Changes in climate are connected to changing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere which trap heat and regulate the temperature of the planet. Some of the most important GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and water vapor. Human activities like driving cars, flying planes, and burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil, release excess GHGs into the earth’s atmosphere. This imbalance is causing global average temperatures to rise and ocean chemistry to change, resulting in unprecedented changes around the world , including here in King County .
There is overwhelming evidence that increases in carbon dioxide and other GHGs in the atmosphere are causing the climate to change and 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human activities are the reason for these changes. As a result, climate change is causing more heat waves, more extreme weather events, higher sea levels, major rainfall and storm pattern changes, disappearing glaciers, ocean acidification, and species extinction and range change. These environmental changes directly translate into economic, public health, and safety issues that affect people and communities in a variety of ways.
Climate action, both to reduce GHG emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change, is a long-standing and central priority for King County.
In 2015, the top sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in King County are from (1) fossil fuels used for transportation, and (2) energy used to heat, cool, and power homes and buildings. An additional significant source of GHG emissions is local consumption of goods and services, including the energy needed to produce, transport, use, and dispose of goods and services supporting county residents and businesses.
The pie chart below provides a breakdown of county-wide GHG emissions created by all residents, businesses, and government spending and consumption in 2015.