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Statesman Journal Guest Opinion: Republican Senators should not run away from climate bill
Author: Randy Bluffstone
Posted: February 17, 2020

Read the original guest opinion piece in the Salem Statesman Journal. 

The Oregon legislative session takes place this month and reports are coming out that Republican senators are once again seriously considering leaving the state to deny Democrats a quorum. 

This is all because of a bill, which tries to reduce Oregon’s emissions of the greenhouse gases that are warming the earth’s air. 

Such a tactic would be disgraceful given that crazy weather affects all Oregonians, including in rural areas, and Republicans can simply vote against the legislation. The bill also bends over backward to address Republicans’ 2019 concerns.

The fact of the matter is that there really is an impending climate emergency as the earth’s weather systems spin out of control.

We might like the mild January temperatures (Portland only had four days with lows at or below historical averages and only two days hit freezing), but how will we like it in coming summers when Oregon has many more 95 and 100 degree days than ever before, and wildfires are torching the rural landscape just like in Australia?

Do any of us want this Mad Max type of weather future? No, of course not, but this is what we will happen if we do nothing. This is why we need to slow down this climate emergency. 

To stop destroying the world, we have to reduce our burning of fuels, which warm the air. Period. 

This is what the bill tried to get us to do in 2019 and tries to do it in 2020. The bill wants us to do things a bit differently – to take our impact on the out-of-control climate into account as we make decisions – and not sit around and just pay more for burning the same amounts of fuels in our cars, trucks and furnaces. 

It is expected that, particularly in the early years, adjustments will be minor and not very costly at all. We are talking about buying a programmable thermostat rather than leaving the house at 70 degrees all the time, putting on sweaters when we are chilly rather than turning up the heat, not idling in parking lots when we are talking on our phones and sometimes driving the Honda rather than the truck. 

Though perhaps modest, passing this bill will incentivize us to reduce our burning of fuels. It will also once again show the world that Oregonians love their nature and are willing to do something to protect it.

Far from being a time to offer up bogus reasons why we can’t step up to help address the looming global warming crisis, this is a chance for us to show leadership. 

It won’t be enough, but we should take the guidance of the early first-millennium Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” 

Republican senators should stand up with the rest of us, put one foot in front of the other and take that first step. 

The only thing more costly and dangerous for Oregonians is running away from our climate emergency.

Randy Bluffstone is an environmental and natural resource economist and directs the Institute for Economics and the Environment at Portland State University. You may reach him at bluffsto@pdx.edu