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Cascadia’s Chance for a Zero-Carbon Future: What We Learned

Cascadia’s Chance for a Zero-Carbon Future: What We Learned

Lessons from a year of reporting on climate solutions for the bioregion spanning BC, Washington and Oregon.

Worried about the climate crisis? You’ve got plenty of company after the events of 2021: heat waves, hurricanes, fires and floods hit new and deadly extremes. Global leaders belly-flopped well short of the pool at a pivotal climate-protection summit, even after the United Nations declared a “code red” emergency.

And, in the U.S., political gridlock chopped the heart out of the most ambitious clean energy plan to reach the Congress.

Meanwhile, across the dewy-green region north of California, supposedly eco-friendly governments of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia that failed to fulfil climate promises for a decade have once again pledged to do better. But planet-warming emissions just keep on increasing, according to analysis of the latest data by InvestigateWest for the year-long series “Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia” published by the The Tyee and other media partners.

And yet there is hope. The climate news coming out of B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest — “Cascadia” to many — is decidedly positive in three important ways, as demonstrated by the Getting To Zero series which wraps up today.

    1. Cascadia has in its possession or within its reach all the technological firepower needed to go carbon neutral by mid-century. If not sooner.
    2. The economics of carbon-free living have fallen into place. Renewable solar and wind power now typically cost less than fossil-fuel alternatives. This is also largely true across North America, and beyond.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Stronger Electricity Grid Is Crucial to Cutting Carbon. Does that Make It Green?

A Stronger Electricity Grid Is Crucial to Cutting Carbon. Does that Make It Green?

A proposal to lay cables beneath the Columbia River is met with skepticism from an Indigenous activist and the river’s advocates.

[Editor’s note: This is the latest in a year-long occasional series of articles produced by InvestigateWest in partnership with The Tyee and other news organizations exploring what it will take to shift the Cascadia region to a zero-carbon economy, and is supported in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism.]

Can slicing a 100-mile-long trench into the bed of the Columbia River — the iconic giant whose flow binds British Columbia, Washington and Oregon — be good for the environment? The answer is a big yes, says a team of energy developers that proposes submerging power cables in the riverbed.

The developers say the submerged cables could deliver “clean” energy that will be crucial for getting the most densely developed areas of Cascadia off fossil fuels.

A proposal by renewable energy developer Sun2o Partners and transmission developer PowerBridge would insert the cables into the Columbia at The Dalles in Oregon. This electrical on-ramp is near the towering wind farms and expansive solar farms installed along the Columbia Gorge in eastern Oregon and Washington.

The cables also would intersect and plug into the monster transmission lines at the Bonneville Power Administration’s Big Eddy substation, drawing cheaper solar power from the Southwest, steadier wind power from Montana and Wyoming, and reliable backup power from British Columbia’s supersized hydropower reservoirs.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Climate Crisis Discriminates. Maps Tell the Story

The Climate Crisis Discriminates. Maps Tell the Story

How data visualizers are helping to plan to support Cascadia’s most vulnerable communities. Next in a series.

[Editor’s note: This is the latest in a year-long occasional series of articles produced by InvestigateWest in partnership with The Tyee and other news organizations exploring what it will take to shift the Cascadia region to a zero-carbon economy, and is supported in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism. ]

When climate change triggers heatwaves, fire or flood in the Cascadia bioregion stretching from Oregon to British Columbia, some communities will be whacked worse than others — even just miles apart.

“You can have neighbourhoods right next to one another and one may be twice as bad off during a flood. Not because they’re more flooded. But because their housing is worse,” said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.

Maps commissioned as part of InvestigateWest’s yearlong reporting project, Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia, span Washington and Oregon and provide digital windows into vulnerabilities that are likely to worsen with climate change. Montana-based Headwaters Economics created the interactive visualizations using a pair of powerful mapping tools that the community planning firm launched last year.

The maps created for this project are an example of tools that are seeing growing use in Cascadia, where equity advocates, academic researchers and governments are teaming up to create new data-driven methods to identify and address unequal environmental risks.

At UBC, Brauer also has developed various maps projecting the climate crisis’s uneven effects on communities, ranging from wildfire smoke to flooding and ozone concentrations.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

Cascadia Was Poised to Lead on Climate. Can It Still?

BC, Washington and Oregon all aimed to slash emissions. After epic battles, they failed. First in a series on creating a zero-carbon bioregion.

With dozens of people killed by wildfires in the western U.S., millions of acres scorched and choking smoke spreading far into British Columbia, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee lit up the news wires in September. “These are not just wildfires,” Inslee asserted at a press conference from Olympia, “these are climate fires.”

Two days later on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday-morning ABC News talk show, the recent presidential candidate recounted a poignant visit to a town nearly wiped out by the fires. “The only moisture in Eastern Washington was the tears of people who have lost their homes,” said Inslee. “And now we have a blowtorch over our states in the West, which is climate change.”

Just days after his return to the national stage, however, the question in a Seattle courtroom was whether the state he’d run since 2013 should be sanctioned for helping to fuel and light that torch. On Thursday, Sept. 17, an attorney representing Inslee and the entire apparatus of Washington state government stood to tell three masked judges behind a plexiglass shield that courts could not hold the state legally responsible for its part in the climate crisis: The part where it expanded highways. The part where it licensed power plants and factories to emit many tons of greenhouse gases. Where it set building standards that would keep residents’ stoves and furnaces and water heaters polluting the atmosphere for decades to come.

 

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