Tualatin right to join Beaverton on Climate Mayors network
Some quick thoughts on the Aug. 28 decision by the Tualatin City Council to join the "Climate Mayors" network:
First: Of course Tualatin should join. So should Tigard and Sherwood and King City (Beaverton's already there).
Second: The City Council probably didn't do it in the right manner, and the rush-rush nature of the vote was entirely avoidable.
And third: That vote was the right-but-easy part. Next comes the right-but-difficult part: actually doing some of the things outlined by the network. The city should create a timeline to make that happen.
Here's a little background on the issue — The Climate Mayors group is chaired by Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles. The effort began under the Obama Administration, as nations throughout the world grew closer to the Paris climate agreement. Once the agreement came together, almost every nation on Earth signed on: All except Nicaragua and Syria.
Then Donald Trump won the 2016 election and, this summer, announced that the United States should drop out.
The mayors group grew considerably since the last election. Today, an estimated 370 cities are members, and those cities represent 67.5 million Americans.
What can Tualatin do about climate change? Darned little.
What can 67.5 million people — and another 27,000-plus-change from Tualatin — do? Well, they can champion causes, elect leaders and push for real change. And that's the point of groups like Climate Mayors: to put pressure on Washington, D.C., to get things done.
Just like the U.S. Conference of Mayors or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is strength in numbers.
Getting back to Tualatin's decision, we should take a moment and address the controversy of climate change.
The controversy is bunkum.
This is not a scientific debate and it hasn't been for decades. It's a political debate. To quote from the NASA Global Climate Change website: "Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities."
Right this very second, someone is jumping up on their coffee table and shouting, "Ah ha! 'Extremely likely!' See? Wiggle room!"
But NASA didn't pull that sentence out of a fortune cookie. It's based on the collective research of agencies like the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the Hadley Center/Climatic Research Unit, the National Center for Environmental Information (part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Japanese Meteorological Agency, which show a warming trend that began in the mid-20th century and has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades.
So, yes, this is a real and imminent threat. And yes, Tualatin did right to join this group.
But the way the council did it was needlessly fractious and sets the city up for a fight it could have — should have — avoided.
Public process is important. Tualatin councilors should practice what they preach and be consistent in giving the public an opportunity to weigh in on issues facing the city. They should have set a vote for their next meeting. There was no urgency on this issue, especially since the act of joining the group has no immediate effect.
When the council considers a resolution, it should go through its regular process with it, including offering members of the public a chance to testify on it.
That's what got the Tualatin City Council into hot water back in 2015, which a last-minute item was added to an agenda at a poorly attended meeting in an effort to change the city's rules on citizen initiatives and petition-gathering, in an attempt to head off a term limits initiative.
To repeat: Process matters. We applaud the city leaders for doing good, but it's not too much to ask for them to do it well.
What should happen next?
There are no binding commitments for membership of the Climate Mayors network, but there are suggestions, such as:
• Develop a community greenhouse gas inventory.
• Set near- and long-term targets to reduce emissions.
• Develop a climate action plan aligned to the city's goals.
And those are things Tualatin should do.
Will this have a deleterious effect on the city's many industrial businesses? No, and this is where so many naysayers get led astray.
American business is synonymous with innovation. American industry is at the vanguard in the creation of clean-energy technology. American entrepreneurs are leading the way in inventories of greenhouse gasses and targets to reduce emissions.
Tualatin did right to join the network — which includes Portland, Beaverton, Milwaukie, Gladstone, Salem, Eugene, Albany, Corvallis, Hood River and Vancouver, Wash.
Tigard should step up next.