City council meeting ends in 'Climate Change' debate

Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman could be seen having a passionate debate on climate change in the back of the city council chambers Monday morning.

So where did that come from?

The council held a special policy workshop on "Resilience" something Zimmerman wasn't thrilled about in the first place.

"If it were me, we would not have a 'resilience' topic, that wasn't one of my topics," he said.

He says he would rather be talking about subjects like transportation congestion.

He was debating with Katharine Hayhoe. She was voted one of Time magazine's most influential people last year. She's a climate science professor at Texas Tech and part of a panel advising city council on the subject of responding and recovering from disasters, extreme weather events and economic downturns Monday morning.

"We want to make sure that whatever we get thrown we're able to not just bounce back but end up better off than we were when we started," Hayhoe said.

Mayor Steve Adler says meetings like this are improving the new 10-1 council.

"I think it's been a really good opportunity for the council to work together, to work on policy issues together, to disagree and challenge each other," Adler said.

The climate change exchange between Zimmerman and Hayhoe continued after the meeting.

"Here in Texas, over 70% of us would agree that climate is changing today. We're seeing different things happening that our parents and our grandparents didn't see if they lived here in Texas," Hayhoe said.

"There is a political force at work to say that humanity is in charge of the climate...that humans are causing climate change," Zimmerman said.

Whether it's climate change, traffic or affordability...whatever your concern, the political diversity on the council is something Austin hasn't seen in a while. Council member Kathie Tovo says the different opinions work.

"I think it's a good thing to have diverse viewpoints expressed in the conversation. Certainly Austin is a diverse place and the people who reside here have different opinions about these issues as well," Tovo said.

Tovo says the 10-1 is also getting people in the community involved which is the point.

She says Austinites are not just paying attention to critical votes anymore they're also watching policy sessions like the one today.