In 2007 the Oregon Legislature established climate change goals for the state by passing House Bill 3543. The law sets targets for reducing Oregon's greenhouse gas emissions and makes it clear that the state’s climate change goals also include preparation for the effects of global warming by state and local governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individual residents. Doing so will prevent and reduce the social, economic and environmental effects of global warming.
The goals call for Oregon to:
- By 2010, arrest the growth of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions and begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- By 2020, achieve greenhouse gas levels that are 10 percent below 1990 levels.
- By 2050, achieve greenhouse gas levels that are at least 75 percent below 1990 levels.
The blue bars in this graph show Oregon's emissions of greenhouse gases in the past and what they would be in the future if we continued with "business as usual". The green bars show how much lower our emissions need to be if we are to meet the emissions goals adopted by the Oregon Legislature in 2007. (Graph from A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change
Questions about Oregon's Goals
What did the Legislature mean by 'greenhouse gases' when they set these goals?
The Legislature defined 'greenhouse gases' in House Bill 3543 as gases that contribute to human-caused global warming. Below is a list of the gases they identified and some of their primary sources.
- Carbon dioxide - Burning solid waste, wood, wood products and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) all create carbon dioxide. About 85% of the greenhouse gases produced by Oregonians is carbon dioxide.
- Methane - When organic waste decomposes, both in landfills and in connection with livestock farming, it produces methane. Methane is also generated during the production and transport of fossil fuels.
- Nitrous oxide - Various agricultural and industrial processes produce nitrous oxide. It is also a byproduct of burning solid waste and fossil fuels.
- Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These gases are used in industrial applications and in air conditioning and refrigeration. They are among the most potent greenhouse gases but are the least prevalent.
Read more about the sources of Oregon's emissions on the emissions page.
Where did the target emissions numbers come from?
In 2004, a group called the Governor’s Advisory Group on Global Warming recommended these targets, in part because:
"Scientists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others estimate that global CO2 emissions need to be reduced by 60 to 80 percent below 1990 levels to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system. This target is based on limiting CO2 to double the level that existed prior to 1750. Beyond this level, the risks of catastrophic climate change rise steeply. Serious adaptation actions will still be needed, even if emissions are held below this threshold."
- from Oregon Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2004)
What will Oregon need to do to reach these targets?
The same report that proposed the targets also recommended 84 specific actions Oregon could take to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions (Oregon Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, 2004). Some of the group's recommendations were very specific and others were for broader changes in state policy directions. The group emphasized that many means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are available or within technological reach and that adopting these solutions could also lead to cost-savings and economic development opportunities for the state. Their report also recognized that even if most of the recommended actions were fully implemented, additional greenhouse gas reductions would be needed in succeeding years. The group's recommendations followed four principles:
- Invest in energy, land use and materials efficiency.
- Replace greenhouse gas-emitting energy resources with cleaner technologies.
- Increase biological sequestration (farm and forest carbon capture and storage).
- Promote and support education, research and technology development.
Oregon has implemented some of the actions recommended in the 2004 Oregon Strategy but many have not yet been implemented. A successor advisory group reported on the state's progress in a 2008 report called A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change and identified which recommendations were “in place” (i.e., legislated or otherwise being implemented); “in progress” (i.e., on their way to being put in place); and inactive.
Even though much work remains, State analysts estimate that Oregon is likely to meet its 2010 goal of arresting emissions growth and beginning to reduce emissions levels. That’s important evidence that the work is within our means to accomplish.
What did HB 3543 mean by "preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change"?
The 2008 report A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change explained the need to prepare for and adapt to climate change this way:
"Even if greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reduced, the long time scales of the Earth’s ocean systems will cause global temperatures and sea levels to continue to rise over the next century. Oregon, like many regions of the world, is vulnerable to the effects of global climate change, which makes it imperative for the state to rapidly prepare for the coming effects of warming. It is, therefore, vital that we rapidly devise, test, fund and implement strategies and policies to prepare Oregon’s ecosystems and biodiversity, built infrastructure, human services, and economic systems to adapt to climate change.
Planning now for a different and uncertain future can benefit the present in many ways. Thinking strategically now about future risks posed by climate change can reduce those risks and also produce future benefits, for example, by increasing energy and water efficiency now and reducing the need for additional supplies in the future; or building infrastructure such as storm treatment facilities that can handle extreme storm events now, rather than paying for the costs of repair and cleanup in the future."
- page 15, A Framework for Addressing Rapid Climate Change (2008)