The Oregon Legislature has an opportunity this year to create a mechanism that puts a price on carbon pollution. This would help our state make the transition to a renewable future, in a cost-effective and fair way. Not only would this be good for the economy, but it also would prevent the continuing climate pollution that harms our once-pristine state.
Why Oregon? It is true that the carbon contribution of Oregon to global warming is a small percentage of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. So why should our small state take the trouble to set in place a system like this?
First, we can be an example for other states. Second, by linking arms with other states and some Canadian provinces who have a similar system, we can amplify the benefits, far beyond our own borders. Third, this bill will benefit Oregon's economy, especially when the health benefits of decreased particulate pollution are included.
Renewable energy jobs are good jobs, often available to those with a high school education who live in rural parts of our states. The renewable transition is a win/win economically for our entire state. Oregon is ideally suited for wind and solar power. Let's take the lead.
Why this year? Oregon legislators have a full plate this session, what with a difficult budget and other pressing issues. Yet I believe we have an opportunity that should not be passed up. On the one hand, we have an ever-growing consensus even among those who previously didn't accept the scientific facts, that climate change is real, manmade and that there are steps we can take to minimize it.
If we wait longer we will see even more of the droughts, fires and floods that are worsened by global warming. The longer we wait, the less opportunity we have to use prevention, rather than adaptation, as a response to climate pollution. As a physician, I have always recommended preventive measures. They work better, and at lower cost, than treatment once you have the disease. And remember: This bill is not a budget-buster — it will generate revenues that can be used to help Oregonians who have not benefited from our growing economy.
Why do we have to take responsibility? I am an obstetrician, and I have delivered thousands of babies. Today in Oregon, about 123 babies will be born, each with an average life expectancy of about 80 years. They are likely to see the next century.
I am thinking about these 123 newborn children, these newly minted Oregonians. They have no say in current actions that affect the world. But they will reap the harvest of our decisions today. When they are our age, what will they say about us — about those who had the power to make their world a livable one — or not?
We have been incredibly lucky to live in this state, in this country, in this time in history. Will we say to those infants, tough luck, we had a good life, and too bad for those who come later? Or will we make the small changes necessary to give those born today the best chance of lives at least as good as ours?
Dr. Melanie Plaut lives in Northeast Portland.