More than 75 citizens gathered at the Edmonds Senior Center on Wednesday evening to hear a series of speakers address the issues of global climate change and how these are being addressed in Edmonds.
The group first heard retired UW Oceanography professor Dr. Richard Gammon give an overview of global climate change and the growing body of evidence pointing to the increasing severity of this problem.
“Climate change is real, and it’s caused by humans,” he said. “Since evidence began to surface in the 1990s, the data supporting global climate change continue to pour in. And more people are listening. Today climate change has the same degree of public acceptance as the connection between smoking and cancer.”
The group also heard T.C. Richmond, vice chair of the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, talk about how the impacts of these changes are being assessed.
“Assessment is not just a good idea,” she told the group. “It’s the law, mandated by the Global Climate Change Research Act passed by Congress in 1990.”
She gave numerous examples of the way climate change is affecting the global environment, which in turn impacts plants, animals, people and ecosystems in various regions of the world.
She stressed that climate change needs to be included as a critical factor in decision-making globally and locally. “Given that many decisions being made today have long-range implications, we need recognize that climatic conditions will change, and this could impact the outcome. Decisions we make today must provide for a range of climatic scenarios,” she said.
With this as background, the group turned to local climate issues.
Sustainable Edmonds’ Todd Cloutier gave a report on Edmonds’ progress in implementing measures to reduce our community’s environmental impact. He reviewed the events leading up to the formation in 2006 of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Committee, which resulted in the city’s 2010 Edmonds Climate Action Plan and the inclusion of building and energy use standards into the city’s comprehensive plan.
City Councilmembers Joan Bloom and Strom Peterson next talked about the actions the council is taking, including moving from providing incentives to encouraging green construction.
“Its a good time to be green in Edmonds,” Peterson said, “Support from our citizens and city officials is reaching the critical level where we’re really beginning to get things done.”
In addition to developing a new Green Resource Center for builders and developers at City Hall, the city now provides building permit applicants with information on how to build sustainability into their structures.
“It’s much less expensive to do this when a building is going up than to go back in and retrofit later,” Bloom said. “This is one way we’re trying to hammer out city codes that encourage green development. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done here.”
Added Peterson: “Edmonds continues to lead on these issues, and it’s really the Edmonds citizens who are making this happen. And it makes it easier when you have a federal and a state delegation that rolls in the same direction.”
Pete Mills from Congressman Jim McDermott’s office and State Sen. Marko Liias next talked about how climate change issues are moving ahead at the federal and state levels.
Mills spoke directly about the coal train bill now in Congress, specifically citing provisions for additional taxes on coal trains to mitigate their effects on the environment and the communities through which they pass. He pointed out that this could provide critical help for Edmonds to improve waterfront access that has been adversely affected by increasing coal train traffic.
Liias pointed out Washington State’s commitment. He touched on a host of issues including public transit, land use patterns and other areas that provide opportunities to reduce dependence on private cars and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.
“Support at the state level is strong,” he said. “I’m very pleased to tell you that just yesterday Gov. Inslee signed an executive order calling for a special task force to reduce carbon emissions and take significant steps to cut back on fossil fuel usage, provide a road map for coordinating environmental action across state agencies and mandate the development of more climate-friendly practices.”
The last part of the evening was taken up by questions from the audience that addressed local and global concerns, with much discussion about fossil fuels and the related coal and oil train issues in Edmonds.
As the meeting came to a close, Liias shared his view the significant progress being made in our area thanks to the combined effort and commitment of Washington citizens and communities. He praised Edmonds in particular for its commitment to sustainability.
“We’ve made great progress, but there’s still much to be done,” he said. “There’s much at stake here, and we look to communities like Edmonds to continue leading the way.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel