Adults who joined middle and high school students in the John Day Fire Hall to hear a presentation on climate change Oct. 26 were asked if they had personal experiences with climate change.
Adele Cerny, a resident of Bear Valley since 1978, described how winter temperatures commonly dipped to 40 below zero and snow accumulated to four feet. She recalled telling her students at Seneca School, “OK, it’s warmed up to zero, you can go out to play.”
“We don’t get that anymore – maybe a foot of snow and 20 below,” Cerny said.
A woman in the audience said she’s seen warmer temperatures in the 45 years she’s lived in Grant County. Water tanks for livestock don’t freeze up anymore, and 100-degree summer days were unheard of until now, she said.
“I don’t need to use chains on the highway in winter,” she said.
Eric Means, a computer engineer from the Beaverton area, said he installed air conditioning at his home for the first time this past summer. He said he was an avid skier and fisherman, and both activities were threatened by climate change.
“That was what motivated me to get involved in preventing climate change,” he said.
Means joined Brian Ettling to lead the local presentation. Both are members of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with thousands of volunteers across the United States who meet with members of Congress and their staffs, submit letters to officials and opinion pieces to media and hold public meetings in an effort to effect political change.
The goal is to rein in carbon dioxide emissions and prevent global climate change, and their focus is on reducing consumption of fossil fuels, such as coal.
Ettling, who has appeared on the Comedy Central television network, presented a slide show about impacts to Crater Lake National Park, where he has worked as a park ranger. Air and lake water temperatures at the park have increased 5 degrees, and winter snowpack has fallen from around 500 inches to as low as 196 inches two years ago, he said.
Crater Lake is isolated from other watersheds and dependent on area snowfall, Ettling said. Western states obtain 75 percent of their water from snowpack, and states that rely on snowpack produce about 75 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit, he said.
Across the U.S., spring snowpack has declined by 60 percent since 1950, Ettling said. Declining snowpack means lower streamflows, which creates conflicts between fishermen, irrigators and other water users.
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby has a simple plan to cut back on the use of fossil fuels – impose a $15 fee on every ton of carbon dioxide emitted, with all the collected money going to U.S. households as a dividend.
According to Regional Economic Models Inc., the group’s plan could result in a 52 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gases, creating 2.8 million new jobs in the U.S. economy, and avoiding 230,000 premature deaths.
“This plan will not add to the federal deficit or increase the size of government,” Ettling said.
Ettling said the Citizens’ Climate Lobby would like to see fossil fuel usage replaced by alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind, but the organization has taken a neutral position on nuclear power. When asked about “clean coal,” Ettling replied, “It doesn’t exist.”
Another political group, Renew Oregon, proposes a cap and price plan to reduce fossil fuel usage. Entities that emit 25,000 tons or more of greenhouse gases – equivalent to burning 133 train cars of coal – would be required to purchase at auction a state permit for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted.
The proposed initial price would be $16 per ton, but the number of state permits would shrink each year, lowering the overall cap and driving up demand – and therefore price – for each permit.
Revenue from the permit fees would be reinvested in clean energy solutions for communities across Oregon – such as lowering the cost of solar panels, helping low-income households retrofit their homes, helping farmers pay for advanced irrigation systems and assisting cities and towns with transit options.
According to Renew Oregon literature available at the Oct. 26 presentation, 10 states have successfully used cap and invest programs. California, for example, is part of the North American Carbon Market, which includes the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.
California has cut emissions while growing its economy, Renew Oregon states – the state has invested $3.2 billion in clean energy solutions and cleaner transportation.
For more information on the two groups and their plans, visit citizensclimatelobby.org or reneworegon.org.