Chris Mooney, February 1st  2019, Spokane Spokesman Review

It may be the biggest wild card in the climate system. Scientists have long feared that the so-called “overturning” circulation in the Atlantic Ocean could slow down or even halt due to climate change – which would have enormous planetary consequences.

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Juan Declet Barreto, Union of Concerend Scientists, January 30, 2019, Sightline

In the last decade or so, Oregon has endured destructive wildfires, reductions in snowpack, and declining fisheries.  First responder and resident Oregonian communities alike still vividly recall the devastation brought by the 2003 B&B Complex wildfire. Although the Beaver State had a good 2018 ski season, snowpack this winter is more than one-quarter down from what has in the past been considered ‘normal’. Ocean acidification is killing oyster and plankton in farms along the Oregon coast.

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Jennifer Francis HuffPost January 29, 2019

A record-breaking cold wave is sending literal shivers down the spines of millions of Americans. Temperatures across the upper Midwest are forecast to fall an astonishing 50 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) below normal this week — as low as 35 degrees below zero. Pile a gusty wind on top, and the air will feel like -60 F.

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Kathy Conway and Alan Journet.  Photo by Nina Egert, posted with permission

Nina Egert, Ashland Daily Tidings, January 21, 2019

“Once I had understood the science, I knew I had a responsibility to explain it to other people.” Back in the late 1980s, biology professor, Alan Journet, was teaching undergrads about biomes (integrated ecosystems that occur in various natural settings) at Southeast Missouri State University. He began hearing rumors regarding global warming, and realized that if these were indeed correct, the planet would be experiencing such serious shifts in temperature and annual rainfall that none of the biomes about which he was lecturing could possibly survive. Not willing to accept these early conjectures at face value, Alan investigated the scientific research behind the claims. He concluded that they were sound, and began integrating issues of climate change into his coursework.

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Ivana Kottasová CNN Business January 18th 2019

London (CNN Business)America’s push for oil and gas supremacy could lead to a “climate catastrophe,” a new report has warned.

The report by Oil Change International said that the United States is set to “unleash the world’s largest burst” of carbon emissions from new oil and gas development if it goes ahead with its plans to expand drilling.

Dr. Joseph Mercola

Water scarcity is getting worse around the world as aquifers are drained faster than they can be refilled. The most significant contributor to the problem is industrial farming, due to its heavy use of potable water for irrigation.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 80 percent of U.S. consumptive water (and more than 90 percent in many Western states) is used for agricultural purposes1 and, worldwide, groundwater is being used up at a faster rate than it can be replenished.

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Representative Greg Walden addressing his CD2 constituents in Central Medford H.S. Auditorium.
Photo by Dasja Dolan, displayed with permission.

Perceptions from the Greg Walden Townhall held on January 18th at Central Medford High School by Alan Journet

Every now and then Oregon Congressional District 2 Representative Greg Walden visits Southern Oregon to meet constituents in a format where all residents are invited with more than five minutes notice.   Friday January 18th was one of those rare occasions.  Rep. Walden was greeted at Central Medford High School Auditorium by a mixed crowd of supporters and critics, though the latter seemed to hold the upper hand in questioning.   Less raucous and definitely more circumspect than the last time Walden visited for a crack-of-dawn Townhall at North Medford H.S. two years ago, the audience seemed to contain equal parts Walden supporters and opponents, but a distinct shortage of Trump ‘Make American Great Again’ hats – maybe a sign of the times and a measure of public exhaustion with this White House occupant.

During the free-wheeling hour plus of q/a Walden by turns bewildered and bemused the audience with a mix of out and out Trump endorsement including a pronouncement supporting the claim that a surge of immigrants attempting to cross the southern border constituted a national security threat and justified the need for a wall, which Walden claimed everyone supported just a few years ago.  Such Trump endorsements were scattered among claims of independence from Trump as exemplified by his voting to open the government and voting to oppose the lifting of sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Alan Journet poses a question to Greg Walden. Photo by Dasja Dolan displayed with permission.

