Wes Atwood, Branden Campbell, Shayla Adkins and Joshua Scott work to put out a hot spot at the scene of a wildfire outside Oso on May 18, 2016. Wildfires risk is expected to increase in Western Washington because of climate change. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Wes Atwood, Branden Campbell, Shayla Adkins and Joshua Scott work to put out a hot spot at the scene of a wildfire outside Oso on May 18, 2016. Wildfires risk is expected to increase in Western Washington because of climate change. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Everett might declare a climate emergency, adopt action plan

City council members are scheduled Wednesday to consider a resolution “to get the public’s attention.”

EVERETT — Microbursts overwhelmed the stormwater lines, wildfire smoke made the air hazardous and rising seas could further erode the city’s coastline.

Climate change and its effects are here. The Everett City Council could declare it an emergency and adopt an action plan this week.

Council members are scheduled Wednesday to consider a resolution that, in part, states the conditions pose “an existential threat to public health, safety and welfare in Everett, Washington State, the United States and across the globe. …”

“It’s intended to get the public’s attention,” said Councilmember Paul Roberts, who proposed the resolution.

The resolution tasks the city with supporting legislation to slow climate change, pursuing green economic development and working with other agencies. All of this would be built into the city’s annual budget process for review of a given effort’s cost and benefits.

In Mayor Cassie Franklin’s State of the City speech Jan. 16, she said the city must address climate change and reduce its carbon footprint as a matter of responsible, responsive and sustainable government.

“Our region is already experiencing the effects of climate change, from hotter than usual summers to wetter than ever rainy seasons and huge winter storms, to smoky summer skies due to wildfires,” she said. “All of these affect our health and safety and our quality of life.”

Roberts said the need to address climate change was urgent and he likened current greenhouse gas emission habits to driving a car that needs stopping distance relative to its speed.

“Right now we’ve got our foot on the gas,” he said.

Since 1900, average temperatures rose about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment published in 2018. That has lessened the snowpack, which increases wildfire risk and leads to drought conditions.

In recent years, unusually dry seasons led the city to ask people to wash their cars and water their lawns less often. But if droughts happen more frequently and the snowpack continues to diminish, water scarcity could affect hydropower and the region’s overall health.

In Washington, annual emissions continued to rise between 2011 and 2017, according to state Department of Ecology data. Similar to national trends, the state’s leading emitters are transportation, heating, electricity and agriculture.

In tandem with the emergency declaration, the Everett Planning Commission drafted a 53-page climate action plan. Its goals cover a few areas: reducing and improving vehicle travel, eliminating natural gas in buildings and electrifying transportation, making Everett a green economic hub, and adding housing density to prevent sprawl.

The county tried to spur biofuel industry investments for a decade before a dramatic drop in fossil fuel prices upended that plan.

Other ventures, including Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest’s 95 acres of poplar trees in Stanwood, have been more successful.

Already Everett has taken steps toward its goals. The city’s bus fleet reduced use of diesel with newer hybrid engines or electric vehicles. Terra Power, a nuclear research company, is opening soon near Paine Field. Sound Transit’s light rail extension from Lynnwood to Everett should arrive by 2036.

But air travel is a notorious emitter of greenhouse gases, and passenger service’s arrival at Paine Field has been lauded as a vital economic driver by public officials across Snohomish County. It might be at odds with fighting climate change, but Roberts and others are hopeful that the region’s aerospace industry continues investments in new, cleaner, more efficient tech.

“The building blocks of climate action success are in economic regions,” Roberts said.

Roberts pointed to the Cascade and Paine Field manufacturing areas as ideal spaces to concentrate new green tech companies. He envisions a biofuel plant that could process material grown in Snohomish County to be exported around the world.

On its own, Everett can’t stop climate change. But that’s not the goal of the city’s proposed plan. Rather, it wants to follow the strategy Denmark employs as a global “green solutions” leader.

“We have the capacity to do that in Washington state,” Roberts said.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Everett City Hall, 2930 Wetmore Ave., Everett.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037. Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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