Will the Legislature make headway on protecting our climate?

By Nick Engelfried of Hillsboro, Oregon. Nick is a grassroots organizer with the Cascade Climate Network, and helped coordinate the Network's February 9th lobby day.

From the 2008 elections that put President Obama and Senator Jeff Merkley into office, to last month’s special election on Measures 66 and 67, the youth vote in Oregon has increasingly helped tip close races toward the more progressive outcome. More and more, the progressive movement in this state and beyond is looking to young voters as an audience that must stay engaged to keep our candidates in office and our policies moving forward. So it’s with great satisfaction that I participated in the Cascade Climate Network’s annual youth/student lobby day in Salem earlier this week.

2010 was the third year in a row that the Cascade Climate Network has brought young voters from across Oregon together in Salem to push for state-level action on climate issues and clean energy. Represented on about fifteen college, university, and high school campuses in Oregon, the completely youth-organized Network has engaged students on issues from community clean energy projects to shutting down Oregon’s only coal-fired power plant. Our annual lobby days have lent youth support to policies that included last year’s green jobs-focused House Bill 2626, and the moratorium on new coal-fired power plants enacted by 2009’s Senate Bill 101.

For this year’s lobby day, about twenty young Oregonians converged in Salem on February 9th, to meet with legislators and discuss bills that can help stimulate Oregon’s green economy while reducing waste and pollution. Our priorities included supporting Rep Ben Cannon’s proposed ten-year ban on offshore oil and gas exploration (House Bill 3613), smart urban development that provides for the needs of a growing population while reducing emissions from vehicles (Senate Bill 1059), and protecting rural communities and public lands from high-carbon liquefied natural gas (LNG) development.

A lot remains to accomplish in Oregon’s 2010 special session, but I’m pleased to note that the environmental community has already scored some important victories. For one thing, the oil drilling moratorium passed the Oregon House on February 8th with firm bipartisan support. Though the bill still has to clear the Senate, I’m hopeful it will succeed there as well.

In another major victory, environmentalists and rural advocates have declared cautious victory in stopping the latest attempt by the gas lobby to fast-track permits for LNG pipelines. This session’s Senate Bill 1059 1020, similar to last year’s controversial House Bill 3610, would have handed gas companies a windfall but now appears dead. The bill failed to clear the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and youth activists on Tuesday had the pleasure of thanking Chair Jackie Dingfelder for this important victory.

The next couple of weeks will determine whether Oregon can use 2010’s special session to make headway on protecting our climate, and lay the groundwork needed for greater strides in 2011. With time running out to address global warming and the national clean tech race growing more competitive, it’s essential that the one-month session be used productively. We young voters are the ones who will have to live longest with decisions the legislature makes today, and failure to build on Oregon’s climate leadership in 2010 could have consequence that last for decades. Our message to the legislature is simple: please don’t screw up on this one.

Comments

  • Karl (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "With time running out to address global warming"

    Nick, this is my biggest fear - do you think we have 5 years left?

  • BluecollarLibertarian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Since when did we start to qualify all students at the college level as youth?

  • Brian C. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Yeah- might want to get a few major nation states on board first before the state of Oregon decides it's going to save planet Earth from human CO2 emissions. I know, it feels good to be a progressive Portlander but lets examine measurable outcomes for a sec just to say we did.

  • BluecolarLibertarian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    BTW this attitude of not wanting to drill for oil of the Oregon Coast smacks of a bit of racism. Oregonians want to use oil but let it come from other parts of the world, like Mexico. I guess it is okay to screw up their environment. Other than that the probability of a spill from and offshore rig is pretty damn small and drilling off shore might create some jobs onshore.

  • Nick Engelfried (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Thanks for writing in, everybody - let me have a go at answering your questions and concerns!

    First, Karl, thanks for underscoring the incredible urgency we're faced with in trying to combat global warming. I'm not a climate scientist, so I can't say for sure if it's already too late or not. But from what I do know, I think we have time to prevent the worst consequences of global warming - although a certain amount of warming is now inevitable. We've got to move fast before it really is too late.

    BluecolarLibertarian: I realize there are people in college who wouldn't consider themselves "youth" - but those of us at Tuesday's lobby day were young folks, and we were either current college students or recent graduates. As to you're comment about oil an racism: you need to get your facts straight before you throw around accusations. Do I want to see oil drilling in Mexico? No. Would I support a moratorium on offshore drilling in Mexican waters as strongly as I support one in Oregon waters? Yep. But I'm registered to vote in Oregon, not Mexico, so that's where I tend to focus my lobbying efforts.

