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County leaders must take a stand on climate change

Commentary from William Allen of St. Helens


Climate change. Climate change!

When you mention these two words, many people’s eyes glaze over. The topic seems to invoke concern, apathy or denial, essentially in that order. What makes this so ironic is that the topic is considered settled by the vast majority of the world’s climate change scientists. Climate change is real, it is happening, and is predominantly caused by human activity. The topic we appear so reticent to discuss will unquestionably be the primary topic of the 21st century.

To the concerned — kudos. But we all need to start doing more. To the apathetic, within a decade, tops, you will be asking why no one tried to tell you how catastrophic the climate change impacts will be. We tried, but the energy industry spent fortunes creating doubt and suggesting it was little more than a money-grubbing hoax.

To the deniers, I would note that 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Congressional Budget Office, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to name a few, and almost every other state, national and international government, takes the matter very seriously. Either the scientific community is involved in the largest conspiracy and greatest hoax in the history of mankind, or they are providing irrefutable evidence that you have chosen to ignore.

If you care enough to speak on the issue, perhaps you should care enough to investigate the claims that have sown doubt in your mind.

The standard response of many is that we need more time to wean ourselves off of a hydrocarbon economy, and I agree. But why? The reality is that we have had decades to move away from hydrocarbons and towards renewables, but much of corporate America puts short-term profits before the long-term survival of planet Earth. The corporate-owned media is loath to even mention climate change and the political class has been well rewarded to ignore or actively misinform the American public.

We are where we are, not as a function of lead-time, but as a function of failed political will. This leads into the actual topic of my column.

Our local politicians are making decisions that directly impact climate change. They are fostering infrastructure improvements that will further exacerbate the problem for the foreseeable future. They tout jobs and revenue and accentuate the positives at every opportunity. When asked about the negative impacts on our current and future economy, they don’t even give us the courtesy of pleading ignorance, they just ignore the issues.

Because the collective decisions of the nation’s political class ultimately affects the quality and sustainability of life on earth, it is not unreasonable to ask where they stand on the issue of climate change.

At the Aug. 20 Columbia County commissioners meeting, I requested that Commissioners Tony Hyde, Earl Fisher, and Henry Heimuller take a public stance on climate change. At a minimum, I would like to see them go on record as to the depth of their subject knowledge and their personal commitment, or lack thereof, to address the issue in future decisions.

I will be making the same request of the Port of St. Helens commissioners at the next meeting. In fairness to Henry Heimuller, Wayne Mayo will also be asked to commit to a public response prior to the November election.

Please see www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/northwest.html for information on local impacts.

William Allen is a St. Helens resident.