Northbrook moves forward with sustainability study

Updated 10/21/2020 6:20 AM

Shortly into Tuesday's Northbrook village board workshop, a resident's letter was read aloud, typical in these meetings.

"We are absolutely thrilled about the sustainability study," the letter began.


Thrilling and chilling, since information presented at the meeting indicated that by 2100 unchecked climate change would make Northbrook feel a lot like Texas and cause a projected annual economic impact of some $51 million.

Moving toward a Climate Action Plan, an effort co-chaired by trustees Robert Israel and Heather Ross, has been a hot topic for the Northbrook board most of this decade. The plan was the dominant topic for Tuesday's Committee of the Whole.

The trustees welcomed Ted Redmond, a planner, architect and consultant from paleBLUEdot, a Minnesota firm working with Northbrook since June to create such a plan. Still in its early stages, a final plan is scheduled to be completed next spring.

The first phase of the process has already been undertaken -- data collection about Northbrook and northern Cook County, and a series of five "Baseline Assessment Reports." These Baseline Assessments are available on the Village of Northbrook website by accessing the "Living & Visiting" tab. The information offered on Tuesday's agenda spanned 411 pages.

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At the very basic level it said the Midwest will see higher temperatures, more rain but also more drought.

"We've already experienced that as well as a shift in rain patterns on a seasonal basis," Redmond said. "So as our rains kind of pull apart we have greater opportunity for surface drought to begin to occur, which actually makes it a slightly worse story because as we get heavier rains on drier land we get higher runoffs and increased potential for flooding."

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions -- Northbrook's per capita emissions are better than the average, and saw a 21% reduction between 2010-18 -- there'd be potential for an additional 55 days of temperatures over 95 degrees, and a 160% increase in air conditioning demand.

Despite the scary statistics Redmond noted Northbrook is in a good spot in several areas. Its solar panel exposure already outpaces most other places in the state. Its tree canopy (trees, shrubs and grasses being a helpful tool in the effort) stands at 37% with a goal of 40% by 2040, a difference of 317 acres.

While reducing its emissions Northbrook simultaneously increased both its gross domestic product and employment numbers, Redmond said.

"I like to pause and point that out, that a lot of folks are concerned that addressing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will tank our economy. And Northbrook already, without knowing it, is living proof that that's not true," he said.


Overall, Redmond's initial assessment recommended compatibility with the 2015 Paris Agreement for 30% below 2018 emissions levels by 2030 and 80% below 2018 levels by 2040, which he said mirrored state goals.

To get there, the next step of Northbrook's process is to compile a Climate Action Planning Team (CAPT) charged with creating strategies for the village board to review by next spring.

Currently proposed as 21 members CAPT will represent the Village Board and its various commissions, schools, citizens and groups such as Go Green Northbrook.

In fact, it all validated Go Green Northbrook director Marilyn Fish's continued addresses at Northbrook Village Board meetings.

"Actually, the Committee of the Whole seemed to be one big 'Green Moment,'" she said.

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