The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a good article on Mayor Nickel’s efforts to keep Seattle positioned as an innovator and leader in the fight against global warming. The article provides a valuable overview of the mayor’s plan and then breaks these steps into actions that can be taken by citizens, business, and government. The article can be found here.
“The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.”—U.S. Department of Agriculture
Seattle’s urban forests are in trouble. In 1972, trees covered 40 percent of the city’s land area. Today, thirty-four years later, 18 percent of those trees remain.
Trees are an important first line of defense against a host of environmental problems. In fact, Jared Diamond lists deforestation as one of the twelve environmental factor which ignored can leave to societal collapse. Trees provide nature with the tools to help manage storm water run-off, reduce erosion, trap the green house gas CO2, and produce oxygen.
In an ambitious effort to renew Seattle’s forests, Seattle’s Mayor Greg Nickles announced a plan to address the loss of the city’s trees. The press release from the mayor’s office states:
The plan aims to reverse the trend by establishing aggressive goals, such as:
- Adding nearly 650,000 trees over 30 years on property in all land use categories.
- Increasing pruning frequency of city-maintained trees from every 19 years to a cycle of every 13 years.
- Creating a long-term program to educate residents about the ecological and economic importance of trees. Residential trees today account for 42 percent of the city’s total canopy.
- Devising incentives and regulations that encourage tree preservation and planting.
- Coordinating tree management across multiple city departments with tree maintenance responsibility (Parks, Transportation, City Light, Seattle Public Utilities), including a comprehensive inventory and analysis of the urban forest.
- Creating citizen-government-business partnerships to bring additional financial, volunteer labor and management resources to the tree-restoration fight.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, “There are about 60-to 200- million spaces along our city streets where trees could be planted. This translates to the potential to absorb 33 million more tons of CO2 every year, and saving $4 billion in energy costs."
Local leaders like Mayor Nickels are stepping up to fill the void created by the federal government’s lack of leadership in the fight against global warming. In 2005, Mr. Nickels initiated the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement which asked mayors from around the country to pledge to reduce their city’s production of carbon dioxide to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. So far, 295 mayors have taken the pledge with the combined impact of representing over 49.4 million Americans. Check to see if your city is on the list.
"Sometimes, the political system is like the climate system, in that it’s non-linear. It can seem to change at a snail’s pace and then suddenly cross a tipping point beyond which it shifts into a shockingly fast gear. All of a sudden, change that everybody thought was impossible becomes matter of fact. In 1941, it was absurd to think the U.S. could build a thousand airplanes a month to fight the Second World War. By 1943 that was a real number." –Al Gore, RS #1004/1005:713-274/06
Like it or not, California sets the trends that the rest of the country follows. The state is nothing short of a cultural powerhouse. From the Lords of Dogtown to Proposition 9, California was there before the rest of us had any idea there existed. Now, California is taking on global warming and it just might be the kick in the pants which gets the rest of the country back in the game.
Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) recently became law in California. This legislative act is a gigantic step forward in the fight against global warning. California is the twelfth largest generator of greenhouse gases in the world. According to a press release from Environmental Defense,
AB 32 would limit the state’s global warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and institute a mandatory emissions reporting system to monitor compliance. It also would allow for market mechanisms to provide incentives to businesses to reduce emissions while safeguarding local communities.
Momentum and support from clean companies, venture capitalists, faith-based leaders and the public have been strong. The bill’s opponents – representing old, polluting industries – have been sidelined by the steady drumbeat of scientific consensus that global warming is the world’s most pressing environmental problem and that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollution is a feasible, cost-effective solution.
Using California’s historic 2002 clean car standards as a blue print, the Washington State Legislature enacted similar legislation in 2005. Motor vehicles produce more than half of all the greenhouse gas emission in Washington State. Washington’s clean car standards are patterned after the ground breaking California model which authorized the California Air Resources Board to set limits on passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.
The Washington State clean car standards will apply to cars, light trucks, SUV’s, and passenger vans starting in 2009 with full compliance by 2016. Based on estimates by the state of California, these new standards will cut emissions in cars and light trucks by 25 percent and 18 percent for SUV’s and larger trucks.
Nine other states have adopted clean car standards. These states are Oregon, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Together with California and Washington, this group accounts for over a third of the new car sales in the United States.
If the past is any predictor of the future, in a few years hipsters will be calculating their carbon load and bragging about the cool gadgets they are using to become carbon neutral. Stranger things have happened.
UPDATE: Here is an article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the historic signing of the California legislation to limit green house gases.
I love my kids too much to sit on my hands and wait for the worst to happen. I know that many of you feel the same way. It may not be kids that motivate you but everyone loves something about this planet that is beautiful and sacred –the beach, a pet, mountain biking, taking a walk to the coffee shop or SpongeBob SquarePants. Life on planet Earth is sweet indeed.
Climate change is difficult to conceptualize. It’s not just about the Earth getting hotter, which of course is happening. It is the changes both subtle and dramatic this temperature increase brings to an already stressed system. There will be stronger hurricanes, disappearing glaciers and a rising sea level. This alone is enough to throw human existence into chaos but what happens when there are major disruptions in food production due to the compounding factors of drought, wild fires and an ocean inhospitable to life?
It’s time to say "no" to the folks who have a vested interest in world wide suicide. Luckily, the technology is available to start making a difference. Here are three things you can do right now. First, switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Second, use paper products made from recycled materials. Third, buy a hybrid car. If a new car is not in the financial picture then vow to make you next purchase a hybrid. Instead, buy carbon offsets for the vehicle you are driving.
Go see An Inconvenient Truth and then start to make the world a better place. Remember, The Police had it right when they sang, "One world is enough for all of us".
My first experience with compact fluorescent light bulbs was very disappointing. After flickering on and off for a few seconds the light it did manage to produce was poor. I’m a strong believer in taking as many steps as possible to minimize my carbon footprint, but I refuse to be an environmental martyr. It seems ridiculous to support an inferior product which in all likelihood will frustrate the consumer and end up clogging our crowded landfills. A few weeks ago I gave the bulbs another shot. This time the lights switched on immediately. The light was similar to the output from an incandescent bulb though some what softer. Now I can’t tell the difference between the old bulbs still in use and the new compact fluorescent bulbs. According to The Environment Defense Global Warning Website, if every household replaced just three 60-watt incandescent bulbs with better bulbs, it would be equivalent to taking 3.5 million cars off the road. Here is a link to a guide on how to purchase a compact fluorescent bulb that you can be proud of. How to pick a better bulb.
According to How to Be a Grouch by Oscar the Grouch, there are many things to help put you in a grouchy place. Some of his suggestions include: birthdays, coat hangers, and people who think they are funny but aren’t. He also devotes a whole section on how to get a bad night’s sleep. After all nothing is better to start out a lousy day than to be tired and grumpy. For me the best way to get a sleepless night is to watch video of the Greenland Glacier rapidly sloughing into the Atlantic. As a public service to all grouches, here are links to help you have a crappy day. BBC News: Greenland ice-melt ‘speeding-up’ CBS News: Global Warning Here is my choice for track two of the playlist: Radiohead with Just from The Bends