By 2050 the average annual temperature in Puget Sound is expected to rise 4-6 degrees if current trends continue. In Seattle, buildings, transportation, and parks, trees, and green spaces are our best opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and making our city climate-resilient.
We spend 90% of our time in buildings, which account for 32% of Seattle’s carbon emissions via heating and electricity consumption (18% commercial; 14% residential). Cars make up 50% of our emissions, and freight contributes another 16%. Parks, trees, and open space absorb carbon, improve air and water quality, reduce building energy costs, make Seattle green, and improve human health.
Here at home in Seattle, we can combat climate change by -
Establishing net-zero carbon building standards and schedule for implementation. Sustainability-focused construction, or “Green Building” as it is also known, has gained worldwide attention over the past two decades, including here in Seattle, which is home to the Bullitt Foundation and Building, known as one of a handful of the “World’s Greenest Buildings.”
In 2013 the City of Seattle adopted a Climate Action Plan calling for zero net emissions by 2050. More recently, the World Green Building Council has called for a goal that by 2030 all new buildings must operate at near zero carbon. Shift Zero, an alliance of Pacific Northwest green building organizations, has called for accelerated adoption of zero net carbon buildings.
This would provide developers and owners a hedge against rising electricity prices. It would also transform buildings into new and varied sources of clean energy and storage that could be utilized by electric vehicles - cars, bicycles, and scooters. Buildings present a tremendous opportunity for cost-effective, urban emissions reductions.
Preserving and expanding our parks, greenbelts, and natural areas and increasing our tree canopy
Our greenspaces and trees capture and store carbon, reduce air pollution and surface runoff, and provide bird and wildlife habitat and better conditions for our salmon to thrive. Shaded areas and bodies of water in parks can help cool Seattle’s air, helping to mitigate the urban heat island effect. The shading effect of trees also reduces energy use by residential and commercial buildings.
We should add open space rather than remove it for other purposes. This would increase our access to places to gather, relax, and relieve stress. Parks and open spaces are valuable places for children to play and learn.
We should support tree planting efforts, especially in neighborhoods with low tree canopy. We should also allow individuals and private companies to offset their carbon emissions by purchasing credits for tree planting and preservation.
The world we depend on depends on us. We must adopt seven generation thinking.