Building on Al Gore's Roar

By Eban Goodstein of Lake Oswego, Oregon. Eban is a professor of economics and the volunteer executive director of the Green House Network. He is author of Economics and the Environment, and The Trade-off Myth: Fact and Fiction about Jobs and the Environment.

Last fall, some three thousand Oregonians packed the convention center to hear Professor Al Gore deliver an hour and a half seminar on global warming'what it is, what we know about it, and most importantly, what it means for us.

Al got wound up a time or two: his best line was about auto industry objections to the California clean car standards that Governor Kulongoski recently declared Oregon would adopt. In his best stump speech roar, Al said something like: "the folks in Detroit complain that if we adopt these standards then that would mean that 14 years from now, we'd have car standards ALMOST AS TOUGH AS THEY HAVE IN CHINA -- TODAY!" l

About the same time that Al arrived, a group of Oregon economists delivered a first look at the impact of global warming on the state's economy -- with costs likely to be in the billions of dollars. The biggest, and most immediate impact of a few degrees warming, will be a dramatic decrease in Cascade snowpack -- devastating the ski industry, and cutting summer stream flows from 30-60%. Very bad news for farmers, fish, urban water quality, and hydropower production.

Buried in the report were a couple of interesting maps: they showed what would happen if -- as appears increasingly possible -- the planet warms up enough to melt the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets. The resultant sea level rise of 48 feet would bring the shore of the Pacific Ocean up to 14th Avenue in downtown Portland, along the way, inundating most coastal towns. But no need to panic. If an ice-sheet collapse was initiated, it would take a few centuries for all this real estate to disappear.

What is to be done?

Car standards are a key first step, but as journalist Ross Gelbspan notes, this is only a first step to what ultimately must involve a rapid transition to clean energy sources -- like wind, biofuels, solar power and energy efficiency. This is a revolution that folks at the Apollo project figure can create millions of new jobs.

The huge turn-out for Gore's talk shows that Oregonians are hungry for information -- and action -- to stabilize the climate. And if you want to get involved, the best way is to attend the 'Build the Movement to Stop Global Warming' conference, coming up here in Portland at the end of January. If we can get those 3,000 folks out of their chairs and out walking the precincts, we can build the clean energy majority we will need to end the fossil fuel age, and pass along a decent planet to our kids.

  • geno (unverified)

    But what happens to all those SUV's purchased in response to the tax incentives for gas guzzlers program? Further why are we occupying Iraq if we won't need their oil? Finally why drill in the ANWR? What's to become of all those benevolent oil conglomerates, and the trickle down of their obscene wealth? Oh yeah, this administration doesnt buy into global warming. Reality along with my entreprenurial bent suggests a surf shop on Sandy Blvd. Just making lemonade, now I must take my meds.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    While being a staunch supporter of any measure that will turn around global warming, I have to say this sentence in Eban's column doesn't make sense:

    The resultant sea level rise of 48 feet would bring the shore of the Pacific Ocean up to 14th Avenue in downtown Portland...

    If the ocean rises enough to get past the Coast Range and the West Hills, why would it stop at 14th? It's all downhill from 14th to the Willamette River.

    I could see the possibility of the Columbia and Willamette backing up and this overflowing current banks to the point that the river would reach 14th Ave. But otherwise, this scenario makes no sense and is just the kind of silly error that some rightwinger will seize upon to try to blow off the whole argument.

  • Eban (unverified)

    In response to Gil, you are right: the Willamette River all the way back to Portland would become a salt water estuary; without the construction of some major dikes, sea level would rise well into downtown Portland.

  • sasha (unverified)

    That's the best news I've heard all day. That means I have a decent shot at having oceanfront property!

    You people are really funny. You DO realize this, don't you?

  • (Show?)

    Sasha, dear heart, I hope that your grandkids find this to be as hilarious as you do, unless you and they plan on being snatched up into heaven while you're driving your SUV toward higher ground sometime between now and the year 2200.


    Of all of the DLC koolaid drinkers, I like Al the best. After his utterly disgraceful acceptance of the reaming that he got from James Baker and the US Supreme Court in 2000, there is a tiny chance that he now understands that Ernest Wonkitude, don't get a man elected.

    If he can show the brass ones that he's had hanging out lately, he goes in ahead of St. Hillary and the terminally clueless John Kerry.

    Tip for Al: Even if Warren Christopher still has a pulse, it wouldn't necessarily indicate actual life.

    Tip II for Al: Git some Rottweillers.

  • Oh Happy Day (unverified)

    I agree with Sasha. My property values will go up without my having to do anything to improve it.

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