Over the past 100 years, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil has significantly increased the concentrations of heat-trapping "greenhouse gases" in our atmosphere. These gases prevent heat from escaping to space, thereby increasing global temperatures.
Data assembled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows that the Earth's average surface temperature has increased by about 1.2 to 1.4ºF since 1900. The warmest global average temperatures on record have all occurred within the past 15 years, with the warmest two years being 1998 and 2005. Much of this recent warming trend has been attributed to human activities. Other aspects of the climate are also changing such as rainfall patterns, snow and ice cover, and sea level.
Washington is especially vulnerable to climate change because of our dependence on snow pack for summer stream flows and because the expected rise in sea levels threatens our coastal communities.
As a result, the State of Washington is taking climate change seriously. In February 2007, Governor Gregoire signed an executive order establishing goals for reductions in climate pollution, increases in jobs, and reductions in expenditures on imported fuel.
Washington State is already taking action to cut emissions by 20% by 2050. These actions include:
- Reducing CO2 emissions in newer cars and light trucks by more than 30% and in SUVs by 25%,
- Adopting renewable fuels standards for transportation by requiring 2% of fuel sold is biodiesel or ethanol,
- Instituting high-performance green building standards and having one of the most energy-efficient building codes in the nation,
- Passing a clean renewable energy initiative, and
- Implementing electric utility conservation programs.
Individuals can also make a huge difference in reducing global warming. Because more than 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington are associated with transportation, activities which reduce or offset transportation energy use are especially beneficial. These activities can include carpooling, riding the bus, bicycling or telecommuting. Keeping your vehicle properly tuned, using biofuels where possible, or buying a fuel efficient car when purchasing a new vehicle are also excellent ways to help limit greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information on what the State of Washington is doing about Climate Change
please go to the Department of Ecology's climate
change website. The December 2008 comprehensive plan “Growing Washington's Economy in a Carbon-Constrained
World” is available at this site. This
report describes a comprehensive plan for Washington State to reduce our GHG
emissions and expand our green economy. It presents a coordinated set of
policies—including incentives, regulations, and disincentives—to meet the GHG
emissions reductions adopted into law in 2008 as part of E2SHB 2815. The
Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED)
is co-directing state climate change activities with the Department of Ecology
and has posted additional information on climate change legislation, CO2
inventory information and other actions on the CTED
Energy Policy website.