How do you change the world?
One degree at a time. Or, in the case of Edmonds, 1.5 degrees Celsius at a time. It’s a small number with big implications. It’s the difference between an Edmonds summer in the 70’s or a summer like Orange County, south of Los Angeles.
In August, 2020, the Edmonds City Council took the bold step to manage climate change by adopting the 1.5 Celsius (2.7 F) marker as the City’s Climate Action Planning Goal. This means Edmonds will do its part to ensure the global heat measurement will only rise 1.5 degrees by 2030 when compared to 1900.
The ambitious target means Edmonds commits to ambitious planning decisions to limit the amount of greenhouse gases (and heat) our City contributes to the planet that, left unchecked, could make our planet unlivable for millions of people in next 100 years.
Generally speaking, worldwide scientists agree that the planet shouldn’t get any hotter than it was in the early-to-mid 1900’s, the pre-Industrial Revolution. That’s the benchmark. They also agree with economists who say it’s impossible to get that to that temperature without a significant economic impact. The scientists and the economists found common ground in the number “2”.
They agreed that the planet could tolerate a 2-degree Celsius increase without devastating the planet or the post-industrial, fossil-fuel-dependent economy in existence right now. In 2016, the Paris Climate Accord settled on “2” and the number went on to be adopted by many countries, many states, and many counties, like King County.
However, some say 2 degrees is still too much and suggest 1.5 degrees is more ambitious and doable. Cities like Seattle and Edmonds. Still others, like Eugene, Oregon, go even further with a target 1-degree Celsius rise.
What 1.5 looks like in Edmonds?
We don’t really know yet and that is what the City and the Council are working on now. We are bringing experts from across the spectrum as we gather data and ideas for plans and policies. In 2010, the City created a Climate Action Plan with specific strategies. Edmonds aligned itself with ambitious cities then in adopting renewable electricity for 100 percent for City business and processes. We met that goal.
It’s been a decade since then and sustainability best practices have changed drastically. It’s time for a new Climate Action Plan with new strategies and new goals.
What we know
Modern human society built over the past 150 years relies heavily on fossil fuel energy sources.
For Edmonds, getting to 1.5 means:
Accelerating the deployment of renewable and low-carbon energy sources and the large-scale deployment of existing and pending technology.
Reducing what we create and, taking it one step further, by absorbing it back into the earth.
Using technology to capture the greenhouse gases before they are created.
More trees and protecting existing forests, integrating compost into soils to maximize carbon uptake.
Significant changes in personal consumption like buying only what you need and nothing more.
Reducing cumulative emissions to 50 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
Transitioning the entire community to 100% renewable electricity by 2030
The climate action planning process will highlight actions that fit Edmonds’ unique community context. Each of the actions in Edmonds’ Climate Action Plan will include an action-specific goal/target, be assigned an organizational lead, establish a tracking metric, and identify a data stream to measure progress over time.
Because we are both high emitters and high consumers, we have the ability to reduce both.
This is what 1.5 commitment looks like.
While we eagerly await some technology marvel like carbon-eating microbes that turn greenhouse gases into really great craft beer, we have to think realistically, rationally, and plan. This 1.5 number, approved by the City council, provides that roadmap.