Updated November 28, 2018
Last Word from Salem Weekly
We are sorry to learn that Salem Weekly has stopped publishing. SW has long been an important vehicle for progressive news, opinions and ideas in Salem and was always willing to help us spread the word about climate-related activities in Salem. The following editorial was already written and ready to go before the decision was made to cease publication. It is a response to the urgent call to action in the recent special report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
TIME FOR WARTIME MOBILIZATION TO
FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a shocker. Climate scientists from around the world have concluded that we only have about a dozen years to transform the status quo of global production and consumption to avoid a catastrophic future for our children and grandchildren.
The report presents the latest science on the consequences of failing to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement’s goal of only a 1.5 degree centigrade increase in the global average surface temperature. If we fail, predictions are that coastlines will be submerged, catastrophic droughts, wildfires and hurricanes will become commonplace, coral reefs will be exterminated, and famine and poverty will become much more widespread.
The report concludes that global emissions of greenhouse gases need to drop by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement goal. That is equivalent to roughly a 60 percent drop from today’s levels in only 12 years.
The editorial board of the daily paper in Portland, Maine, called the IPCC report “our Pearl Harbor Moment.” We agree.
To do what needs to be done over the next dozen years will take the same sort of effort our country took after December 7th, 1941. Then our nation faced an existential threat, and we responded. Everyone did their part. Young men and women enlisted to fight, industrialists retooled their enterprises to serve the war effort, non-military organizations like the Red Cross mobilized, and everyone accepted rationing and many purchased war bonds to fund the war effort.
How is it any different today? The existential threat we face today is undoubtedly more serious than the one we faced in 1941. Our species is at risk, as are half of the plant and animal species on the planet, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
We need a WWII-style mobilization not only in the US but around the world. In our country we need climate action from every level of government: federal, state and local, as well as from every individual. Here are some actions that need to be at the top of the local agenda for the near term.
State of Oregon: Pass a Clean Energy Jobs Bill in the 2019 session of the Legislature that sets a hard cap on carbon emissions and lowers the cap each year into the future. Make the top greenhouse gas polluters pay for their emissions and use the revenue to develop renewable energy resources and to help low income Oregonians adjust to a low carbon future.
Marion County: Begin a phase-out of the Covanta/Marion garbage incinerator that pumps over 160,000 tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every year. Plan to send our garbage instead to a low polluting landfill like the Coffin Butte landfill in Benton County.
City of Salem: Complete the greenhouse gas assessment that is now underway and use the results to develop a Climate Action Plan for Salem next year. The Climate Action Plan should provide a blueprint for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the City, by other local governments, non-profits and businesses, and by citizens. Use the Climate Action Plan as the basis for a rewrite of the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan in a way that curtails car-dependent sprawl and redesigns our city to encourage walking, biking and transit use.
Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments: Adopt a strong goal to reduce greenhouse gases in the Regional Transportation System Plan and work to see a reduction in car miles traveled and a dramatic increase in other forms of mobility.
Cherriots: Continue to restore transit service to seven days a week and well into the evening. Look for ways to increase revenues to be able to dramatically improve service modeled on best practices from other Oregon cities like Eugene (bus rapid transit) and Corvallis (free bus service).
Salem Health: End free parking for employees and instead provide strong incentives for not driving a single-occupancy vehicle to work. Provide incentives for staff to live in Salem so they can walk, bike, and take transit to work.
Individuals: Scale back your personal gas vehicle mileage by at least 5,000 miles a year to save the planet more than a ton of carbon. When buying a new car consider an all-electric or hybrid (many used ones are now on the market at lower costs). Consider rooftop solar panels for your home. The costs have come down and you can now purchase a basic ten panel, three kilowatt system for under $6,000 that would provide more than half the electricity for an average sized home. Cut back on flying, but if you have to fly do the right thing and purchase carbon offsets to mitigate your emissions. Change your eating habits to consume less meat and don’t purchase groceries that are overpackaged.
The IPCC report says that our predicament is not hopeless. We can still meet the Paris Agreement goal. But it will take all of the efforts suggested above and more. Let’s get going.