Guest Column

The podium at Bend Venture Conference at the Tower Theater in Bend October 20, 2017. 

Today our society needs to be concentrating full bore on reversing the impacts of warmer global temperatures on land, sea and in the atmosphere. Memories of the disastrous agricultural season in 2019 should suffice to support that statement. So it is a major distraction when our local paper chooses repeatedly to give credence through its opinion page to the long-discarded argument that human activity is not shaping climate in a significant way, thereby discarding the overwhelming scientific data behind the risks we are facing and why we are facing them.

There are, presumably, opinions on issues that The Bulletin would not publish. The merits of white supremacy? The value of torture? The benefits of destroying our oceans? But the denial of the basic premise of climate science is not on that list. That is a problem.

This is not only a matter of science. More importantly, perhaps, it is a profound moral issue – what is our ability to steward the nature so abundant in our past and the absolute essential foundation for our lives? Who is suffering from abrupt changes in climate today and who will suffer in the decades to come? These questions are about nothing less than the future of our children and all living entities if we cannot get our act together to address the threats of man-made accelerating global temperatures.

My sources? The U.S. government’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the global climate research put together since 1990 by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (formed in 2007), and Professor Bill Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology at OSU’s Department of Forestry, who with over 11,000 colleagues and other scientists issued on November 5 of this year the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency.” Go to any of the websites associated with these sources and search on “climate” to verify my characterization of the threats we are facing today and in the future.

Presumably the editorial staff of The Bulletin is familiar with the research and publications of these organizations on climate. An especially impressive summary of the current situation is the Ripple et al. piece which can be found at https://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/ - go to “read the article.” The authors promise an eight minute read! Two sets of easily understood graphics look at human activities affecting climate change and actual climate impacts observed over the past 40 years.

The Warning states “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature’s reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic “hothouse Earth,” well beyond the control of humans. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”

It is important to note that governments, institutions and people around the world are taking action. For example, Bend is about to adopt our Community Climate Action Plan in the works since 2016, next year Oregon will once again have the option of passing the cap-trade-and-invest bill to bring the state into compliance with its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions goals set in 2007, and on the federal level traction is finally gaining in Congress to put a price on carbon and other GHG emissions from burning fossil fuels as a way to curb those emissions.

But what we know from all the data collected is that the efforts underway globally do not yet add up to enough to avert the catastrophic — yes, catastrophic — effects of rapid runaway climate change that is on tomorrow’s doorstep.

It’s time our newspaper gets on the right side of history.

Helen Seidler is Bend chapter co-lead of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

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