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COLUMBIA - Columbia residents got the chance to question city council candidates on their plans and opinions on climate change concerns Wednesday night, ahead of the municipal election on April 3.

Five groups, Peaceworks, Sierra Club, Renew Missouri, Mizzou Energy Action Coalition and Citizens' Climate Lobby hosted the city council candidate climate forum.

"All the local groups that are involved in this feel that climate change is a significant threat to really the livability of our climate in the future," Carolyn Amparan from the Sierra Club said. "And so that makes it a threat not only to human health, but also to wildlife, to forest, and all the things the Sierra Club is interested in protecting so that humans can enjoy them." 

She said the city is able to make changes to help the climate, and forums are set up so voters can see how potential city council members feel about these issues.

Betsey Peters, running for ward six, said she believes climate change is real, and the city should work to increase energy efficiency.

She said Columbia is actively using renewable energy and working to do more to stop climate change. The city is currently using 15 percent renewable energy. 

Candidate Michael Trapp (incumbent, second ward) said Columbia is leading in renewable energy in Missouri. 

Trapp said he agrees that climate change is real and due to human activity. He said city governments will be the ones to clean things up. 

Second ward candidate Paul Love said humans are not the primary contributor to climate change, but they do have a part.

He said some alternative energy has unfortunate repercussions that often get overlooked because of the title "alternative energy." He said some alternative sources should be implemented, but with a critical eye. 

Love said renewable resources costs money, and if the city's goal is to use 100 percent renewable energy, that is going to make living in Columbia even more expensive. He said that's going to make it tough on the poor in Columbia and will force the poor out of the community. 

Peters said the city needs to help low income folks and push them to fill out rebates for using more efficient energy. 

"We face an existential threat to the climate crisis, and it's important for us to act at all levels of government, from the local to the national, and international," the director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks Mark Haim said. "And right now, we are working to get Columbia to move forward to a carbon-free future, to a future that works for everyone." 

Columbia Sustainability Manager Barbara Buffaloe also gave a presentation about the city's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which is an initiative to reduce climate concerns that is still in the works. 

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