    Brian C: I'm sorry but your argument is old, so old, and it just doesn't sound that clever anymore. Every time someone pushes for a state or local policy to curb greenhouse emissions, someone out there is going to say it would really be more prudent to sit on our laurels until the federal government gets around to doing something. But if you haven't noticed, the feds aren't exactly moving at a fast clip on climate policy. Last fall I met multiple times with the offices of both Oregon's US senators to lobby them on climate issues, and the Cascade Climate Network continues to make pressuring our federal representatives a top priority. But by focusing on the state level now and then, we hope to set a good example for the feds.

  • Justin (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, You sound pretty serious about protecting the planet from a changing climate with all your young Cascade Climate Network friends. Take a look at http://www.oregonjobsnow.org/ and see what all these no-good, selfish, only one thing on their mind union folks are trying to ram through the Special Session. They just don’t get it at all. Congratulations to you and your nineteen buddies who seem to have your priorities in line. Too bad your group didn’t meet up with those 500 or so crybabies who were also at the Capitol this week begging for jobs. You could have pointed out just how truly insensitive they really are. Well, maybe another day.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, I applaud your concerns and efforts, just believe that a single state as small as Oregon has no impact when not ONE major industrialized country is willing to meet in order to cub emissions.

    We can try all we want, but until/unless china and India are ready to stop their rapid build up of coal based elctricity producing capacity we are all just dancin' in the dark.

  • Nick Engelfried (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Kurt, It's obvious that, as you point out, India and China need to be on-board if we're going to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic global warming. It should be equally obvious that the most effective way for those of us in Oregon to influence India and China is by pressuring our own elected officials to set a good example here in Oregon and in the rest of United States.

  • BluecollarLibertarian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If you are serious about the energy and environment problems then I’ll suggest the legislature is going about it the wrong way. Banning offshore drilling is attacking the supply side of the problem and not doing anything about the demand side of the equation. In the process all that will be done is to drive up the price which will harm low income people the most.

    Reducing the American military’s overseas commitment would make a bigger impact. The U.S. military is one of the largest users of petroleum products in the world. To reduce what the military uses we should bring home the 200,000 troops we have stationed in such places as Germany where we have something in the neighborhood of 50-70,000, England where we have 10,000, Italy where we have 11,000, Japan 35,000 and Korea’s 30,000 as well as any others places( those are rough numbers). End the two unconstitutional wars we are fighting abroad and bring those troops home. Dock two of the Navy’s carrier task force groups. That’s for starters.

    Next open up the urban transit market in America’s cities which has been closed for years and allow private companies to compete for the customer.

    Curitiba’s transit system is probably one of the best on the planet. It is highly integrated with different levels of service and provides transportation to about 40% or more of that city’s daily commuters and is a mix of public/private operations. For the most part it is unsubsidized and has about thirteen private carriers operating in the city. The city’s ambient pollution is about thirty less than comparable cities. Opening the transit market here could help reduce air pollution, reduce the use of fossil fuels, improve job opportunities for people, might put a dent in poverty and the social programs that go with poverty, slow the expansion of the roadway system (unfortunately Portland’s roads have been neglected for years) and reduce traffic congestion.

    One group suggests that by developing a wide spread jitney system we could reduce air pollution by 50 to 75%. While I think their numbers are high and have not seen their research material I do think that a 30% reduction is possible.

    There’s my contribution. BcL

  • BluecollarLibertarian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    That is Curitiba, Brazil and this line "The city’s ambient pollution is about thirty less than comparable cities" should say thirty percent less.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  • Zarathustra is my real pseudonym (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Posted by: Karl | Feb 12, 2010 3:42:25 PM

    "With time running out to address global warming"

    Nick, this is my biggest fear - do you think we have 5 years left?

    I would argue time is out now. We've just demonstrated via Kyoto and Copenhagen that the world does not have the will to pass a binding international treaty on climate change. Who would have accepted, as the new century dawned, that we would go a DECADE with no further progress? But the next 5 will turn the trick? Look no further than "Meteorologist Chuck Weiss", on two other threads, to see why your children will never enjoy the natural world that you do, and you will never know the one that your grandparents experienced. In another decade, I fear the only thing one will be able to do to help the situation is to open one's wrists. No doubt there will be plenty of blanks content to squat on their dung pile and serve the system as good domesticated primates, content that feeding the pigeons in a metro park is being connected to nature, as millions of Chinese do every day, before paying top dollar for rhino horn or tigers' nuts in the never ending, desperate bid to prolong meaningless lives, no matter the cost to the environment.

