Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alec Connon, an organizer with 350 Seattle, a group that has instrumental in pushing for a local Green New Deal for Seattle.
The Seattle City Council just passed a resolution calling for a transformational Green New Deal that will eliminate our city’s climate pollution by 2030, address current and historical injustices, and create thousands of jobs. So — what now? Does that mean we’ve solved even our portion of the global climate crisis? Hardly.
It does mean that the current City Council recognizes that we are in the midst of a global emergency that requires unprecedented action across all levels of government. It does mean that the City Council has recognized that unless we act Seattle greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise, as they have in recent years. And it does mean that our city may be poised to finally do much more on climate.
The City Council should begin implementing a Green New Deal for Seattle by ensuring that we’re not making the problem even worse than it already is. We can do that by passing common sense legislation that will ensure all new buildings in Seattle get their heating from renewable sources, and not climate-destroying fossil fuels, such as fracked gas. (Seattle’s natural gas provider, Puget Sound Energy, is heavily dependent on fracking.)
Last month, the City of Berkeley passed a first-in-the-nation policy that has been widely heralded as an innovative way to protect the health and safety of its residents. The Berkeley ordinance ensures that all new residential and commercial buildings receive their heating and power sources from electricity, and not fossil fuels.
The Seattle City Council just unanimously passed a resolution calling for a transformational Green New Deal for Seattle. The first step to making that a reality is to stop making the problem worse.
It’s a common-sense policy for a number of reasons.
The use of natural gas in our buildings causes asthma and other respiratory health issues. Half of residences that use gas for cooking with no range hood have indoor air pollution levels that exceed EPA pollution standards for outdoor air. This fact is doubly startling when you consider that air pollution kills an estimated 8.8 million people around the world every year — more than war, terrorism, and malaria combined.
In addition to threatening our health, gas in our homes threatens us with death by fireball. Gas pipelines connected to our homes explode and endanger communities. Remember that explosion that decimated several Greenwood businesses a couple of years back? That was a gas pipeline. It also wasn’t unusual. Gas pipelines explode with alarming frequency. The last deadly gas pipeline in the explosion in the U.S at the time of writing? Eleven days ago. This is of additional consequence for cities like Seattle that sit atop earthquake zones. Should “the big one” hit Seattle one thing we can be assured of is that gas pipelines will explode. Unless, of course, there aren’t any.
If this weren’t reason enough, it turns out that going green is often better for our wallets too. A recent study from The Rocky Mountain Institute, and numerous other studies, found that going “all-electric” in new homes and buildings saved customers significant amounts of money over the lifetime of the building.
So there are many good reasons to dislike fossil fuel-based heating and cooking — but most of all, of course, there’s the fact that the survival of human civilization depends on our phasing out fossil fuels. Let’s not dodge the salient facts here. We are standing on the precipice of a cliff: one million species are facing extinction by the end of the century; insect populations, upon which we depend for our food, are collapsing; phytoplankton populations, upon which we depend for our oxygen, are collapsing; and the global climate crisis threatens our planet with famine, droughts, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, climate-enforced migration and war. Researchers predict that in Seattle alone thousands could die in global warming-caused heat waves — a prediction made scarier by the fact we’re nowhere near being the most impacted part of the globe.
The combustion of fossil fuels is the primary cause of all of this. The transition away from fossil fuels must happen now and it must happen swiftly, and justly.
Of course, multinational fracked gas corporations like Puget Sound Energy, which have spent big money in the City Council election this year, will say otherwise, but to continue adding new fossil fuels to our energy mix, given all that we know about what they are doing to our lungs and our planet, would be nothing short of an outstanding act of self-harm. The City Council must act to keep our communities, and our planet, safe.