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Good reasons to be concerned for future

I am a concerned father, grandfather and community member. Why am I concerned?

1) Two degrees: Almost every government in the world has agreed that any warming above a 2°C (3.6°F) rise would be unsafe. We have already raised the temperature 0.8°C, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the climate dice are loaded for both devastating floods and drought.

2) 565 gigatons: Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. Computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 levels now, the temperature would still rise another 0.8 degrees above the 0.8 we’ve already warmed, which means we’re already four-fifths of the way.

3) 2,795 gigatons: The Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts, estimates that proven coal, oil and gas reserves of the fossil fuel companies equals about 2,795 gigatons of CO2, or five times the amount we can release to maintain two degrees of warming. Eighty percent of these reserves need to stay underground.

There are different approaches to this problem. Bill McKibben says “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.” He urges educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and foundations that serve the public good to divest from fossil fuels within five years.

Two hundred publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. They are asking you to divest from those companies.

James Hansen, former NASA climatologist and a founding member of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) agrees with McKibben. Hansen and CCL, however, promote a market-based approach of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to combat global warming. The tax would be assessed according to a fuel’s carbon dioxide equivalent, and the money collected would be redistributed on a per-capita basis. The idea is to use market mechanisms rather than regulatory measures to discourage fossil fuel use and reward efficiency without boosting government revenue.

I am certainly glad Gov. Kitzhaber has come out in support of a carbon tax.

Bill Gates, on the other hand, has other ideas. If you Google “Bill Gates on the world’s energy crisis,” you will hear him say: “There’s certainly lots of room for increasing efficiency. But can we, by increasing efficiency, deal with our climate problem? The answer is basically no. The climate problem requires more than a 90 percent reduction in CO2 emitted, and no amount of efficiency improvement is going to address that ... You’re never going to get the amount of CO2 emitted to go down unless you deal with the one magic metric, which is CO2 per kilowatt-hour.”

He then goes on to say that “fourth generation nuclear power is safer than all other energy options, and rich countries aren’t spending enough on R&D. What happened in Japan is terrible ... the environmental and human damage is clearly very negative, but if you compare that to the number of people coal or natural gas have killed per kilowatt-hour generated, it’s way, way less ... coal and natural gas have much lower capital costs, and they tend to kill only a few at a time, which is highly preferred by politicians.”

Some of Gates’ statements challenge some of my actions taken so far, but I am glad he is investing in ways to generate energy and therefore reduce CO2 by 90 percent — one of the biggest challenges of this century.

Will you join me in working on divesting from fossil fuel companies, and promoting a fossil fuel revenue-neutral carbon tax bill?

Dale Feik lives in Forest Grove.




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