    There's one thing we all can do and do it today. Make a zero population growth pledge. Negative is even better. Otherwise no matter how hard you strive, it's just 1 step forward and 2 back.

    Make headway? How far are we from being able to debate the dependent child credit? We're at least that far from getting any traction on this. Sure it could happen inside five years. So could a US equivalent of the Cultural Revolution. About the same odds.

  • alcatross (unverified)
    (Show?)

    BluecollarLibertarian commented: Next open up the urban transit market in America’s cities which has been closed for years and allow private companies to compete for the customer.

    Curitiba’s transit system is probably one of the best on the planet.

    While I'm generally in favor of privatization of some things, let's be honest here and not try to lead people to believe that privitization of urban transit markets in the US is just automatically going to result in a repeat of the (qualified) success of Curitiba. I say 'qualified' because most Americans would not put up with the crowding (packing 270 people on a bus with seats for 57? Try to get that past the ADA smell test...) and some of the other shortcomings of the bus services in Curitiba. And while it sounds nice, let's also be clear that the various companies run specific types of bus services in certain assigned areas/routes in Curitiba - they don't literally 'compete for the customers' with all the other companies in the particular area that they service. That would be chaos.

    I'll also note that the high-density development did not just occur --- it was made to happen by stringent planning policies that did not allow such buildings anywhere else. So, as Brazilian cities from Porto Alegre to Manaus were constructing high rise residential throughout their cores, Curitiba built them on the rapid transit lines. What Curitiba shows is that transit and strong land use controls can impact development --- but the necessary and sufficient condition is not transit, it is rather the land use controls.

    Most US cities don't have such fairly authoritarian land use control policies (not yet anyway...)

  • BluecollarLibertarian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Alcatross they do not squeeze 270 people into buses built for 57. Where in the hell do you get that? Try using the Web and check any number of sites that have info. Sure they have problems but the transit system there is far better than what Portland or most U.S. cities have. Last I read the buses where only three years old in most cases. They were retired after three years. I never said they competed but it is a far better system than what is in Portland. Their system does have its shortcomings and it is not a free or open market but it sure as hell beats Trimet in service and costs. Try doing some research!

  • BluecollarLibertarian (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Btw Alcatross this was about reducing our consumption of fossil fuels and that is what I was replying about.

  • B Scherz (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, great plans if you value rocks, trees, and streams more than people. I for one understand that mother earth is already turning down the temperature as the increased CO2 and water vapor (the most prevalent GHGs) are once again inducing a negative feedback effect on overall global temperature. Look at the records over the last 12 years, the temperatures are beginning level out and indications are that we may again be approaching a cooling stage.

    Regarding population growth, the Club of Rome voiced your concerns over 30 years ago, and has indicated that the population of the earth should be no more that 2 billion people. Will you be one of the 4.5 billion that volunteer to die for their lofty goal? You have to admit, Gaia is still supporting us. BTW, LNG is a LOW carbon energy source, and natural gas can be the bridge to a cleaner energy future if we'll let it.

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, I commend you for wanting to save the planet from catastrophe. Only thing – can you find a real one and go work on that instead?

    Other than the green job sector that may or may not significantly materialize (see: South Waterfront biotech) your entire effort is destructive to the future Oregon economy (your future). And the environmental success of your entire effort is predicated on CO2 driving temperature. It doesn’t. The relationship between CO2 concentration and rising temperature is logarithmic – meaning any rise in atmospheric CO2 beyond the pre-industrial 280 ppm results in an ever diminishing effect on temperature increase. The log curve flattens, making CO2 all but negligible – and thus anthropogenic CO2-induced catastrophic warming impossible.

    Not being a climate scientist doesn’t excuse you for looking at only one side of the science any more than not being a doctor locks you into obtaining a single medical opinion. You owe it to your generation to treat the diagnosis of the planet with the same open-mindedness you would lend to diagnosing your own child. To paraphrase you, Nick: it’s your generation that will have to live the longest with the results of your actions.

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Also, Nick, for a view of what a subsidized wind energy build-out would ultimately look like in Oregon and the US, look to the example of Hawaii, California, and Europe.

