In Oregon, evidence of a changing climate

Environmental scientist and marine ecologist Dr. Jane Lubchenco spoke on the impact of increased greenhouse gas on Oregon and the possibility of policy change to help thwart global warming at the City Club’s Friday Forum.

Lubchenco, co-chair of the Governor’s advisory group for global warming and Oregon State professor of Zoology and Valley professor of Marine Biology, said that studies have confirmed that 2005 was an unprecedented year for climate change. She said the climate changes caused rising temperatures in the atmosphere and ocean, stronger hurricanes and more draughts and floods.

“2005 was really a tipping point for the science of climate change,” Lubchenco said. “During that year, and now continuing into 2006, scientific discoveries and new measurements prove conclusively that the climate is changing, and that it is doing so even more rapidly than predicted.”

She said nothing has been published within that period of time to prove that global warming is not occurring.

Lubchenco said the advisory board issued a package of recommendations for the next 50 years to help reduce gas emissions. She said the committee hoped to achieve climate stabilization by 2050 by investing in energy, using land efficiently and education research and technology development.

Lubchenco said that when Governor Kulongoski formed the advisory board two years ago, scientists came together and put together the facts about Oregon’s past and future in regards to global warming.

She said Oregon has been hit by warming temperatures and a 10 percent increase in precipitation since the beginning of this century. The coastline is submerging from rising sea levels at a rate of .06 to .08 inches per year. Between 1950 and 2000, Oregon’s snow pack has decreased dramatically, and spring run-offs in streams are reaching their peaks earlier.

Lubchenco said that if changes are not made in the next 10 to 50 years, Oregon’s residents can expect rising temperatures, as much as a 2.7 degree increase by 2030, and 5.4 degrees by 2050. Similar patterns in snow pack, sea levels and stream flow peaks are expected.

Lubchenco said work done at Portland State tracking 7 of the 11 largest glaciers on Mt. Hood, found that they have shrunk by 37 percent since the beginning of the last century.

Additionally, she said marine ecosystems and “dead zones” seen off the Oregon Coast in 2002, 2003 and 2005 may occur more frequently due to changes in ocean circulation and atmospheric patterns that are consistent with the symptoms of a warming planet.

Lubchenco said she is optimistic about the collaboration between the governors of Oregon, Washington and California who are acting together to reduce greenhouse gases. Oregon and Washington already adopted California’s tailpipe emission standards.

“More businesses are seeing that it is in their best interest to get ahead of the curve to figure out how to reduce emissions and are discovering,” she said, “in fact, that there is money to be made in doing so.”

Lubchenco said many businesses are coming together to plan how to lower their emissions in profitable ways.

Angus Duncan, President and CEO of Bonneville Environmental Foundation, also a member of the Governor’s advisory board, began a business which funds renewable energy through marketing tags that offset greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can sell you a $2 mini-tag at a ski resort which will off-set the green house gas emissions you caused in your SUV on the way to the mountain,” said Duncan.

A recent survey published by the Ad Council stated that 71 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening and 53 percent believe the change is attributed to human behavior.