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Mark Oprea

About 300 participants filled out surveys in person during Tuesday’s climate listening session hosted by the Northeast Ohio Coordinating Agency.

Despite plenty of jeers from the crowd and criticism from taxpayers, Northeast Ohio’s coordinating agency, better known as NOACA, held what appeared to be a productive listening session on pressing climate issues Tuesday night.

In a massive Zoom conference taped to five locations, the public meetings tapped into the existential fears on the minds of about 450 Northeast Ohioans — concerns about increased flooding, droughts, blizzards and more — with the intent to finalize and complete NOACA Climate Action Plan until June.

Since last March, when NOACA held its midday climate action summit, the agency has embarked on a key element of its bigger picture, eNEO2050, which aims to reduce the region’s carbon emissions by 63 percent by 2030, among several lofty goals. Set plan “vulnerability assessments” and “climate mitigation strategies” cost $100,000 in research and engagement, funded by grants from the Gand and Cleveland Foundations.

The philosophy, while floating in abstractions and nonprofits, is to make life fairer for those Northeast Ohioans who bear the brunt of the region’s harsh winters and other environmental hazards, NOACA leaders said.

“We want to focus on the goals of equity, cooperation and inclusion,” Joe MacDonald, manager of environmental planning at NOACA, said at Tuesday’s listening session. “Especially those people who have historically had no voice in such efforts, who have experienced disenfranchisement, who have experienced redlining, who have had to bear disproportionately negative environmental impacts based on the decisions of others.”

click to enlarge Cathy Moore, NOACA project manager, shows the crowd at Cuyahoga Community College how the various climate hazards stack up in Northeast Ohio.  - Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea

Cathy Moore, NOACA project manager, shows the crowd at Cuyahoga Community College how the various climate hazards stack up in Northeast Ohio.

Participants shared their thoughts by tapping responses on their phones using an interactive software called Mentimeter. But some of the responses raised the question: Is Cleveland taking the threat seriously?

One question posed to the group was, “What would you like from NOACA?”

“Stop wasting taxpayers’ money,” one commenter responded.

“STOP! Just leave us alone,” replied another.


“Take a swim in Lake Erie.”

Another offered some clarity. “Suggest solar panels?”

Nevertheless, the presenters had fresh memories of the natural disasters of 2022. on the same day This was reported by the Associated Press, federal scientists estimated that 18 climate extremes — from Hurricane Ian that battered Florida’s west coast to a December cyclone that killed 37 people in Buffalo — cost the U.S. a total of $165 billion. “The risk of extreme events is increasing”, scientist Sarah Kapnick told the AP. “They touch every corner of the world.”

This is true even off the coast of Lake Erie, a lake that is becoming increasingly susceptible to algal blooms and melting ice sheets. Still, because the region has no 8.3-magnitude earthquakes, devastating tsunamis or weeks-long heat waves, NOACA says Northeast Ohio could be a safe haven for Americans living in regions vulnerable to climate emergencies.

We understand that there are a lot of predictions that point to us leaving the coasts and moving into what they call havens,” suggested Cathy Moore, NOACA project manager. “And the Midwest could very well be that. “

Although not a completely safe space. Moore listed seven “hazards” predicted to further affect Northeast Ohio in the coming decades — heat, drought, harsh winters, “seasonal conditions,” flooding, severe thunderstorms, Lake Erie — and asked 450 respondents, what they care about.

NOACA’s vulnerability group chose to record heat, thunderstorms and floods. But the crowd responded that the biggest concern was Lake Erie.

“Yeah, it’s not surprising,” Moore said. “Lake Erie is our greatest resource in the region, and that’s something that comes up time and time again.”

Moore then moved on to the final question of the evening, which seemed most important to the Action Plan’s focus on the most vulnerable regions of the five counties: Who, Moore asked the crowd, was most vulnerable to climate impacts?

click to enlarge Members of Cuyahoga Community College.  - Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea

Visitors to Cuyahoga Community College.

The respondents were happy again.

“The NOACA committee,” said one.

“Joe Biden,” said another.

After a series of candid responses – “asthmatics”, “homeless”, “areas with few shade trees” – one commenter said: “We all share the risk. It’s just a disaster.”
Despite the random wisdom, NOACA director Grace Gallucci said the engagement was a worthwhile step forward. June outcome of the Climate Action Plan.

“Obviously there have been a number of comments that may not support climate change planning,” she said in a telephone interview. “And that’s what this process is all about: gathering information, informing people. And hopefully we’ll come to a consensus on the question, ‘Where do you go from here?'”
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