So much is happening in the world that relates to the climate crisis. It’s hard to keep up, much less figure out whether more of the news is positive or negative or whether we should look at the aggregate as a glass half full or a glass half empty. Or, as an engineer would look at it, is the glass the wrong size?

I go back and forth on this or maybe around and around is a more apt description. See what you think about this batch of news.

News Item No. 1: The Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance was formed recently to stimulate the electrification of trucks and other vehicles in the shipping and delivery business. Although trucks carry about three-quarters of all freight shipped or delivered, there are few options for companies in that industry to electrify their fleets. CEVA is aggregating demand to get the automakers’ attention. Participants include Amazon that (according to a recent article, has “ordered 100,000 electric delivery vans this fall.”

Similarly, Lime, a purveyor of e-scooters and bikes, is a member of the group and advocating the creation of an extensive charging infrastructure.

News Item No. 2: Most Americans are largely insulated from the knowledge of what is happening in the rest of the world. But climate-related disasters are a fact of life for many who can ill afford the disruption of their lives and livelihood.

Perhaps my sources of information are limited, but I didn’t know until a friend sent me a news article stating that ABC News and Grist recently reported that East African is under siege from “billions of desert locusts” due in part to “unusual climate conditions.”

This disaster has been characterized, as “an insect swarm of biblical proportions, but climate change, not an angry deity, is to blame.” Further, “East Africa is experiencing the most serious outbreak of locusts in 25 years, posing an unprecedented threat to food security.”

News Item No. 3: It’s framed as a housing issue; a California legislator introduced a bill to prevent cities from prohibiting increased density along transit corridors and near schools. Such a policy, if enacted, would also have huge potential for reducing automobile traffic and hence greenhouse gas emissions.

Bringing population density together with transit options can reduce car traffic, enhance livability as local businesses sprout up near transit stops, give kids the opportunity to walk or bike to school, and local residents can shop for household and other necessities without getting into a car.

The bill was supported by both the environmental and business communities, garnered support from many cities, and its concept is a key part of California’s nationally recognized efforts to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.

It lost. Why? Because it would have overridden local government authority.

Boo hoo. I have always favored local government action in favor of state or federal control. But we have a housing crisis, a homelessness crisis and a climate crisis all at the same time. Our situation would seem to require big thinking and action.

I wrote in my last column that individuals should stop beating themselves up for not doing every one of the “Fifty Simple Things You Can Do to Save The Earth.” Seriously, we don’t have time for that. Real solutions now reside above the level of the individual. This, I believe, is also true of individual cities. Solutions to the climate crisis, assuming they are well thought out and scientifically solid, cannot be implemented piecemeal, city-by-city, slowly, and perhaps end up never happening at all.

News Item No. 4: Who knew? When our president went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, recently he took with him his ignorance of the climate crisis as an existential threat.

But, while there, according to the New York Times, “Though Mr. Trump barely mentioned climate change, he did commit the United States to a World Economic Forum initiative to plant a trillion new trees as a way to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. The president pledged that the United States would work to manage and preserve its forests.” Time will tell what “manage and preserve” means. That’s “trillion” with a “t.”

News Item No. 5: Poland relies 80 percent on coal to produce electricity. The result is 30 of Europe’s most polluted cities are in Poland. The air quality got so bad that the governing body in Krakow took dramatic steps to clean up the air, including converting their buses to electric and banning the burning of coal.

Whoa! Really? They banned burning coal? Well sort of. Coal-fired power plants can still be coal-fired power plants, but coal for home heating is now illegal.

The city subsidizes at least 50 percent of the cost of new gas-burning furnaces and pays a portion of energy bills. They have a fleet of drones flying over the town to enforce the ban. And, whaddya know, according to the local police, “People have noticed the difference in air quality and want more — more green spaces, more efficient recycling, more electric public transportation, more healthy solutions.”

I wager no one has told them they will eventually be replacing those gas furnaces with electric heating.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis. This column appears the first and third Wednesday of each month in the print version of the Enterprise. Please send comments to

Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Published online on February 05, 2020 | Printed in the February 05, 2020 edition on page A3