Just so we’re all on the same page – climate change is real, and if we do not change our behavior and policy now, the tangible costs to our environment, economy, and society will be immense. There is ample data backed by decades of scientific research that inaction will present an existential threat to humanity.
With that information in mind, the question now becomes: What do we do?
Washington State is listening to science and constructing policy that seeks to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide (CO2) over the next thirty years. In May 2019, Governor Inslee signed the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) into law, which will require utilities in Washington State to deliver 100% renewable energy by 2045. This will significantly reduce emissions in our states and local communities, but this action is only one part of a larger picture.
In Bellevue, transportation accounted for 43% of citywide GHG emissions in 2018, making it the largest emissions sector – over twice as big as residential energy consumption. Of that portion, over 80% is comprised of emissions from private cars – the ones we use to go to work, run errands, and go about our day-to-day lives. Historically, our city has made decisions that prioritize automobile traffic and make it the most convenient way to get around, but this has come at a tremendous, inequitable cost to our environment and communities. If Bellevue truly wants to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 (as it has pledged to do), it will need to construct infrastructure and develop policy that will shift people away from their cars into more sustainable, efficient modes like walking, biking and mass transit.
“But hold on,” you might be thinking. “What about electric cars? If Washington is transitioning to renewable energy, won’t this all be solved if we all just switch to electric?” Although electric vehicles are an important part of the climate solution, they cannot be the sole remedy to our transportation woes, especially because it will not be possible to switch all people to private, electric vehicles in time to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis. But the things that are possible – better transit service, improved cycling facilities, and denser, more walkable neighborhoods that grant us closer access to things we need in our day-to-day lives – are already here. We can act today to implement the changes that will actually allow us to reduce our emissions in time to avoid climate catastrophe, all while making our city a quieter, greener, more livable place to be.
Header photo from Bellevue Parks