Our climate is running out of time. Scientists are now yelling, at the top of their lungs, that we need to act. Fortunately, you can right here on Vashon. We’re talking about removing the equivalent of millions of cars from the road, forever, not just taking shorter showers or turning off the lights. At this point, it’s really all about time.
Vashon islanders know about time. How long to get to the boat? How long will that trip take? Susie and I have mason bees, and timing is important — when to move them from the fridge to the nest to begin their short life journey, to create the next generation, before the blossoms fall.
We are time experts. We are usually more expert about near-term things. What can I get done before dinner? What to do before Aunt Ida’s visit?
Long-term things, somehow, well, we have time for that. Manyana. I’ll get around to it…
That’s changing, in dramatic fashion, for our climate. The bad news — three recent reports say time is running out for us to act. It’s dramatic. It’s existential, meaning things, including humans, could die. For example, on March 25, the International Energy Agency found that global energy consumption increased by 2.3%. Most of that demand was met by burning fossil fuel. In response, Stanford University earth system science professor Rob Jackson gave a dire warning.
“The climate consequences are catastrophic,” he said. “I don’t use any word like that very often. But we are headed for disaster, and nobody seems to be able to slow things down.”
In one sense, however, awareness and concern are bending the arc of time to address the climate. This year our Legislature passed the 100% clean electricity bill, described as landmark legislation — the strongest in the nation. It requires private utilities to remove all coal-based electricity by 2025, from any source. Say goodbye to the Colstrip coal plant in Montana, the 11th most polluting in the nation and the source of 21% of Puget Sound Energy’s electricity.
In 2030, these same utilities must produce carbon-neutral electricity. They can invest in “energy transformation projects” — real, verifiable and permanent carbon reduction programs. If they can’t get carbon neutral, they pay an “administrative penalty.” By 2045, all private utility electricity must come from sources that emit no carbon at all.
So WHOO HOO, we won! Let’s kick back and celebrate, right? Well, uhm, not quite.
The next step is to make sure utilities like Puget Sound Energy implement both the letter and the intent of the law. We really want PSE to close Colstrip, not just sell it to another carbon polluting utility. And there are many paths to 100% clean electricity. Some faster than others. If past is prologue, our utility will not jump out of the gate to cut carbon.
Today PSE is the most carbon polluting utility in the state. Seventy percent of its electricity comes from burning carbon. PSE needs to hear from you, its customers, how important it is it doesn’t delay. It is important that PSE lead, important that it moves as quickly as possible to acquire cheaper, cost-stable, clean, renewable energy.
Will you help us tell them what you want?
We make it easy. Attend the Vashon Climate Action Group meeting, set for 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Vashon Cohousing. Hear the latest talking points and sign up to drive or carpool to the May 22 PSE meeting. Sign up right now at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, attend the May 22 PSE “Listening Session” at the Bellevue Hilton, 300 112th Ave SE in Bellevue.
The rally starts at 4 p.m. Then tell Vice President David Mills, starting at 4:30 p.m., what carbon emission goals you want.
Then, while things are still fresh in your mind, attend the Vashon Town Hall with Rep. Eileen Cody and Sen. Joe Nguyen from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, June 3, at the Methodist church. Thank them for passing landmark climate legislation, learn their plans for 2020 and how you can help create more progressive legislative victories next year.
It’s important. We can make a powerful difference right here in our backyard. And who knows? We may move PSE to be as green as it says it is. Only time will tell.
— Kevin Jones is a Vashon Climate Action Group board member and founder of Indivisible Vashon.