By Midge Pierce

Addressing climate change is ever more urgent as weather gets weirder, polar ice sheets melt and fires get hotter.

A glimmer of good news is that Portland’s carbon footprint since the 1990s has shrunk proportionally, despite population increases.

Yet, vulnerable residents living along low-lying highway corridors remain at great risk from flooding and toxins like diesel fumes.

County health representative Tim Lynch told a group of SE Landuse reps it will only get worse with higher, drier summers and warmer wetter winters.

As a result, equity and racial justice have become drivers of the Multnomah County Climate Action Plan. “Fairness is a monumental task,” Lynch said.

As the joint city/county plan moves toward 100% renewable energy use, city and county officials are exploring ways to offset hardships faced by low income residents and make renewable energy more affordable.

The cost of battery storage and electricity from wind, solar, biomass and other options is likely to raise costs considerably, at least in the short term. (Nuclear plants are banned in Oregon though nuclear power is an out-of-state source for some in-state power companies.)

The goal of the Action Plan is to get emissions forty per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 and down eighty per cent  by 2050. State legislation like House Bill 2007 to reduce diesel emissions could provide significant improvement, especially if funds are available to help those small business owners who are least able to replace old, polluting trucks and equipment.

Idling vehicles and buses are another worrisome source of pollution. Trimet recently purchased ten electric buses for use on the westside and indicates it will add another eighty electric buses within the decade at a cost of $53 million.

Local truck maker Daimler recently announced a significant investment in making and integrating battery-powered trucks to its fleet.

Residents can do their part by reducing car use. “If people continue single use vehicle trips, it’s only going to get harder and harder to get around,” said Lynch.

City policies that reduce parking options and support alternatives like cycling or the return of e-scootering are designed to discourage car use.

Residents and building owners who can afford changes are encouraged to weatherize buildings, install eco-roofs, plant and maintain trees, reduce the consumption of carbon-intense food, and use LED lighting.