified by the vulnerability assessment – health and well being and economic prosperity:
- Health and well being were chosen because of the many ways that climate change can lead to harmful effects on the overall health of our community, whether that be from rising average temperatures, extreme heat waves, growing water scarcity, disease outbreaks, and air pollution caused by wildfires.
- Economic prosperity was chosen due to the increased risk for energy shortages, wildfires, and flooding that may drive businesses to relocate, harm efforts to attract new business to higher risk, and threaten property and infrastructure.
One hundred twenty participants discussed these vulnerabilities and explored ways in which the city and its residents can prepare. This summit was a unique opportunity to learn about climate change and its local impacts, while allowing citizens to collaborate to identify priorities and solutions for addressing these vulnerabilities.
The program was capped by an evening of local entertainment and short speeches in a local plaza. At sunset, Tucson joined millions of individuals in switching off their non-essential lights (Tucson shut off all lights in City Hall) as part of the worldwide symbolic environmental action. From the Eiffel Tower in France to the Ghirardelli Square sign on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s wharf, some of the planet’s most iconic landmarks participated.
For more on the summit from World Wildlife Fund, as well as copies of participant materials, check out this blog post by Nick Sundt of WWF.