When launching the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels promised the city would set an example for the nation by meeting the carbon emissions reductions in the Kyoto Protocol. Nickels said the city's emissions would be 7 percent below the 1990 levels by 2012.
On his way out of office in December of 2009, he triumphantly declared victory.
One of the most significant problems with current climate policy is that costly failures have been difficult to eliminate. Even when it becomes clear that a policy isn't achieving the promised environmental goals, special interest groups that financially benefit from the policy prevent it from being eliminated.
The best example of this is biofuel policy. Even Al Gore now admits the real damage caused by biofuel subsidies, both to the environment and the federal budget. He admitted:
One of the persistent claims of the environmental community this year was that natural resources budgets were taking big cuts. Now that the budget has been finalized, the numbers show Natural Resources agencies actually received a slight increase in their overall budget.
The budget increase is primarily due to a big increase for the Department of Fish and Wildlife in funding for Puget Sound efforts and money from the new "Discovery Pass" for parks.
Here are the major agencies and the changes for the next biennium:
Last week, the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC) released its report on the state's green buildings requirements. The title of the report indicates that the "Impact on Energy Use is Mixed." A casual look at the report shows that the word "mixed" is a generous assessment.
Two weeks ago, we noted some flaws in San Juan County's "Best Available Science" document for their proposed Critical Areas Ordinance. The document misquoted the science on sea level rise and temperature increases, projecting impacts much higher than the data indicate.
Upon seeing our critique, a San Juan County planner called and we had a good discussion about how to address the concerns I raised.
In an interview with Wired Magazine, Bill Gates notes that many of the trendy environmental technologies we hear about all the time will not make a significant difference in reducing environmental impact.
He tells Wired, "If you’re interested in cuteness, the stuff in the home is the place to go," but real solutions require more innovation. He goes on to tell Wired:
One of the most commonly cited impacts of climate change is the impact of rising sea levels. As an island county, San Juan County is building those potential impacts into its new Critical Areas Ordinance.
Each year, Earth Day offers an opportunity for politicians and others to highlight their support for environmental policies. Most of the work of environmental sustainability, however, occurs quietly every day as the free market encourages individuals to conserve energy and resources while planning for future prosperity.
This Earth Day, we celebrate not the public acts of environmental symbolism, but the quiet, everyday acts that have made the real difference in environmental sustainability. Here are five of countless examples that come to mind.
Earlier this week, Senators Cantwell and Murray called on the federal government to rein in "speculators" in the oil market in an effort to cut gasoline prices. Senator Cantwell sent out a statement saying "Seattle drivers are paying at the pump for excessive oil speculation, while federal regulators have blown off deadlines and failed to act."
King County Executive Dow Constantine hosted an online chat earlier today to highlight the county's efforts to address the risks from climate change. We asked a couple of questions regarding the science behind the county's efforts thus far.
First, Lara Whitely Binder of the University of Washington's Climate Impacts Group (CIG) and Ross Macfarlane of the environmental group Climate Solutions argued in the online chat that we are already seeing the impacts of climate change.
Over at the environmental blog Grist, they have a bit of fun trying to explain the impact of climate change using beer. They show what happens to beer as the temperature increases.
My favorite part of the graphic is the tiny disclaimer at the bottom: "This infographic is loosely based on IPCC's 2007 report." The IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN organization that is the go-to source for climate information, especially for the political left.
A major part of Governor Gregoire's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the risk from climate change is the requirement to calculate the potential increase in CO2 emissions from major projects. This is part of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), which requires certain projects to identify all potential environmental impacts.
The recently passed House Budget includes a proviso requiring the Department of Fish and Wildlife to prioritize spending on hatcheries using science. Now, the Senate Democrats' budget, released last night, echoes that same sentiment.
The proviso, found on page 89 of the Senate bill, reads:
For the past two years, the Washington Policy Center has included the Environmental Priorities Act in our annual environmental recommendations to the legislature. In this year's "Fresh Start on the Environment" agenda, we again proposed the legislation that would use sound science and economics to prioritize those efforts providing the greatest environmental benefit for the available funding.