  • Bill Wilkinson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    My patience is exhausted with dirty old men that think they will die before the chickens come home to roost trying to hijack the climate debate.

  • Bill Wilkinson (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The answer to the topic's question, based on Wingard and co., is "no". How about a thread on "what are we going to do about it"?

    Will you be one of the 4.5 billion that volunteer to die for their lofty goal?

    Sure. In a heartbeat. Will you work to change the law, as it it currently a felony? Can't promote it or form organizationts to promote it as long as it is, without facing substantial prosecution. You serious? The poster sounded serious, and I can assure you that I am. Eventually, dedicated people will just start doing it, just like Buddhist monks practicing self-immolation. If you leave it where they have to break the law, what is to stop them from taking a goodly number of your bunch with them? Brush it aside at your own peril.

    You're such a humanist. 2.5 billion? How about the number of great apes, of all genera that we have left alive? That's, what, about 100,000? Sounds about right to me. What I wouldn't give to see a decent H1N1 mutation!

  • Nick Engelfried (unverified)
    (Show?)

    OK everyone - let me have a go at addressing the latest round of questions and concerns!

    First B. Scherz and DJ: great to hear from you two, it's always amusing to see the latest global warming denier arguments trotted out in all their stupidity. This time around, you both rely on the old fallacy that equates climate with weather, and assumes that if the last couple of years are a bit cooler than the few years that came first, an overall warming trend must not be real. Never mind that the decade we just finished is the warmest ten years on record, with the second warmest being the '90s. Never mind that the past couple of years seem cool precisely because we're comparing them to years that have been significantly warmer than average. I don't expect you two to actually be convinced by anything I say here; I realize that deniers will continue clinging to the same old arguments no matter how tired they become. Still, it's amusing to see deniers make fools of themselves in public.

    Now on to BluecollarLibertarian, whose latest concerns merit more serious consideration. You raise some good points about the need to address the demand side of the carbon equation, but please note that your focus on the offshore drilling moratorium ignores the fact that this wasn't the only bill we were lobbying on. Another of the Cascade Climate Network's priority bills, SB 1059, addresses the need to reduce our consumption of oil and provide alternatives to getting around by car. This is exactly the sort of thing which Curitiba has become a global model for. We must address supply and demand simultaneously.

    Finally, a couple folks have again raised the concern that it may already be too late to stop catastrophic global warming, and that what we do now will have no effect. All I can say is that you could be right, but no one really knows for sure yet. There's no guarantee that the action we need will come fast enough - but there IS a guarantee that it won't if defeatism is allowed to kill the drive toward a more sustainable economy. Our only remaining hope at this point is to reduce emissions across the board as fast as possible. We've got nothing to lose and much to gain by trying.

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, you say I equated climate with weather. Please cite where I did that.

    Secondly, please address the point I did make, namely, that the relationship between CO2 concentration and rising temperature is logarithmic. After all, I'm the fool and you're the one with all the answers - so this should be a layup for you.

  • Nick Engelfried (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Hi DJ,

    You're right that I mistakenly attributed comments equating climate with weather to you. Those were actually B. Scherz's comments, which I confused with yours. Aplologies for that mix-up. However, I stand by my claim that you are in the global warming denier camp and are refusing to take actual science seriously.

    I'll reiterate that I'm not a climate scientist, and add that I'm not a statistician, either. Since you don't provide a citation for your claims about logarithmic relationships, I can't really address them very well. Of course you're not required to provide citations in a comment on a blog post, but in this case it would help me to know where you're getting your information.

    In judging the threat of an issue like global warming, I have to believe what the vast majority of professional climate scientists are saying: that global warming is a real threat that must be addressed right away. I find it a little puzzling when someone trots out a list of claims that may or may not have a basis in reality in a comment on a blog post, and expects in this way to knock the peer-reviewed scientific consensus on its head. It doesn't seem to matter how many times the reality of global warming is confirmed, or how often the deniers' arguments are debunked. The deniers just keep repeating the same old stuff.

  • Zarathustra is my real pseudonym (unverified)
    (Show?)

    You have to admit, Gaia is still supporting us.

    Gaia is trying to shake us off like a load of particularly nasty fleas. As with most organisms, a rise in body temperature will likely do the trick, as most pests exist within a narrow comfort zone.

    Posted by: B Scherz | Feb 15, 2010 6:50:28 AM

    Nick, great plans if you value rocks, trees, and streams more than people.

