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In Kansas City, Dealing With Climate Change Means Thinking Local

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

Most Americans believe climate change is a serious problem, according to a CBS poll  released over the weekend. 

But few solutions seem to be coming from Washington, DC, or the statehouses in Topeka, Kansas, or Jefferson City, Missouri. So, local officials are trying to step up.

“I think it's our cities that need to take the lead because the federal government has abdicated leadership in some ways, and so it's really up to us,” Shawnee (Kansas) City Councilmember Lindsey Constance said. 

Constance and Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly lead the way in forging the Metro KC Climate Action Coalition. On Saturday, some 500 elected officials and activists from Kansas and Missouri met at Johnson County Community College to discuss how to work together to reverse climate change. 

"Being small allows us to be bold," Kelly told KCUR. Kelly also said the Kansas City metro is in a good position to work across city and state lines.

“We choose to live here because of that collective community that we've created,” he said.

Solutions are already bubbling up at the municipal level. 

Roeland Park, Kansas, for example, is looking to buy electric cars and trucks for its city fleet.

Shawnee might deal with flooding issues by planting native grasses and plants because this mitigates storm water. "We're closest to the problems when my city struggles with flooding. It's right in our backyard," Constance said.

While Saturday's all-day meeting was generally upbeat, people were clearly concerned.

"I think all of us have a little bit of climate anxiety, that's for sure," Kelly said.

That extends to many of the students entering JCCC.

"I hear from students who are in distress," Jay Antle, JCCC's Executive Director of the Sustainability Center, told the gathering. "They're angry and don't want to be left a diminished world."

Antle said JCCC aims to be a "zero-waste-to-landfill campus" in the next five years and to be a 100 percent renewable energy campus by 2050.

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff.

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