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Clackamas County shows commitment to environment

'The debate is over,' Al Gore famously noted time and time again during publicity for 2006's 'An Inconvenient Truth.'

In a political sense, perhaps he was right. The debate over climate change had carried on in the chambers of local, state and federal officials for decades, even if it had been over among serious scientists for years. Anyone with a thermometer and a decent memory could see that the world had grown warmer in recent years, and it didn't take scientists long to prove indisputably that humans are the primary cause of the Earth's temperature turmoil.

But despite the mountains of scientific evidence and the shift in public opinion, many political jurisdictions have done little to combat climate change.

Don't count Clackamas County among them.

This month, Clackamas and Multnomah counties joined the Sierra Club's Cool Counties Initiative, pledging to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050 while creating new jobs in the green economy. They become only the 29th and 30th counties in the country to join the program, and the first two contiguous counties on board. While they represent only a small fraction of the total landmass of Oregon, they account for nearly a third of the state's population.

With all of those people, and more projected to spill into the Portland metro area, slashing emissions won't be easy. But this type of bold and forward-thinking commitment sets Clackamas County apart from so many other governmental jurisdictions throughout the country.

Two types of savings

Being at the forefront of the green government movement does more than just give Clackamas County the moral high ground. In the long run, it will help save money.

The wonderful thing about energy conservation is that more often than not, it also amounts to cost savings, particularly as oil prices spike.

Then there are the corollary costs of climate change - like healthcare. Studies have shown that pollution is linked to different pulmonary diseases and cancers that drive up the cost of healthcare and often afflict more vulnerable populations.

Clackamas County's involvement in Cool Counties won't stop climate change. But as more counties join, the cumulative effect could eventually be enough to create a significant improvement in the Earth's changing climate. It's never easy to be among the first on board, and our commissioners should be commended for their decision. It's fitting for a place that identifies itself so closely with the pioneer spirit.