The world could be facing some serious consequences from global warming unless something is done within the next six months, Lewis and Clark economics professor Eban Goodstein said during a Portland town hall meeting last Thursday evening. Though the town hall meeting took place on the same day as the vice-presidential debates, Goodstein found himself addressing a crowd of about 60 in the Multicultural Center of the Smith Memorial Student Union.
The world could be facing some serious consequences from global warming unless something is done within the next six months, Lewis and Clark economics professor Eban Goodstein said during a Portland town hall meeting last Thursday evening.
Though the town hall meeting took place on the same day as the vice-presidential debates, Goodstein found himself addressing a crowd of about 60 in the Multicultural Center of the Smith Memorial Student Union.
As the author of several books on the issue, Goodstein stressed during his presentation that climate change is an immediate problem and must be addressed soon to lock global warming into a three- or four-degree limit.
“We are at a critical moment in human history,” Goodstein told the audience.
He recommended several solutions, such as alternative sources of energy, but was not optimistic. “The lack of a political will” makes it hard to affect change, he said.
Michael Leachman, a spokesman for the Oregon Center for Public Policy, also spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
Leachman addressed the issue that lower-income families are forced to spend a larger portion of their income on energy bills and are consequently more deeply affected by extreme weather conditions, such as those caused by global warming.
Oregon State epidemiologist Mel Kohn elaborated on Leachman’s point, and said that since older and lower-income individuals statistically are less able to afford to keep their homes at reasonable temperatures, those groups are more likely to face extreme physical consequences, including death.
The health effects of global warming are not just theory, either, said Kohn. He cited the 1993 Hantavirus outbreak in New Mexico as an example of global warming in action.
Hantavirus, a relatively new pulmonary disease that can potentially be fatal, is carried in rodents such as deer mice. Increasingly warmer weather in the New Mexico region caused a population explosion in deer mice, which led up to 1993’s epidemic.
Leachman offered several suggestions to help lower-income families afford their energy bills, such as weatherization programs and tax breaks, but repeated Goodstein’s complaint that the current political climate made it difficult to put these things into action.
The speakers’ point was underscored by a short video presented by Gina Cummings of Oxfam America, an international relief organization that cosponsored Thursday’s meeting with Physicians for Social Responsibility and The League of Women Voters of Oregon.
The video illustrated the effects of local drought on Ugandan villagers, which Oxfam attributed to global warming. Oxfam America has a short but intense history of dealing with global warming, Cummings said.
Cummings stressed that Oxfam deals with the “human face of climate change.”
An informal question-and-answer session followed the speakers’ presentations. One audience member expressed his anger that none of the speakers had mentioned population control as a possible solution.
Another told the speakers and the audience how his spiritual connection to the planet had led to his “awakening” and subsequent ecological awareness.
All the speakers stressed that the political climate must change if the global climate is to change, and the global changes will hit the human race in a non-income-proportional way.
Lower-income people are always the hardest hit by natural disasters, said Kohn, and global warming is no different.
It is, said Kohn, “like a natural disaster in slow motion.”