This week I participated in two voter forums hosted by the League of Women Voters and one at the Port Angeles Senior Center. One of the issues raised by attendees at both forums was a concern about climate change, and what policies the city council can make to address climate issues. For this week’s blog I wanted to take the opportunity to expound upon this issue as I believe the City plays a large role in addressing current and future impacts of climate change.
It’s clear that climate change is a concern that goes well beyond a small handful of people in our community. Over 150 people participated in the 2015 Planning for Climate Change on the North Olympic Peninsula Project, including representatives from local entities concerned with water supply, forest/timber management, commercial fisheries, Tribal natural resources departments, and current Port Angeles City staff and council members, among others.
Local impacts of global climate change addressed in the Planning for Climate Change Project include a region wide decrease in snow-pack and glaciers, more heavy rainfall events, significant changes in sea level rise and increased chances of coastal flooding. These changes over time will have significant implications for our city’s water supply and stormwater infrastructure, along with concerns for shoreline recreation, business and public safety activities, particularly on or near Ediz Hook.
The City Council has already taken steps to address climate impacts through their participation in the project. You can read the full report here. Participants developed adaptation strategies for the region in the areas of water supplies, critical infrastructure and ecosystems management. As it relates to water supplies, one role our City utility can play includes studying how to enhance water storage capacity and recharge groundwater supplies. The City can also extend its efforts to educate homeowners and businesses about on-site water conservation, retention and catchment. The City currently offers rebates to homeowners and businesses for installing rain gardens and green infrastructure that helps retain or move water in more climate-friendly ways, for example.
There are additional actions the City Council can take to include adaptations planning and reduction of greenhouse gasses more fully into City activities. Much like Clallam County, the City could adopt a climate change resolution that would put climate adaptation for water, infrastructure and ecosystems at the forefront of planning through standard processes like the Shoreline Management Plan, the City’s Comprehensive Plan and others. This could include developing a greenhouse gas emissions baseline, so that we can measure the reduction in our City’s overall impacts through carbon reduction efforts.
Efforts such as revising Race Street to be safer and easier to use by pedestrians and bicyclists would be assessed for carbon reduction impacts, as would encouraging business development in neighborhood pockets through zoning and incentives so that small grocers and other necessities can be accessed more easily by walking and cycling. A city-wide climate resolution would also ensure the City itself takes steps to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in its own facilities and vehicle fleet.
Climate change is a global problem. But its impacts are felt differently in each locale, and the adaptations and solutions that we need in Port Angeles are different from those in Florida or Washington, D.C. Port Angeles needs to comprehensively develop its own climate adaptation strategies to ensure an abundant water supply, reduce damage to critical infrastructure, and protect ecosystems that help make this place such a special one. If elected, I will work with fellow council members, city staff and regional officials to align planning and adaptation efforts for the most effective and efficient way to address climate impacts in Port Angeles.
Ultimately, we need to continue to our efforts to understand where our vulnerabilities are and continue to develop strategies to manage these. This is important not only for our ability to adapt over time, but also this allows for better emergency preparedness and it can additionally lend itself to cost saving for our city now and in the long run.