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State takes baby steps on climate change in agreement with B.C.

Bellingham Bay and Mt. Baker, as seen from Gooseberry Point, in Nov. 2008. Climate change is predicted to raise sea levels by as much as three feet by century's end. A new effort between Washington and British Columbia takes on climate change.

Washington’s neighbors to the north (British Columbia) and to the south (California) are gearing up to launch a regional carbon cap-and-trade system next year. It’s the centerpiece of the Western Climate Initiative, a regional effort to tackle global warming.

In Olympia, however, environment officials are rolling out more modest climate measures.

For example: a pair of agreements signed Wednesday (with much fanfare) between the state and B.C.  

The agreements proclaim the intention to:

  • Cooperate and share information on raising awareness about the coastal impacts of rising sea levels caused by climate change, and …
  • Work to reduce the carbon footprint of government operations in the state and the province.

Department of Ecology chief Ted Sturdevant concedes these steps are less than thrilling.
But, he says, Governor Chris Gregoire was unable to persuade the Legislature to go along with cap-and-trade. These new measures are part of what she once called “the next best thing.”

Sturdevant says educating the public about the impacts that rising sea levels will have on them could help pave the way for more muscular climate action in the future.

“I think people need to understand better what the stakes are. And I guess I believe that as people do understand what the stakes are for the future, that will build support for that solution.”

During the last century -- depending on location -- sea level rose between 4 and 8 inches. By the end of this century, it’s projected to add as much as another three feet.

Liam Moriarty started with KPLU in 1996 as our freelance correspondent in the San Juan Islands. He’s been our full-time Environment Reporter since November, 2006. In between, Liam was News Director at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon for three years and reported for a variety of radio, print and web news sources in the Northwest. He's covered a wide range of environment issues, from timber, salmon and orcas to oil spills, land use and global warming. Liam is an avid sea kayaker, cyclist and martial artist.