More than 100 local officials from both Kansas and Missouri gathered Saturday morning to discuss ways to combat climate change on the local and regional level.
'This is by far the largest collection of elected officials that are addressing climate change, climate disruption and global warming that I've seen in my time here," said Brian Alferman, sustainability manager of Johnson County, Kansas. "So I want it to be a part of it and hope that it drives some of the work that I do."
The workshop, held at the Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, was the brainchild of Roeland Park Mayor Mike Kelly and Shawnee City Councilmember Lindsey Constance. They said they were compelled to act following a recent government report on the looming impacts of climate change.
"Mike and I, we both have small children and it was really about that," Constance said. 'We want to ensure a future for our kids and we thought what better way to do that than to bring together elected leaders to learn together and solve this issue."
The leaders in attendance brainstormed on ways to reduce emissions in their communities, using solutions presented in Drawdown, a book outlining strategies to reverse global warming. They also heard presentations by Kansas City Mayor Sly James and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who briefly ran for president as a Democrat in 2016.
"The ball in terms of climate change, sustainability reaching drawdown has to be carried this moment by local leaders," O'Malley said.
James agreed local efforts are important, because it is a "fool's errand" to wait on state and federal lawmakers to combat climate change.
"We, as probably the largest municipality in the region, feel a sense of leadership responsibility to try to do what we can and to share information and to help and to acquire information from our other partners as well," James said. "So we're all kind of breathing the same air, so we're all going to try to improve the quality of the air that we breathe."
James said Kansas City is moving toward 100 percent renewable energy usage in its municpal operations, in partnership with KCP&L. He also said the city has worked to reduce greenhouse emissions both in city government and community-wide.
Constance said the work would not end with Saturday's workshop. They plan to organize a steering committee to come up with ideas to tackle climate change regionally.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews