Edmonds City Hall was the place to be Thursday night for those interested in learning more about the city’s progress on its work to combat the effects of climate change.
The open house was moderated by Edmonds Planning and Development Director Shane Hope and presented by Mark Johnson of Environmental Science Associates, project consultant for the city.
Attendees learned about global and regional climate trends and indicators, and recommended next steps for Edmonds as it moves forward in accord with several council resolutions — for example 1129 and 1130 — along with the city’s other efforts in the past decade to address climate change. These include the 2010 Climate Action Plan, the New Energy Cities Action Plan in 2011 and additional activities, such as last year’s “Taming Bigfoot” community exercise .
Edmonds embarked on the latest Climate Goals project last year by taking a new greenhouse gas inventory for the city, identifying targets for reducing greenhouse gases, and proposing ways to meet the targets. The inventory identified the city’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions as the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas.
While it’s clear that local efforts alone will not be sufficient to move the global needle on climate change, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling has noted that the example we set is important.
“We can make a difference,” he said. “And if other cities in the U.S. do the same, we will help save our world’s environment and reduce human suffering that would otherwise occur.”
Consultant Mark Johnson began his presentation by reviewing background information on climate change, focusing on greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and fluorinated hydrocarbons, as both the primary factor contributing to this and the one over which we can have the most influence.
He then moved on to examine patterns of GHG emissions, focusing on the Edmonds community.
“It’s important to distinguish between emissions that originate locally, such as natural gas used to heat your home, and what we call imported effects,” he explained. “These include such things as emissions coming from fossil fuels used to process and transport food that we purchase, to generate the electricity we use that comes from non-renewable sources, and to fuel the jetliners that take us on vacation. While not actually emitted in Edmonds, these are a direct effect of choices we make every day that contribute to global GHG emissions and hence global climate change.”
Johnson then went into a detailed breakdown of the city’s local GHG emissions, identifying building use (residential, commercial and industrial) as the largest single source, with transportation not far behind (see pie chart above).
“But our local emissions represent less than half of our total global impact when you include the imported emissions resulting from our day to day choices,” he explained (see bar chart). “While 2017 inventory shows a slight overall reduction in local emissions when compared with the 2005 data, mostly due to less electricity use, emissions from transportation are up.” (see comparative emissions bar chart below).
Moving on to examining appropriate community GHG reduction targets, Johnson cited studies showing if we can hold global temperature to a 2˚C maximum increase by 2050, we are still looking at “huge impacts,” both locally and globally (see accompanying PowerPoint presentation for details on these impacts). He went on to point out that even meeting a 2˚ goal will be difficult if trends don’t change dramatically.
As detailed in the accompanying chart, changes that we would have to make include switching entirely away from fossil fuels, reducing food waste, changing our diet by reducing consumption of GHG-intensive foods, and embarking on a massive program of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide through carbon sequestration strategies (e.g., forests, technological).
Next steps in the near term for Edmonds will include setting appropriate targets and standards for GHG measurement, analyzing the cost-effectiveness of various GHG measurement techniques, developing a GHG tracking tool, and updating and developing a work plan to implement the Climate Action Plan (CAP). Once the Edmonds City Council adopts the updated CAP, probably later this year, work can begin on its implementation.
Additional charts, graphs and explanatory materials can be seen on the open house PowerPoint presentation. Updates will also be posted on the Climate Action Plan website , which is currently under development.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel