The Home Energy Score policy was crafted by Portland city leaders for a number of reasons. They wanted to give home buyers an easy way to comparison-shop for energy efficient homes. They wanted to ease the strain on the local electric grid by encouraging homeowners to make energy-efficient improvements. The big reason, however, is that Portland has an ambitious Climate Action Plan goal to reach — reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.
Last fall, a 1000-page report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program gave the “most comprehensive evaluation to date of climate change’s effects on the nation’s economy, human health, agriculture and environment.”
For the Pacific Northwest, and specifically Portland, the impacts of climate change are real, present and troubling. Here are three of the biggest.
- More wildfire. Air quality and the safety of homes in the Portland area are affected by wildfires, and climate change drives wildfire activity in a couple of different ways. First, longer, hotter summers dry out forests and leave them ready to burn the instant lightning strikes or someone throws a cigarette butt. Second, changing global weather patterns mean that there’s less summer rainfall — something we used to be able to count on in Portland — to snuff fires out. The last two summers brought many days of smoke to the Pacific Northwest, but fortunately, Portland homes were not affected. The next fire season, however, could be the one where we see wildfires in the forested slopes around the city, according to Portland Fire & Rescue.
- More intense urban heat. As we covered in a recent Home Energy Score Blog post, the Urban Heat Island effect is worse in Portland than in comparable cities across the US. Because of the way concrete traps in heat during the day, Portland summer days can be up to 19 degrees F hotter than rural areas directly adjacent to the city. On average, that temperature differential is 4.8 degrees F. Add that to the average increase in summer temperatures due to climate change (up to 10 degrees F in Portland over the next century), and you have one hot city — and not in a good way.
- Shorter winters, fewer fish, more raisins. The U.S. Global Change report focused on some of the direct economic impacts of climate change in the Pacific Northwest, and they’re staggering. Already, in 2015, Portland’s beloved Mt. Hood had to close down early in the season due to lack of snowfall, and the report estimates that revenue at this and other ski resorts could be cut by up to 70% annually if emissions aren’t curbed. Then there are the impacts of low summer snowmelt on water level and temperatures in area streams and rivers, which affects salmon runs, wildlife, agriculture (Portland-area wine grapes could be dried on the vine) and recreation.
There you have it — for Pacific Northwest forests, for the city of Portland and for the regional economy, let’s work together to curb carbon dioxide emissions and stop climate change. Getting a Home Energy Score Assessment is a small step — and if you improve your energy score you’ll save money on your energy bills, too.