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SNC’s Summit on Climate Change and Air Quality

A review of the recent program at the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition

The City gives a mixed report about meeting its goals to fight climate change.

On March 9, a forum of air quality officials and experts gave mixed reviews for the future of attaining the goals set by Seattle’s Climate Action Plan (2013). The discussion was initiated by the Seattle Neighborhood Coalition, which meets every second Saturday morning in Leschi’s Central Area Senior Center.

On hand for the discussion were Craig Kenworthy, Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency; Chris Page, Climate Director of the City of Seattle; and Timothy Wilson, Environmental Engineer, UW with John Barber and Bob Rosenburger as moderators.

Seattle’s most important indicator of carbon emissions is the result of transportation and construction, but Seattle is not meeting its targets — carbon emissions from cars and trucks are actually increasing, not decreasing. Seattle has set goals to reduce carbon emissions for cars and trucks by 82% by 2030, but for the last few years, the trend is going worse, not better.

The biggest deterrent to meeting this target is the huge surge of offices and residents. On the average, Seattleites are driving and polluting less, but there is far too much new traffic.

Another piece of bad news about carbon emissions is that air traffic out of SeaTac Field has increased by 37% since 2012. Airplanes drop ultrafine particulate pollution over Seattle, especially from planes coming over for landings, which is most of the time. Currently, a study of the health effects of the particulate pollution from planes is underway in a study of the Beacon Hill area.

The Seattle Times and KUOW have had reports out in the last two months about Seattle’s inability to meet up to the goals of the Kyoto protocol on global warming.

Air quality, overall in Seattle, is fairly good among US cities from a public health standpoint, but increasingly there are longer and longer periods of heavy pollution from regional forest fires. Advice from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is to close all windows and doors when forest fire smoke prevails and buy or install air-cleaning equipment.

It was clear from the audience that Seattle can do better and actually be a leader in fighting climate change. Here are some ideas:

Cattle production results in some of the nastiest and worst pollution affecting climate change: the expulsion of methane gas from cows and steers. The world needs to cut down on the eating of beef. Why not cut beef out of the school lunch program?

City-owned trucks, even including fire trucks are super-sized and diesel-fueled. Seattle should replace its fleets with smaller, electric trucks, as already done in most of Europe.

If growth is the problem of too much traffic, cut back on the practices that encourage the too fast pace of growth, such as placing a temporary moratorium on the building of new office space.

Talk about climate change has clearly been too much on the back burner of public discussion. The time to avoid the disastrous course of harsh global warming and extreme weather events is to revise the strategy and implement ASAP.

~John Barber

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