There is one bright pixel in this image…can you see it? This is a picture of the Earth suspended in a sunbeam against the emptiness of space. It was taken 3.7 billion miles away by Voyager 1 in 1990. The iconic image was captured as the NASA probe continued its journey, ultimately leaving our solar system in August 2012. Of this image, the late Carl Sagan said: “We succeeded in taking that picture, and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives.”
There isn’t another place like earth anywhere nearby, and therefore, we are responsible for taking care of it. In recent decades, our nation has met environmental challenges by focusing on the ozone layer, removing lead from gasoline, and taking steps to protect our air and water supply. But today’s challenge is climate change and the buildup of greenhouse gases, which trap heat in our atmosphere increasing our global temperatures. In order to be good stewards of our planet, we must think globally and act locally.
In 2008, Knoxville set a goal to reduce municipal carbon dioxide emissions by 20% relative to emission data from the 2005 baseline. Since setting that goal, investments in energy efficiency in city buildings improved efficiency by 14% in 2018 as compared to energy use in 2010. Further, improvements in the city’s fleet and KAT vehicles have combined to lower emissions by 11% since 2005.
In 2018, after City Council’s approval, Knoxville began replacing high pressure sodium streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights. The installation of LED streetlights resulted in a 60% reduction in streetlight electrical use, the savings from which pays for itself in 8 years and saves taxpayers $2 million each year thereafter. The city of Knoxville exceeded our municipal reduction goal of 20% set in 2008 by implementing this change.
I believe one of our greatest community challenges is our propensity to underestimate what we are capable of accomplishing. In 2008, a 20% reduction in C02 emissions may have seemed ambitious, but with this accomplishment it is time to set a new goal and do more to protect this community we call home.
On Tuesday, August 13, City Council will take up a resolution to set a new goal to reduce municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 50% of 2005 baseline by 2030, and an 80% reduction in our community emissions by 2050. I am very pleased to sponsor this resolution which builds on our city’s progress of proactively addressing climate change. In achieving our previous reduction goal and setting new ambitious objectives, we will be positively impacting our environment while producing overall savings for our taxpayers.