Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced last month that 275 mayors across the country are joining him in pledging to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help stem the threat of climate change.
The pledge, officially known as the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, is modeled after the Kyoto Protocol, which the federal government refused to sign in 2005. The mayor's announcement means that a number of mayors around the country acknowledge the threat of catastrophic climate change and are willing to shape policy to address the threat.
Greenhouse gases are always present in the atmosphere. The most notable -- carbon dioxide (CO2) -- is necessary in a balanced cycle to make life possible on the planet. An abundance of greenhouse gas traps the heat radiation of sunlight that would normally be dispersed back into the atmosphere, raising the temperature of the surface of the earth. Global warming, even by a few degrees, can lead to dramatic climate changes, including reduced snow pack, lower water levels, drought, crop loss and harsher seasons.
"The acceleration of carbon release is due to everything extra we put into the atmosphere, as in when we take carbon that is buried -- fossil fuels -- and burn it," said UW atmospheric sciences professor John M. Wallace. "We are undoing what it took nature many millions of years to do."