By Michelle Frost
Heavy rain did not deter Portland folk from turning out in support of the climate on Tuesday, January 12 at TaborSpace on SE Belmont.
Former Secretary of State, Bill Bradbury, discussed the finer points of climate change locally and worldwide at this community education event organized by SE 58th Avenue Resilience with participation by co-sponsors Renew Oregon and 350PDX.
Bradbury is one of Oregon’s two representatives to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council (NWPCC) as well as a Climate Leader with The Climate Reality Project founded by Al Gore in 2006 to educate and encourage civic action against climate change.
Since its establishment, The Climate Reality Project has trained over 7,800 individuals representing 126 countries as volunteer Climate Leaders for the project. Bradbury has travelled extensively presenting the scientific facts of climate change and the detrimental effects on our planet.
Points of discussion and causes given for climate change included rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions, glaciation or decreased snow pack and shrinking bodies of water, warmer rivers and oceans which cannot support sea life, and drastic changes in weather patterns due to these combined effects.
Temperatures around the globe are reaching record highs, including a record-breaking 165 degrees in Iran, a heat wave in Pakistan that left 2,300 dead, as well as droughts in Brazil, North and South Korea, and India in 2015.
“On October 13, 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense officially recognizes that climate change is a real threat,” Bradbury reports, “The Syrian refugees are an example of the mass movement of populations that could be caused by global warming.”
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, the main activity being the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) for energy and transportation.
“Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon, and, in 2013, a new record of CO2 levels was set at 400 parts per million,” Bradbury states. “As the temperature increases, oceans evaporate more moisture into the sky which comes down as rain, and when storms come through, there is more water for them to pick up and dump. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is one example.”
He reported a four percent increase in humidity over levels 30 to 40 years ago. More rainfall combined with a loss of glaciation, or shrinkage of glaciers, results in rocky debris being washed down the mountain in landslides.
“There has been incredible loss of glaciation from 1901 to 2015 on Mt. Hood,” he said, “All glaciers on Mt. Hood have lost major snowpack in the last 100 years. Snowpack is the best way we have to store water for summer months. Glaciation influences ocean currents and wind patterns all over the planet.”
Directly related to climate change are newly-discovered ocean ‘dead zones’ where the oxygen level in the sea is too low to support plants and animals. This condition of oxygen deficiency is known as hypoxia. “Dead zones are caused by changes in the wind patterns.”
Addressing the rising temperatures of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, he stated, “an average temperature of 67-72 degrees in recent summers.” He cited examples of the dying salmon unable to spawn in these hotter waters and the direct hit to the oyster industry in Willapa Bay, Washington, epicenter to a $111 million oyster industry. “Excess carbon dioxide in the air gets absorbed into the ocean (ocean acidification) and becomes carbonic acid which kills oysters,” he explained.
Regional problems outlined, and the consequences we can expect to see include a decreased snowpack in the Rogue River area, a predicted 12 degree temperature increase in Klamath River region which will affect crops, orchards, vineyards, wildlife and fish as well as people; and temperature highs in the Willamette Valley and the Portland metropolitan area which will lead to degraded air quality and health consequences such as more cases of asthma.
There is hope though. Despite 2015 being the hottest year on record, more people are realizing the very real consequences of global climate change.
President Obama and more than 40,000 delegates from 195 countries attended the COP21 (Conference of Parties 21st meeting) Climate Summit held in Paris, France last November, which had the goal of achieving a legally-binding agreement to keep global warming below what most scientists say is the critical threshold of 2 degrees Celsius of warming, according to CNN news. The first summit took place in Berlin in 1995.
Bradbury showed his encouragement for the future and new sources of energy, “The solar industry is big in this state, SolarWorld is located right here in Hillsboro. Developing renewable energy is a growing part of our economy, and a real source of new jobs in this region. Last year reports showed 22,000 new jobs in solar energy and 6,000 new jobs in wind energy.”
What can we do to help? Easy home improvements with a positive impact include efficient lighting, a new water heater, and water-conserving showerheads and low-flush toilets. Bradbury concluded the slide presentation with this, “America has the spirit to mobilize and rise to the occasion of saving our home… the planet!” A lively session of Q & A followed the lecture.
Oregon Environmental Council’s representative at this event was Michelle McGrath, Grassroots Engagement & Membership Director. She had this to say about her work with OEC: “I work hard to help OEC connect with Oregonians to protect the great quality of life we have in this state. It’s easy to take clean air, clean water and our wonderful Oregon climate for granted, but I know it’s the result of intense collaboration, caring Oregonians and smart policy that OEC has had a lot to do with protecting what is great about Oregon for the last 47 years.”
“OEC is a science-based organization. Before they decide to support a piece of environmental legislation, they thoroughly examine the science, as well as the social and economic impacts. It’s not alarmist to say that climate change threatens all that we love about Oregon – our quality of life and our livelihoods. We need to take urgent climate action at the state level. OEC is working very hard to pass comprehensive climate policy that will make carbon polluters pay and to transition Oregon off coal once and for all.”
Visit OEC at oeconline.org and learn more about two new climate bills they are supporting. SE 58th Avenue Resilience continues climate talks with monthly events held on 2nd Tuesdays. The next is February 9 at Taborspace. For more information contact Lynne at 503.974.4849.