116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — If a city has a heat wave, with several days above 100 degrees, some residents are more vulnerable to that heat than others.
Hot temperatures might worsen asthma symptoms. A welder may lack air conditioning at work. It’s a struggle to stay cool if you have to walk to work or If your closet is filled with winter clothes and you don’t have money to buy summer clothes.
This is just one example of how the effects of climate change disproportionately burden some Cedar Rapids residents based on their socioeconomic status, their access to transportation, their language barriers and other factors, according to about 1,400 responses to the city’s climate action survey.
Those examples also are drawn from in-person public meetings that equity-focused ground teams had with residents in the Westdale, Taylor, Oak Hill-Jackson, Wellington Heights and Northwest Area neighborhoods.
The city used that input to put together a Cedar Rapids’ Climate Story, an interactive online site that also provides information about the city’s Community Climate Action Plan and the City Council’s resolution to act on climate change.
The story includes data on greenhouse gas emissions, “heat islands” where surfaces are the hottest, food security and access to green space, showing where vulnerabilities exist in the city. A link to the story is available at cityofcr.com/climate.
The city’s climate action plan will aim to strengthen the community’s resilience to climate events, reduce carbon emissions, transition to mostly or entirely renewable energy by 2050 and support the health and prosperity of all residents.
The plan will identify strategies like funding, partnerships, programs and policies to achieve those goals and define long-term and short-term opportunities.
The plan will be a “critical milestone” in tackling ambitious goals — ensuring access to healthy food and to parks, guaranteeing clean air and water and building green jobs that are accessible to all residents, according to city Sustainability Coordinator Eric Holthaus.
Those goals, he said, can be achieved only by the collaboration of community partners
“We should develop solutions through this climate action plan that helps to increase people's quality of life, their health, their ability to live and work and thrive in Cedar Rapids,” Holthaus said.
Cedar Rapids is using its social media pages throughout April, which is Earth Month, to share weekly video updates with green tips, city resources and other ideas for how to protect the environment.
To build relationships with underrepresented and under-resourced communities who are most vulnerable to climate extremes, city officials and the Climate Advisory Committee have placed equity at the forefront of their efforts to form a Community Climate Action Plan.
Holthaus said several strategies will be employed to involve the community, including focus groups, public workshops, partnering with the city’s Rollin’ Recmobile this summer and redeploying ground teams to visit under-resourced areas
“The public engagement processes for making these plans will help deliver the balanced interests that our community has and needs to make a plan and implementing going forward,” Holthaus said.
Climate Advisory Committee member Ana McClain, co-owner of Lion Bridge Brewing Co., said the mix of residents and leaders from community nonprofits, businesses and industries — along with a focus on equity — has helped the committee keep in mind diverse perspectives.
“Everybody is able to make the Climate Action Plan a success without feeling like they got overlooked or their interests were overlooked, and it does the best as it can for the community as a whole,” McClain said.
Because Cedar Rapids is no stranger to natural disasters, including floods and a derecho, “it takes a conversation from what could be to how can we adapt to what already has been.” she said.
“If this were to happen again, how could we do it better?” McClain said.
Another committee member, Jason Snell, the chairperson of the Sunrise Community Action Fund, said the derecho and the city’s history with climate events are top of mind for the group.
He agrees that resiliency to climate events is a key priority. Snell said he also is interested in seeing the plan address causes of climate change and accountability so it is upheld regardless of the city council’s shifting makeup.
"If this plan came about from public demand and public pressure, changes to the plan should also come from that — not from if there's a specific business or industry that wants the plan tweaked so they make more money,” Snell said, adding he wants to ensure “the plan is stronger than that.”
Members of the planning committee said feedback is welcome before the action plan in completed and unveiled in September.
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