Bewildered by his unresponsive answer, Alan Journet listens attentively to Representative Walden’s rambling. Photo by Dasja Dolan displayed with permission.

Specific questions targeted such issues as the need for affordable housing, the mythical need for military intervention around the world, and fire policy.  During a discussion of the Trump shutdown, Walden seemed to endorse the usual array of Trump nonsense about the threats at the southern border, and decry the fact that Democratic Party leaders were not even in the country but were in Puerto Rico partying  instead of negotiating (Yes! He really did identify Puerto Rico as ‘not even in the country’).

SOCAN Co-facilitator Alan Journet from Jacksonville was one of the early questioners called.  He asked the following question:  “This President rejected the dire conclusions of the 2018 National Climate Assessment Report produced  by leading scientists in 13 of his own agencies.  Meanwhile, the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated that in order to hold global warming to below 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial conditions by 2100, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030.  Thank you for acknowledging global warming as a contributor to our increasing fire risk but what are you advocating that would promote the 45% GHG emissions reduction we need?”  In response, Rep Walden pointed out the carbon emissions in the U.S. have been dropping. When asked by Journet to focus on greenhouse gases rather than just carbon, Representative Walden indicated that he would, though it was evident from subsequent comments that he was not willing or able to make this transition, maybe thinking that the terms ‘carbon’ and ‘greenhouse gases’ are synonyms.  He continued by arguing that our carbon emissions have been dropping thanks to the conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas.  When Journet pointed out that because of the fugitive emissions of methane, natural gas is as bad as, or worse than, coal, Walden rejected that reality.  It was evident that Representative Walden, while claiming to accept climate science,  essentially does not understand what greenhouse gases are or from where they come.  During his extensive and rambling reply, Representative Walden offered no response to the request for steps he was advocating that would achieve the necessary goal.  While Walden approves promoting renewable energy, including geothermal, he also supports nuclear energy arguing that the problem of radioactive waste is the only issue and that this can be resolved.  Rather than address the question, Rep. Walden focused on how other nations – notably India and China – are not achieving the goals they established for themselves as part of the Paris Agreement as though that absolves the U.S. from meeting our goals.  There was no mention of how this nation, under Trump, has totally abdicated its effort to promote the reduction of emissions. Apparently, Representative Walden does not realize that other nations are actually making much more concerted efforts to reduce their emissions by promoting renewable energy than is the United States.

A subsequent question by Southern Oregon Citizens Climate Lobby leader Sherrill Rinehart again raised the issue of global warming with Representative Walden, asking him if he would endorse the CCL bipartisan proposal introduced in the closing weeks of the 2018 session known as House Resolution 7173:  The Innovative Energy and Carbon Dividend Act.  Apparently, Representative Walden was not familiar with this proposal.  Nevertheless, his response was that he opposes proposals that would regulate or impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, arguing for voluntary measure without acknowledging that voluntary measures have simply failed to place the nation on the emissions reduction trajectory necessary to achieve meaningful goals.  Sherrill underlined that the fee and dividend approach is supported by the Climate Leadership Council, a largely conservative group of business leaders, an argument that left Representative Walden unmoved..

The conclusion I draw from Representative Walden’s response to the climate change questions is that he claims to accept the basic science but simply does not understand it well enough to engage in rational conversation about the issue, and is firmly committed to doing nothing to address the problem.  In fact, the positions he advocates seem more likely to increase emissions rather than decrease them.

