Sound Off: Is Whidbey responding to our climate challenges?


As Bob Dylan prophesied back in the day, the “Times they are a Changin.” This accurately describes what’s happening around our beloved island in response to an ever-more obviously changing climate.

Last week, 172 solar panels showed up on our Primary School roof. These panels will produce 108,470 kw hours of free electricity each year, pay for themselves in six years and more importantly offset 130,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per year (the equivalent of 6,500 gallons of gas).

Early this summer, 105 local homes switched from fossil fueled heating systems to efficient heat pump systems fueled by electricity, which in these parts is almost half from renewable resources.

In a few years we’ll be boarding a hybrid ferry boat which is estimated to reduce fossil use by 53% by 2030 on these boats.

Washington state now has a cap-and-trade greenhouse gas pollution program in place which allocates a shrinking allotment of pollution to major corporations around here — and it’s working like a charm. If these carbon polluters exceed these limits, they must pay a price which last May totaled $500 million within the state. The goal of this cap-and-trade system is to reduce emissions to 45% of 1990 emissions by the year 2030 and it’s exceeding expectations.

Sales of electric cars are soaring with virtually all manufacturers on board and by 2035 you won’t be able to purchase a new gas powered automobile within our state.

At the Whidbey Island Fair this year, a coalition of four climate groups hosted a booth to broach the topic of climate change and lively conversations ensued, particularly with younger visitors.

Whidbey Climate Action is initiating a carbon offset program where local efforts to combat climate change are incentivized.

For the future, a total of five local public entities have been awarded grants from the Washington Department of Commerce to study the feasibility of installing solar panels along with a battery backup system in 2024, to reduce CO2 emissions, provide an energy resilience component within our community and bolster a challenged grid system as electrification advances. These grants came about from the proactive efforts of the Whidbey Climate Action and a local energy consultant, Bob Gunn with Seinergy LLC.

Recipients are: the Langley library/admin building complex; Good Cheer headquarters, garden and food bank in Bayview; Langley Methodist church; Langley Island church; and Pacific Rim Institute environmental facility in Coupeville.

Hopefully other public entities such as the fire district, the port and the county will awaken to the climate dilemma and follow suit.

Yes indeed, things are changing and decades of denial will hopefully lead to ditching that carbon based economy and lower that 420 ppm of CO2 that’s fouling our planet. Hopefully denial and inaction are in the rear view mirror and we are ready to tackle what is truly an existential problem with our amazing human capabilities, passion and better natures.

Let’s start with driving less, flying less, use resources such as water and energy carefully, reduce meat consumption, switch to electric everything and proliferate solar panels. And, importantly, don’t forget to let your politicians know that climate is on your mind, not a fossil driven economy of heat trapping gasses overwhelming the planet — and you’ll vote accordingly.

Really, if we can’t do it here, who can?

Each of those four climate groups mentioned above has a website with ideas and goals, have a look at:

Dean Enell is a longtime Islander and former county planning commissioner with a history of involvement in county Growth Management and Comprehensive Plan efforts. He is focused on achieving action toward our climate challenge locally and beyond through Whidbey Climate Action and the Whidbey Citizens Climate Lobby.