When Bill Clinton comes to town this weekend, he'll be stepping down in a city with a diminishing carbon footprint, one that's shrunk nearly eight percent within a 15-year time span.
That's the news that'll be greeting the former president when he comes to a greener Emerald City on Nov. 1-2, to give a keynote at the Mayors' National Climate Protection Summit. New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and over 100 mayors from across the country will be here, too, to bask in the city's eco-glow. And no doubt newly medaled Peace Prize laureate Al Gore will praise the city's efforts when he's beamed in via satellite.
In an Oct. 29 draft report on the city's Climate Action Plan, an update determined that between 1990 and 2005, Seattle was able to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions from nearly 7.2 million metric tons of CO2 to slightly more than 6.6 million metric tons. A drop in both residential and commercial energy use - made possible by local homes and businesses converting from heating oil to natural gas, and Seattle City Light's switch to a "zero net emissions" plan - were touted as essential to the reductions.
But not all the data in the report was cause for celebration. 2005 emissions spawned by nearly every source of carbon-fuel dependent transportation- that's diesel trucks and buses, gas-powered cars and light trucks, railroads, ferries, boats, and cruise ships - accounted for four million metric tons of the city's total, outpacing the city's 1990 numbers by 121,000 metric tons. Road transportation alone accounted for 40 percent of our carbon footprint. (Burning one gallon of gas produces 20 lbs. of CO2, which means, in 2005, Seattleites sizzled through almost 441 millions gallons of petrol.)
Yet even while the city struggles to find ways to get more people out of their cars, the preliminary report puts Seattle on target for meeting a short-range goal: to lower greenhouse-gas emissions by 7 percent come 2012. That date coincides with the end year of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement signed by over 160 countries to stabilize those greenhouse gases that could lead to "dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."
The United States has balked at signing the agreement, causing our own Mayor Nickels (in 2005, ironically enough) to incite mayors across the nation to voluntarily agree to meet the protocols goals. Over 500 cities have signed on, though Seattle is one of a few to be on target.