As Ann Hancock labors to reduce the output of automobile exhaust and other greenhouse gases in Sonoma County, she knows some people have doubts about whether even the county's best efforts will have any impact on global warming.
The question occurred to Hancock a decade ago when she and Mike Sandler put Sonoma County and its nine cities on the map as pioneers in local efforts to combat the potentially cataclysmic heating-up of Earth.
They knew from the moment they conceived the Santa Rosa-based Climate Protection Campaign in 2001 that those efforts would produce no scientifically measurable effect on the global problem.
So why bother?
Hancock, 62, continues to believe that what they demonstrate to the world is more essential than what county residents do to reduce man-caused atmospheric warming.
"That's the most important thing we can do in Sonoma County," she said. "We can be a shining example."
Since then, Sandler has become Climate Protection Program Manager for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.
And Hancock has continued to lead the campaign that persuaded the county government and all of the cities to adopt ambitious emission-reduction goals. Along the way, it has set some national precedents and won some notable victories.
In 2010, Sonoma County officials exceeded their goal to cut the year 2000 level of emissions by 20 percent. Most of the county's 9,125-ton reduction was achieved through renewable-energy projects and making government buildings more energy efficient.
But the county and its nine cities still must overcome huge challenges if they're going to meet their targets of reducing 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2015.