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Dave Olson, Published December 02 2009

Local leaders seek climate change action

Climate change is occurring, and the sooner world governments do something about it, the better.

That’s the message local leaders sent out Tuesday at a news conference at North Dakota State University, one of 12 sites around the country holding “bioeconomy” conferences aimed at promoting sustainability and reducing global warming.

“If we don’t make some changes soon, it (global warming) is going to be irreversible,” said Steve Zaiser, a North Dakota state representative from Fargo.

Citing the effectiveness of protesters during the Vietnam War, Zaiser said individuals can work through their own network of friends and acquaintances to call for action.

“Eventually that war ended because there was a mass mobilization of people saying, ‘This doesn’t make sense,’ ’’ said Zaiser, adding that President Barack Obama should use the upcoming U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, as an opportunity to push for a binding international treaty.

That is a view shared by 1Sky, a collaborative of 500 organizations from across the country that campaigns for strong federal action on climate change.

1Sky, which organized Tuesday’s news conference, has collected signatures from more than 450 North Dakotans on cards and petitions urging U.S. senators to pass a strong clean energy jobs bill, said Joshua Ruschhaupt, a spokesman for the group.

Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams said Fargo is doing a number of things to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including promoting mass transit, which he said reduces the number of cars on the road.

An energy conservation project to upgrade lighting fixtures on a parking ramp in downtown Fargo is expected to save the city about $8,000 a year, according to Williams.

The state of North Dakota, as a whole, is ripe for renewable energy development, he said.

“We’re ranked No. 1 for the best wind resource, No. 1 for the best biomass resource,” Williams said.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, one of about 1,000 U.S. mayors who signed a proclamation of concern about climate change, said he hopes the Copenhagen conference is more successful at promoting action on global warming than the one held earlier in Kyoto Japan.

“We have to take this more seriously,” Walaker said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555