At his recent gubernatorial kickoff, Attorney General Rob McKenna highlighted a company in King County that manufactures solar panels. McKenna noted that government regulations were hampering its ability to compete, prosper and create jobs. Generally, we agree with that perspective. In the case of solar power, however, companies that produce solar panels are heavily reliant on taxpayer subsidies and regulations.
Tonight, KCTS is running a story about the impact of diesel emissions in Seattle on cancer rates in the Puget Sound Region. To promote the broadcast, one of the contributors to the story, Investigate West, sent out this tweet earlier in the week:
@invw + @KCTS9 report "Breathing Uneasy": #PugetSound region is in top 5% for #air #toxins in US. http://bit.ly/lbEb5s
Today's Seattle Times features a story with the headline "Study of 800-year-old tree rings backs global warming." The article notes that snowpack loss in the Western United States has been more severe in recent decades than in the last millennium based on studies of tree rings. There are two key claims here.
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.