It is uncertain how the new recommendation from the state Ecology Department will fare in the Washington Legislature. The state Senate is controlled by Republicans who have been skeptical of efforts to clamp down on carbon emissions.
State Ecology Department officials say climate science justifies a more aggressive effort to lower carbon emissions by 2050 to try to head off some of the most extreme impacts of global warming.
In a report submitted to the state Legislature this past week, the Ecology Department recommends that Washington set a midcentury target of reducing carbon emission by 80 percent below 1990 levels. That compares with a current target that calls for a 50 percent reduction of carbon and other greenhouse gases by 2050.
The Legislature in 2008 approved the current target, the basis for a rule finalized this year by Ecology that will cap — and over time, reduce — major polluters’ carbon emissions.
It is uncertain how the new recommendation will fare in the Legislature. The state Senate is controlled by Republicans who have been skeptical of state efforts to clamp down on carbon emissions. They are likely to be reluctant to approve a more ambitious target.
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Carbon and other greenhouse-gas emissions generated by the combustion of fossil fuels are key drivers of climate change that scientists say will greatly intensify in the decades ahead without big reductions in global use of oil, natural gas and coal.
In a major climate agreement reached last December in Paris, more than 190 nations agreed to try to hold global temperature increases to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
In the United States, President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed the science of climate change. But activists in the United States are expected to step up state and local efforts to lobby for legislation to reduce carbon emissions.
In Washington state, the Ecology Department also has been under legal pressure to further crack down on carbon emissions. Eight Washington youths, with assistance from the Western Environmental Law Center and Our Children’s Trust, have filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court to try to spur the Ecology Department to take more aggressive action. They say the clean-air rule adopted by the state does not do enough to protect young people, and that the state is violating court orders by not doing more.
If greenhouse gases continue to rise in a “business as usual” scenario, scientists predict that 70 percent of the April 1 mountain snowpack in Washington state could be lost by the end of the century, according to forecasts cited by the Ecology Department.