    Then it's a great plan, full stop. It's not a net zero sum gain. Your mythology that there are people and there are rocks and trees is fundamentally flawed. It COULD be that way, but you show no evidence of the intellectual rigor required to make that stand. You OR the rest of your filthy rutting band of apes.

    Bill W, handled the rest quite nicely.

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, while we disagree, I almost can’t blame you for lumping all “deniers” into the same camp. My background leans scientific, so uneducated “denier” posts are immediately apparent to me. Some of them, like you, are well spoken and have genuine political/policy arguments to make. But too often they come from the fringe and have little to contribute - scientific, political, or otherwise. Same goes for the “true believer” camp as with the ‘band of apes’ commenter just above. I’m sure you cringe when comments like that get associated with “your side.” At least I hope you do.

    That said, I’d ask you to turn up the sensitivity on your filter a notch and try to differentiate sincere commentary from “denier camp” noise.

    What I tried to point out to you above is that your entire agenda crumbles if CO2 is a negligible AGW temperature driver. As one who attempts to influence legislative policy, I expected you’d at least be curious enough to type “CO2 log” into your browser and select an information source. As a policy guy, you are abdicating your responsibility by blindly leaving to the ‘climate scientists’ that which you can question yourself. Believe me, if you understand basic science, if you understand that energy is transmitted at various wavelengths (check your sunscreen bottle) and that doubling the amount of sunscreen you apply doesn’t double UV protection – then you will understand the CO2 logarithmic effect. And when you understand the CO2 log effect you will understand why CO2 is a negligible AGW temperature driver.

    Google “CO2 logarithmic effect” and you’ll see this link among the 1.9 million hits. It seems to do a good job of explaining in as close to lay terms as possible why physics excludes CO2 from the smoking gun list. Work your way down to the temp vs. CO2 log graphs and note how the temp curve flattens as CO2 ppm increases. Give it a review and let me know if you’re making sense of it.

  • DJ (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nick, as if on queue for this conversation, it was revealed yesterday that three peer-reviewed studies by AGW proponents in fact contain data “hiding in plain sight” that corroborates the CO2 log effect. This satellite data proves that increased levels in atmospheric CO2 have not resulted in increased absorption of outgoing long-wave IR radiation (OLR for short, this is the radiation that molecules must absorb to effect greenhouse heating).

    No increase in absorbed OLR = no temp rise due to CO2. In other words, CO2 is exonerated as anything more than a negligible AGW temperature driver – it certainly can’t create catastrophic heating.

    So you have exactly what you were looking for, Nick, namely peer-reviewed data published by a source that you already trust (AGW proponent climate scientists). The question for you now is - what will you do with it?

  • Nick Engelfried (unverified)
    (Show?)

    DJ: thanks for providing some citations. Now I have the info I need to explain why you're wrong.

    The first article you link to is by T J Nelson - a moderately well-known climate science denier who is not a climate scientist at all, but a neuroscientist. Nelson is one of many prominent deniers out there who try to use their degrees to mask the fact that they don't actually have much understanding of CLIMATE science.

    Your follow-up comment is also misguided. The link you cite in turn links to three "papers" which supposedly upend accepted climate science. One of these is actually a letter to the journal Nature, not a paper at all. The other two are true papers, but so far as I can tell they don't actually make the argument you claim they do. Apparently some global warming denier out there found a way to misread these papers, but he or she did so mistakenly. Neither one undermines the evidence of CO2's impact on the climate.

    Finally, I can't help remarking with some amusement over your claim that a single study can "prove" or disprove a causal relationship in science. I wouldn't nit-pick over this, except that someone really well-versed in the methods of science would never have made such a blunder. Science is not based on "proof," but on the accumulation of evidence that gradually points to ever more well-defined trends.

    Now, I've been following the comments on this post of mine for a while, but this piece is now pretty old news in blogosphere time, and it's reached the point where I no longer feel checking back up on it every few days is productive. So I probably won't be back for a while; feel free to argue amongst yourselves, and be sure to have a good laugh at the climate science deniers.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
    (Show?)

    So I probably won't be back for a while; feel free to argue amongst yourselves, and be sure to have a good laugh at the climate science deniers.

    <h2>You're all laughable. Egos, rhetoric and self-delusion. Both sides. Meanwhile we perish. Good riddance.</h2>
guest column

connect with blueoregon