In response to questions about forest management, Representative Walden naturally resorted to touting his efforts to promote a different parcel of forest management tactics.  As mentioned above, it is to his credit that he acknowledged the potential role of global warming in exacerbating the forest fire problem and that he acknowledged the impacts of fire suppression on increasing tree density in the forests – thus suggesting that forest thinning could be a reasonable response.  However, at no stage did he recognize that we in Southern Oregon live in a Mediterranean climate where forests are fire prone, fire adapted, and fire dependent, meaning fire is an inevitable and essential component in the system if we wish to retain healthy forests.  He also again resorted to the notion of promoting salvage logging of burned forests (essentially clear-cutting) rather than allowing the recovering forest to recover.  Walden also advocated for the replacement of these salvage logged forests with plantations, without accepting that plantations are fire traps and that replacing forests with plantations actually increases fire risk.   Representative Walden also promoted a USGS report that the California wildfires resulted in huge carbon dioxide emissions.  Apparently Representative Walden is either unaware of, or ignores, data on wildfire-induced emissions in Oregon that reveal the emissions of carbon dioxide from fires in this state amount to a very small 6% of statewide In-Boundary emissions reported by the state Department of Environmental Quality while emissions due to tree harvesting represent the largest sector of state emissions, exceeding transportation.  In promoting the anecdotal claims that the forest service has a track record of not extinguishing fires which is contrary to that of the Oregon Department of Forestry, Representative Walden again displayed his commitment to unverified, unsubstantiated anecdotal nonsense to support his position.

During the discussion of forest fire issues, Representative Walden projected a slide depicting two pie charts: one indicated that among fire ignitions on public forest lands in Oregon, 50% occur on state lands and 50% on federal (also labeled Forest Service) lands, while only 5% of the public forest land burned is on state owned, land and 95% is on federal (FS) land.  Of course, what Walden failed to note is that fully 95% of the publicly owned forest in Oregon is federally owned (with 75% as Forest Service and 20% as BLM land).  Although the definition of what was meant (federal or FS) land was unclear, the data on land ownership mean either that area burned in state and federal lands is identical to the ownership proportions or very close to it.  This means there is no significant difference.  However, if the data on fire ignitions are accurate, the unlikely implication is that federal land (95% of the ownership but only 50% of ignitions) is better managed to avoid ignitions than the state land (5% of ownership but 50% of ignitions).  This is improbable and provokes the more likely interpretation that many ignitions on federal land are simply undetected.  This would mean the argument Walden was making was totally unsupported by the data on which he was basing it.  Whether the interpretation offered by Representative Walden constitutes conscious misrepresentation of the data (‘fake news / alternative facts?’) or simply a complete though honest failure to understand what the data really mean remains unclear.

During his response to a questioner regarding the Southern Border wall, Representative Walden repeated the standard Trump and Republican claim that leading Democrats supported a wall before Trump became President.  In its fact check on this claim PolitiFact  rated it ‘Mostly False.’    The reference is to the Secure Fence Act of 2006 that authorized funding for a 700 mile fence that is now in place but which Trump mocked during his campaign as a ‘nothing wall.’  In fact, rather than opposing what they previously supported, Democrats actually approved current funding for the fence approved in 2006.

Overall, this was a very disappointing display by Representative Walden. It suggested a politician who is either not well informed, or is simply misinformed on the issues.  Either way, this does not reflect well on either the Representative of his advisory staff.

 

Online article by Alan Journet and Carley Corrado in Conscious Living, January 2019

Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Global Change Research Program Report paint a bleak picture of our future if we don’t collectively wake up. They underline the importance of conscious living.

Sustainability is definitely the watchword for those wishing a healthy future for life on this precious planet. One critical element of a sustainability strategy is reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so the temperature shift is not beyond what current living systems can tolerate.  The best scientific estimate for the limit is 1.5°C (3.6°F) above the pre-industrial temperature.

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Pleasant Creek fire plantation aftermath

Addressing Fire in a Fiery Climate

Presentations were made on January 15 at SOCAN’s Special Meeting at the  Medford Public Library. The program was live streamed and is currently available  (Link). The panel includes: Dr. Kerry Metlen, ecologist with The Nature Conservancy and one of the authors of the Rogue Basin Cohesive Forest Restoration Strategy, Marty Main, long-time local woodland management consultant, Annette Parsons, retired soil ecologist with the USFS, Jason Gonzales Forest & Watershed Campaign Organizer with Oregon Climate (via Skype).