The king tides that swamped Alki last winter might be a harbinger of the effects of climate change on Seattle. Diminished snowpack in the Cascades could mean less drinking water and less cheap hydroelectricity. A 3-meter rise in sea level could swamp the Duwamish Waterway, the working port, Sodo and its industrial lands.
While steps Seattle takes to reduce emissions would have little effect on the global climate and those potential threats, they could demonstrate what one city can do to dramatically reduce its own sources of greenhouse gases, said City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.
That’s why city leaders this month are unveiling an ambitious Climate Action Plan, with the goal of making Seattle carbon neutral (zero net emissions of greenhouse gases) by 2050, with much of the work initiated within the next 15 years.
The plan will almost certainly be expensive. It calls for new funding to improve and expand bus service, to build the infrastructure to make it safer to walk or bike around, and to build out the region’s light-rail system, all to reduce the approximately 40 percent of greenhouse gases that comes from cars and trucks.
The plan also calls for making energy use more visible to consumers through smart meters and energy audits that could improve the largest and least efficient commercial and multifamily buildings. The city also could require energy-use disclosures when houses or apartments are rented or sold.
There is not yet a cost estimate, but ideas to pay for the plan include a 1.5 percent motor-vehicle excise tax, a renewed Bridging the Gap levy and other local funding that would be less regressive than the failed $60 car-tab fees.