Two Seattle neighborhoods bracing for effects from climate change

The federal government's recent report predicts warmer weather in the Pacific Northwest will threaten everything from salmon fishing to mountain skiing.

And according to studies going back at least three years, some predictions are that parts of two Seattle neighborhoods could be underwater at times by 2030.

Activist Paulina Lopez asked to meet at the Duwamish Waterway Park on this river that is both Superfund site and fishing ground for those native to this land. But the Duwamish River has an even darker side that threatens to wash over her cherished South Park neighborhood.

"I have come on days where it jumps up to the fourth or third tier," she said, pointing to the steps leading to the Duwamish. "So when I come with my kids, we're like what is going to happen when we're fully hitting sea-level rise? And we know, as a South Park resident, that our neighborhood is going to be impacted the most."

Indeed, she says the lives of South Park residents are already negatively affected by environmental changes. Children's asthma rates are higher here than in the rest of Seattle. 
Even life expectancy is lower, she says.

Residents in affluent Laurelhurst, just 8 miles away, live on average 13 years longer than do residents of South Park.

Even those in less affluent areas of the Emerald City live on average eight years longer.

So it is a bitter pill to swallow in this area that has historically been Seattle's neighborhood of newly arrived immigrants.

"South Park, Georgetown, both," said Lopez. "We share. The river is the only part that separates us."

A report by a national think tank in 2015 raised the alarm about the potential impacts of a changing climate.

"We're particularly vulnerable here in Georgetown," says Larry Reid, president of the Georgetown Merchants Association. "Because of our proximity to Puget Sound, the high water table."

The report got Reid's attention.

"(About) how we might be wading around knee deep in water in the next decade or two," he said.

He and Lopez believe the city's leaders have finally gotten the message. Just last April, Seattle released a Duwamish Valley action plan to address the climate issues facing these two communities.

"I feel like right now we are in a momentum," said Lopez, "that we have been knocking on their door and they are responding."

That is certainly Reid's hope.

"I'd like to believe that with the recent national report through several governmental agencies," he said, "that people will come to realize that this is a very significant and real threat."

And so what is the city looking at? There are several proposals, including charging drivers to use their cars at certain times of the day; convincing homeowners to switch from oil to electric heat.

The goal is to reduce carbon emissions in Seattle 30% by 2035.

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