Stephen Hamway
The Bulletin

If you go

In Central Oregon, Ettling and other volunteers will meet with Prineville residents at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Crook County Fire & Rescue building, 500 NE Belknap St., and will host a second meeting in Redmond at 1 p.m. on Sunday, at the Round Table Pizza, 810 SW 11th St. Both meetings are free to the public.

A volunteer is trying to generate support for congressional action on climate change in some unlikely parts of Oregon.

Brian Ettling, a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a nonprofit aimed at addressing climate change by taxing fossil fuels, is in the middle of visiting 11 cities in Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon.

He will speak to residents about their experiences with climate change and about the organization’s approach to addressing it.

The tour will stop by Prineville and Redmond on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, Ettling and other volunteers will travel to Bend to discuss climate change with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s staff. Ettling said the tour is designed to get moderate and conservative rural residents involved in an issue that often gets dominated by liberal cities.

“They feel like it’s harder to speak up in rural communities,” he said. “So they might have to speak a little more quietly.”

Ettling said his views on climate change were shaped during his time as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, where he began working in 2006.

He said that large wildfires, spurred by a changing climate that elongates fire seasons in the West, have caused people to cancel reservations to stay in the national park, which hurts the state’s bottom line.

When Ettling moved to Portland in February, he noticed that his new city had a robust infrastructure for addressing climate change, but support in the rest of the state was lacking.

“I’m surrounded by people who are already on board with climate change,” he said of Portland. “I’m not going to be very effective here.”

Attitudes on climate change reflect the divide between Portland and the rest of the state, as well. A study from Yale University released in 2016 estimated that 53 percent of residents of Oregon’s Congressional District 2, which encompasses much of Central, Eastern and Southern Oregon, are concerned about global warming, slightly below the national average. By contrast, in Congressional District 1, which includes part of the Portland metropolitan area, 70 percent of residents polled were concerned.

Congressman Walden, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, said he believes the climate is warming during a town hall in Bend in April, but environmentalists have expressed frustration with his voting record on climate-related topics. Ettling said that when he’s reached out to Walden’s office, he has been informed that climate change isn’t a priority for his constituents.

A representative from Walden’s office confirmed that a meeting with the group is scheduled for Monday, but did not comment further.

Thus, the 2017 Oregon Stewardship Tour was born. Ettling, who started on Oct. 24 in Baker City, arranged a 12-day trip that ends Nov. 4 in Grants Pass. He said he typically begins meetings by talking to members of the community about their experiences and telling his story. From there, he goes into Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s signature approach to climate change.

The approach, known as carbon fee and dividend, would place a fee on fossil fuels and returned directly to households as a monthly dividend. Ettling described the approach as a market-based middle path that appeals to conservatives because it doesn’t contribute to the federal deficit.

“We’re trying to find that sweet spot,” he said.

While Ettling said he’s heard criticism of the proposal from the right and left sides of the political spectrum, the audiences in La Grande and Baker City, the first two stops on the tour, were respectful.

“We really want to listen to people,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,