This spring tornadoes and atmospheric rivers have dominated the news coast to coast as frequent extreme climate events continue to increase.
The United Nations report on Climate Change this March warns that the "climate time bomb is ticking" and urges rich nations to slash emissions sooner than 2030. Scientists emphasize there is little time to lose in tackling climate change.
In order to hold global warming to relatively safe levels, the largest polluters need to unite behind global efforts and dedicate billions of dollars to make significant changes.
The U.N. report says that if we act now we still have a chance to shift course. Such change would require industrialized nations to join together to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030.
This report comes as the world’s two biggest polluters, China and the United States, continue to approve new fossil fuel projects. Last year, China issued permits for 168 coal-fired power plants. In March the Biden administration was forced by Congress and the courts to approve the Willow oil drilling project on federal land in Alaska.
How Can We Respond Locally?
Given this grim view of the world's future, how can people in Tacoma and Pierce County contribute to a solution to offset continued fossil fuel use?
Increasing carbon sequestration in our cities is one part of the answer. If we continue to add to the forest canopy of our cities, like Lakewood and Tacoma, and continue to improve our tree retention ordinances like TAS helped to do in Lakewood, we can offset increased fossil fuel use as our cities and population grow. Lakewood won the state governor's recognition when the city committed to increase its tree canopy to 30% by the year 2040.
This year City of Tacoma is reviewing its tree ordinance. TAS will ask the city council to increase the tree canopy from its 20% goal to exceed the average of other Puget Sound cities, which have preserved an average of 30% canopy.
We have also looked into state legislation to promote carbon sequestration in our state and regional rain forests, as another way to slow the effects of climate change. Mature forests selectively logged, rather than clear cut, continue to sequester large amounts of carbon in their wood, leaves, and roots.
Recent Cap and Trade legislation in Washington raised $1 billion in funding to offset the impact of global climate change on people and industries at risk. Private foresters can sell their forests to sequester carbon by committing to not clear cutting their forests. Funding comes from Cap and Trade auction.
County & Cities to Preserve Trees in Open Spaces
Back in 2011, Tahoma Audubon Society and Pierce County Parks convened the first Open Space Task Force to set goals for preserving agriculture, forests, fisheries, trails, and biological diversity.
Local tribes, environmental groups, park departments, land trusts, cities, and Pierce Conservation District all contributed to the plan’s goals. In the last ten years, the forest corridor in Carbon River corridor and other county streams has been preserved. Farmland in Puyallup Valley was preserved by land trusts, and another 29,000 acres countywide preserved by designating active farms as Agriculture Resource lands.
In addition, a Park Impact Fee was created that provided some $56 million in 10 years for county parks. It included adding new miles to existing trail plans. This spring, Kirk Kirkland and John Garner are visiting local partners who will co-sponsor the Task Force meetings likely to happen in the fall.
Audubon's goal is to increase the number of acres of urban forests and overall carbon sequestration sufficiently to offset emissions increases as our regional cities keep growing.
What can you do?