Almost 2,000 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest body of water in the United States, a beautiful gem of Southern Oregon.
Fed by overhead snow and rain, the lake is one of the cleanest and purest in the world. Gazing upon the breathtakingly bright blue waters of the lake is something you never forget.
But there is trouble in paradise. During the past 21 years, I have spent my summers living in Crater Lake National Park. During this time, I noticed winters are becoming shorter, warmer and less snowy.
Science confirms this. In 1931, rangers first began keeping track of the average annual snowfall at Crater Lake. Since then, the totals have been trending downward by decade, from an average of 614 inches in the 1930s to about 455 inches last decade. Even more alarming, this past winter, Crater Lake received about 355 inches.
Climate researchers expect the trend to continue. They predict the Pacific Northwest will experience even less snow and warmer temperatures in the decades to come.
Most snow that falls in the park eventually leaves here to nourish the rivers of local Oregon. Less snow falling in the park means less water is leaving the park to support nearby Oregon cities, ranches, farms and wildlife downstream.
The National Weather Service says Southern Oregon is currently under a persistent drought that may last until the end of October.
This current drought is an alarm bell telling us that it is time for Oregonians to stand up and take action on climate change.
The National Academy of Sciences, U.S. Department of Defense, American Meteorological Society and even the Catholic Church all say that climate change is real and caused by humans. According to NASA, more than 97 percent of climate scientists agree on this.
Humans pump more than 90 million tons of carbon dioxide a day into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, more than 33 billion tons each year.
For more than 150 years, scientists have known that CO2 traps the earth’s heat. Since the industrial revolution, we’ve increased the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by more than 40 percent.
Earth now has a “fever,” and the global average surface temperature has increased by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.8 Celsius. The impact of climate change is felt worldwide by more extreme floods, heat waves and droughts, like we are currently experiencing in Oregon.
One of our leading climate scientists, retired NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen, says the best way to reduce the threat of climate change is for Congress to quickly pass carbon fee and dividend legislation.
A national carbon fee would tax fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — as they are extracted from the ground or arrive in port.
This tax would cause fossil fuels to become increasingly expensive. At the same time, nonpolluting renewable energy — solar, wind and geothermal — would become increasingly attractive investments because of their relatively cheaper cost. Revenue from the carbon fee would be used to give Americans an evenly distributed dividend check to offset rising energy costs associated with the fee.
The beauty of Crater Lake National Park and Oregon, plus the current drought, should inspire us to do everything we can to limit the threat of climate change for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.
The best way to limit future droughts threatening our farms, cattle ranches, salmon fisheries and drinking water supply is to take action on climate change. That action, a national fee on carbon with revenue returned to households, will only happen if local Southern Oregon citizens tell our members of Congress, such as Rep. Greg Walden and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, to make it so.