"Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia" and "Investigate West" in gold and dark gray font next to a digital illustration of a mountain against a yellow half-circle.

About Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia

This project aims to show how British Columbia, Washington and Oregon are well-poised to demonstrate to the world how to produce energy without emitting plant-warming greenhouse gases. This part of the world known by some as “Cascadia” is supposedly one of the most eco-friendly regions in North America, if not the world. And yet all three governments have failed to live up to their promises to moderate climate pollution by 2020. 

A yearlong reporting initiative led by InvestigateWest, in partnership with Grist, Crosscut, The Tyee, the South Seattle Emerald, The Evergrey, and Jefferson Public Radio, “Getting to Zero: Decarbonizing Cascadia” investigates the political and economic barriers to effective, equitable climate action across the Cascadian region.

The series features innovative storytelling, including piercing analysis and data, visually-driven presentation, animation, and a theater production, among other features. It’s part of our efforts to fulfill InvestigateWest’s mission of local nonprofit journalism focused on environment, government accountability, and public health, with a strong emphasis on learning from the communities we serve.

Read The First Story

Watch the Series Trailer

Carbon cap and trade: A mechanism for controlling carbon pollution whereby governments set a cap on emissions that declines annually, and require polluters to buy credits for every ton of carbon pollution they release. The carbon credits, often acquired via auctions, can be traded on carbon markets. Cap and trade systems create a financial incentive to reduce pollution, but they can also disadvantage vulnerable communities without careful policy design.

Carbon emissions: Carbon dioxide and methane gas released into Earth’s atmosphere. Those carbon-based greenhouse gases are responsible for roughly four-fifths of human-caused climate change. They are primarily produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

Carbon tax: A tax added to the sale of carbon-based fuels such as gasoline, diesel, natural gas and coal based on the amount of carbon dioxide and methane released when they are consumed. Carbon taxes put a price on greenhouse gas emissions, providing an incentive for individuals and businesses to switch to cleaner fuels and processes. British Columbia’s experience suggests that, with careful design, carbon taxes can be designed to avoid hurting low-income families and vulnerable industries.

Cascadia: British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. All three rely heavily on hydropower, are transitioning from resource extraction industries, have rapidly diversifying populations and face common challenges as they transition off fossil fuels. (Note: to some, Cascadia is more than two states and a province. It can also refer to a ‘bioregion’ of common ecology including Idaho and parts of California and Alaska; a territorial independence movement; and an indie album whose title track yearns for a coastal utopia.)

Decarbonize: To shift away from energy sources and uses, such as fossil fuels, that release carbon dioxide and methane. Those carbon-based greenhouse gases are responsible for roughly four-fifths of human-caused climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions: Releases of gases that trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere, thereby altering its climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide associated with fossil fuel combustion, methane associated with natural gas leaks and agriculture, and fluorocarbon chemicals used in industrial processes and air conditioners.

Liquified natural gas or LNG: Fossil gas chilled to minus 160° C (minus 260° F) becomes a liquid, reducing its volume by 600-fold and facilitating long-distance transport by specialized ships. Methane leakage during natural gas production, plus fuel burned to chill and ship LNG, negate much of the carbon advantage that natural gas can provide over dirtier fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. Cascadia’s first large scale LNG export terminal, the LNG Canada project, is under construction in Kitimat, BC.