It’s time to act on the climate crisis.
This summer, Oregon has faced its largest wildfire in over 100 years – the 871-square-mile Long Draw fire, harming ranchers and critical sage grouse habitat and requiring financial bail-outs from the state and federal governments (i.e. taxpayers).
Our grocery bills are going up, thanks to America’s biggest drought in generations. America's electric bills are jumping, as we consume more energy to keep us cool amidst our hottest year on record. Our infrastructure is falling apart under the heat. Greenland’s tremendous ice sheet is melting, we’ve had more than 23,000 record high temperatures this year, and our heat wave caused at least three dozen deaths in America, as well as hundreds overseas.
These are real consequences of a sweltering climate, hitting Americans in our homes and our wallets. One pundit frames global warming as a "an economic tax on the middle class." And the legislators who have been dragging their feet on the climate crisis - from both parties - should have these consequences on their consciences.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer has long been ready to take on the climate crisis, calling for a cap or price on carbon, better fuel efficiency and transportation choices, and increased investment in clean energy. Blumenauer argues “some of today’s policymakers... will live long enough to regret ... their short-sighted devotion to politics of the moment over the future of the planet and of their very families.”
This isn’t some theoretical problem, far off in the future. This is a concrete problem, today, and there are clear actions we can take:
We can implement an even stronger ten-year Energy Action plan than Governor Kitzhaber has proposed (email them at email@example.com). As Climate Solutions has noted, the plan must include a legally enforceable commitment to achieve our pollution reduction targets, and a stronger commitment to reduce coal’s role in Oregon.
We can pass a cap-and-trade system, or a carbon tax, using economic incentives to penalize pollution, instead of taxing productivity. The area covered by the Northeastern U.S.’s cap-and-trade system seen emissions drop by 23% while energy use fell just 2.4%. Meanwhile, British Columbia’s carbon tax has cut gas consumption in BC more than anywhere else in Canada, while keeping their income tax the lowest the country and giving lower-income residents tax rebates. As Sightline’s Eric de Place and Yoram Bauman point out, “a poll conducted by Yale and George Mason University in November 2011 found that fully 65 per cent of Americans support a modest revenue-neutral carbon tax, including a majority of Republicans.”
We can do our part to promote freedom from fossil fuel dependency by doing everything we can to stop dirty coal from sullying Oregon’s communities and the earth's atmosphere.
We can stop allocating huge chunks of our limited transportation resources to huge highway expansions like the $4+ billion CRC mega-project when our existing roads and bridges aren’t being maintained, causing flying chunks of pavement in Washington State.
We can invest more in transportation choices and rail freight, as nearly a third of Oregon’s climate emissions are transportation-related.
We can continue our commitment to Oregon-grown clean fuels, removing the 2015 sunset on Oregon’s clean fuels standard.
We can pass energy labeling legislation, so buildings are labeled for their energy efficiency upon sale as they are in the European Union, and as cars in the U.S. are.
We all have a role to play in this – at the city level, the state level, the national level, and the international level.
Continuing to dither and dig ourselves deeper into this hole for political expediency, promising we’ll get to this problem later, will mean more floods across the globe, more droughts, and more economic damage to families across Oregon.
That’s not an acceptable path. It’s time to get moving.