Oregon Global Warming Commission Reports Highlight Oregon’s Climate Change Challenges

The Oregon Global Warming Commission published two reports this month – its 2018 Biennial Report to the Legislature and its Forest Carbon Accounting Project Report.

The Biennial Report’s eerie, smoky cover page represents the main themes of the report. Primarily, that the “future” effects of climate change – wildfire, drought, flooding, heat, sea level rise, and public health effects – are already here. And Oregon is no longer gaining ground on its greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts.

On December 15, 2018, The Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger published a great summary of the Biennial Report:

“The effects of climate change are no longer predicted. They are here today, they are serious, and they are costing Oregonians money and affecting their lifestyles and health. The state is suffering through drought, reduced snowpack, increased wildfire and impacts to fisheries. Larger forest and grassland fires are now more frequent, a consequence of warmer, drier summers. The fire season begins earlier and ends later.”

Read more:
With emissions on the rise, Oregon falls well short of greenhouse gas reduction goals
Ted Sickinger in The Oregonian, December 15, 2018

The Commission’s Forest Carbon Accounting Project Report dives into an area of carbon policy that many overlook, including the substantial contribution to global carbon sequestration that Oregon’s abundant forests already play, the strategies that are available to increase carbon uptake in our forests, and the tools and tradeoffs that would need to be considered in that case.

Both reports demonstrate the importance of bold, innovative climate policy in Oregon. Commission members hope the information is helpful to Oregon’s leaders as they begin their 2019 Legislative Session.

Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger. … The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. … We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now.
— Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons, November 1936

Angus Duncan, Commission Chair, leads off the Biennial Report:

Government and leadership have come a long way from Churchillian rhetoric in those dark days leading up to World War II, and not in any direction that should give us comfort. As grim as the world’s prospects were in the 1930s, at least there were Churchills and Roosevelts summoning us to the great tasks of those times.

We’ve looked for that kind of leadership throughout the 30 years or so that climate change has loomed as an existential threat to our society and our children’s future. Rarely have we found it. Identifying such a profound climate threat has been difficult in the absence of immediate physical evidence that the climate is changing, but not more difficult than inferring a threat from a rearming Nazi Germany. Most of the world, and most of the United States, then and now, chose to look elsewhere, to more immediate opportunities, smaller tasks, and narrower challenges. Climate science, after all, spoke in data sets and modeled probabilities. Outcomes remained fuzzy around the edges. Our leaders would have to ask us to make often uncomfortable changes in budgets, policies, and livelihoods, to forestall . . . probabilities.

The time of probabilities is now past. The first tangible effects of climate change are upon us. We see it in stronger hurricanes inundating coastal communities around the world. We see it in the smoke blanketing our state and region from forest fires that start earlier, persist longer, and burn more extensively — smoke that is attacking the lungs of our children, the elderly, and the asthmatic. We see it in half-full reservoirs and mountaintops devoid of midwinter snow.

Read the full reports: