Submission: An opportunity for action against climate change

By Marc Dorsey | January 23, 2018 12:11pm

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Marc Dorsey graduated from UP in 2017 with a degree in Environmental Science. Photo courtesy of Marc Dorsey. 

After President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a number of U.S. states and municipalities came together to form the United States Climate Alliance, with each member promising to adhere to the goals of the Paris Agreement and thus combat climate change. For environmentalists like myself, seeing the formation of this alliance encouraged me to believe that decades of environmental progress would not be thrown to the wayside so easily. 

As a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, Oregon has set ambitious goals to reduce its statewide greenhouse gas emissions 75% below 1990 levels by 2050 and source more of its electricity from renewable sources. This is an effort that many Oregonians, and transplants like myself, found very commendable. 

However, goals and promises are only a part of the solution, so even more important is the implementation of an effective plan to reduce the state’s emissions. Despite its best efforts in this regard, Oregon is currently not on track to meet its reduction goals. For this reason, a comprehensive solution for this problem has been proposed in both chambers of the Oregon legislature in the form of a ‘cap-and-invest’ program through the Clean Energy Jobs bill. 

Similar to the cap-and-trade programs currently being run in California and Canada, the cap-and-invest program will set a limit on the volume of greenhouse gases that can be emitted each year by large entities within the state. Allowances, which permit the emission of an amount of greenhouse gases, will then be distributed or auctioned off to these entities. Over the years, the cap and the number of allowances available will be reduced, encouraging entities to control or eliminate their polluting activities. 

The funds generated from the sale of allowances will then be reinvested into environmental projects in primarily rural areas that are predicted to be especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Of concern throughout much of the state is a projected decrease in mountain snowpack. 

Less snowpack will decrease the summer stream flows, subsequently increasing the risk of drought and severe wildfires in many parts of Oregon, particularly Eastern Oregon. In addition, lack of sufficient snowmelt and rising temperatures will increase water temperatures of lower lying waterways, jeopardizing salmon species and the many groups that rely on them.

Unfortunately, it is true that Oregon is already guaranteed to experience these hazards in the future, but whether we take a stand now to prevent them, and a host of other effects, from worsening is the real issue behind the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. If Oregon is to take any substantive action on reducing its emissions and safeguarding its native species, ourselves included, it’s important that this bill is passed within the coming weeks so that it can take effect by 2021.

Here at UP, the College Ecology Club is already mobilizing to publicly show student support for the bill and demonstrate to our elected officials, especially House Speaker and UP’s state representative Tina Kotek, that students want political action on climate change.

Right now, the club is looking for students of all backgrounds interested in this issue to take part in its campaign supporting the bill’s passage. So, if you’re trying to take action against climate change here on campus, or find information about the bill, please reach out to College Ecology Club member Zoë Tapert, at tapert20@up.edu, who is coordinating the club’s efforts to support the bill.

Marc Dorsey graduated from UP in 2017. He can be reached at dorseym180@gmail.com

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