By Kellen Bulger
Last week, hundreds of people flooded the Capitol grounds with signs in hand. They were advocating for the passing of a bill which is currently moving through the Oregon Senate. The bill aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their current levels to eighty percent of what the state of Oregon’s 1990 greenhouse gas levels were. While this may seem ambitious, Oregon lawmakers, like much of the Pacific Northwest, are continuing a trend of intensified climate policy.
Giving a speech from a podium in Sacramento, California in mid-June of last year, Governor Kate Brown definitively reinforced Oregon’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accords, in spite of the decision passed down from the White House to leave the agreement. While the event hosted by California Governor Jerry Brown was seemingly just as much for optics as it was substantive policy, the movement of Senate Bill 44 through Oregon’s legislature shows tangible action beginning.
The bill works by establishing a limit in which carbon emissions can’t surpass. That limit will be at 25,000 tons of carbon per year and the companies who surpass this will have to pay a sizable fine. This fine they pay will then in turn be used to fund climate change mitigations throughout the state.
Many see the decision to enforce new, dramatic measures that aim to curtail the effects of climate change as a “cascadia phenomenon” or something invented from the politically left leaning states bordering the Pacific Ocean. These same states that have openly defied President Trump’s far-reaching policy decisions virtually since inauguration. While the optics of an anti-Trump agenda have always looked nice for Democrats within those states and nationally, one has to wonder, just how effective are these states in actually creating pragmatic policy changes? The answer lies in these bills.
“The issue has been talked about in the legislature for 10 years. As we sit back and debate these things, climate change marches on. It’s critical for us to take action,” representative Paul Holvey, a Democrat from Eugene, stressed following the protest last week.
So, while it may be tempting to write off these ambitious and eye-catching headlines, they are the sole bastions of hope when it comes to sound climate policy domestically. The EPA recently came under fire for removing content from their website relating to climate change, as well as the White-House’s nomination of Kathleen Hartnett-White to the Council on Environmental Quality having to be revoked after 300 scientists co-signed a letter to the Senate urging them to recognize the nominee’s “scientific integrity.” Our federal government has violently shifted to become firmly in denial of the growing beast that is climate change.
A draft of the United Nation’s latest report on climate science concluded that the planet will more than likely rise 1.5 degrees celsius within the 2040’s, which could have devastating effects in terms of sea-level rise, habitat fragmentation etc. With that being said, the Oregon Senate Bill 44 becomes much more than a headline. Every day of inaction that passes is movement towards a future fully consisting of catastrophic effects as a result of warmer temperatures. Therefore, it’s hard to blame local lawmakers for setting their sights on lofty policy goals moving forward. And it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to blame lawmakers when the federal government continually pedals, what’s proven to be, climate pseudoscience which effectively marches Americans and the global community alike towards what many see as a dystopian society in terms of fact vs. fiction.