View from the fence

Six Western states joined two Canadian provinces in signing an agreement this month to cut greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent of 2005 levels by 2020. Nevada wasn’t one of them.

Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington and Utah, along with Canada’s Manitoba and British Columbia, became members of the Western Climate Initiative on Aug 22. The group intends to reach its goal through a series of carbon credits and offsets, vehicle tailpipe regulations, renewable energy portfolio standards and energy efficient programs.

Though Nevada’s membership is absent from the initiative, the state is taking an “observer status,” according to Allen Biaggi, director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He explains that while Nevada is not a full member, it is participating in the WCI meetings and observing how the initiative is carried out, leaving the possibility of Nevada’s eventual membership open.

Biaggi says that although Nevada didn’t sign the pact, the state isn’t ignoring climate change. By executive order, Gov. Jim Gibbons established a 12-member climate change committee in April. Represented in the group are government, industry and the environmental community. It’s charged with recommending ways the state can address climate change. The committee’s ideas are to be presented next May.

“I think the governor wants to be sure the direction we go makes sense for Nevada,” says Biaggi.

Kyle Davis, policy director for the Nevada Conservation League and a member of the Governor’s Climate Change Task Force, says, “From our perspective, I don’t see how joining the regional compact to do something about global warming would not be in Nevada’s best interest. I say that for two reasons: Number one is global warming is most likely going to affect Nevada much more than some other states and other parts of the world based on drought and wildfire. The second reason is we’re in such a great position to do something about it with all of our potential for renewable resources.”

A study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found the average temperature in Reno from June through August in 2006 was 75.6 degrees—nearly 7 degrees above the 30-year average. It was the biggest gap measured in the United States. Las Vegas’ average temp last summer was 3.6 degrees above the 30-year average from 1971-2000; Elko’s was 4 degrees higher, and Ely’s was 2.1 degrees above normal.