By Tim Manns
Last year, the Washington State legislature passed, and Governor Inslee signed House Bill 2311, “Amending state greenhouse gas emission limits for consistency with the most recent assessment of climate change science.” This law sets a schedule for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our state to, “By 2050 … achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.” The scale, pace, and consequences of climate change call for immediate, determined, and multi-faceted approaches at every level: local, state, national, international. We’ve dithered long enough. In the 2021 state legislative session, to meet the legislated reduction targets multiple bills were introduced to cut carbon emissions and otherwise address climate change. The session ends April 25th, and tragically, despite dogged work by many organizations and individuals, the Governor’s staunch support, and for the most part, majority buy-in in both chambers, at this mid-April writing, it appears no significant climate change bill will reach the Governor’s desk - - another year lost! We all know there are State Representatives and Senators who reject the abundant evidence of anthropogenic climate change and/or the urgency to do anything. It is more than mildly unfortunate that some of the people elected to represent Skagit Audubon members not only see no need to act but apply their creativity and energy to actively opposing others working on this huge problem. How will they explain this to their children and grandchildren who will deal with the consequences?
Despite passing both House and Senate, the Clean Fuels Standard is, through some mysterious process beyond my understanding, now tied up with wrangling over the transportation budget and is likely to die, having made it so close to enactment after years of effort. Similarly bogged down are bills to create a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions or a carbon tax generating revenue to speed transition from fossil fuels. All these approaches have succeeded elsewhere in reducing carbon emissions, but here where we like to think ourselves more environmentally attuned, our legislature is hamstrung by those who choose to oppose and obstruct fellow legislators trying to solve real problems. Even a modest bill to require that county and city comprehensive plans address effects of climate change died in committee.
In the face of such a discouraging picture, for the sake of our mental health and the good of the planet we have to find what we can personally do. For most of us that means acting locally. Here we may find a basis for hope. That there is some possibility of national action on climate change after four disastrous years is certainly welcome though far from a done deal. At the opposite end of the geographic scale comes great news of a success many of you helped bring about. Skagit Land Trust has bought the 50 acres on Samish Flats between Padilla and Samish Bays mentioned in last month’s Skagit Flyer, adding to the 8,000 acres the Trust has protected in our county. There are loans to repay, confirmation of a big grant yet to come, and donations needed to clean up and restore the property, but the big hurdle of acquisition is done. Bit by bit, organizations we can all support are making a positive difference in protecting habitat and providing for resilience to climate change. We do what we can, at whatever scale we’re able, realizing that some of our elected leaders will all too often not act in our best interests, or even ultimately their own.
We’re in the midst of beautiful Spring weather (if a bit ominously warm some days). Neotropical birds are returning to reclaim their summer homes and raise young. A rarely seen Ruff is adding to the excitement of the season at Wylie Slough. Here in western Washington, we’re blessed with abundant opportunities to experience the natural world, to get involved with community science and habitat restoration, and to protect this place we inhabit. Elections for public office will roll around again.
For information on other issues Skagit Audubon is tracking go to “Conservation Notes” under the “Conservation” tab on the chapter’s website (www.skagitaudubon.org). Please particularly look at local issues where we each have a greater chance of making a difference.