Opinion: 2050 is too late for Clackamas County carbon neutrality
On Aug. 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on what scientists know now about the current and expected impacts of climate change around the world. The science is mounting: the heatwaves, droughts, glacier melts, rising seas and flooding we've already seen will become increasingly common as a result of human-induced climate change.
As greenhouse-gas emissions increase, global warming increases. The IPCC report made it clear that every degree of warming makes the expected impacts that much more catastrophic. Without a rapid decline in emissions, we will not only exceed the 1.5-degees-Celsius target set in the Paris Agreement, but we will also exceed the feared 2 degrees of warming. The difference in devastation between 1.5 and 2 degrees of global warming cannot be overstated.
We've done irreversible and avoidable damage, and the effects we've seen in the past year are not a fluke. They're the result of every decision that's been made up until this point to continue burning fossil fuels.
We've known since the IPCC's 2018 special report that emissions need to be dramatically reduced by 2030 to prevent severe climate impacts, so why is it that all levels of government are still setting carbon neutrality goals for the outdated target of 2050?
Clackamas County is currently in the process of developing a climate action plan, and at the direction of the Board of County Commissioners, that plan will get the county to carbon neutrality by 2050. County commissioners need to listen to the latest science and move up that goal immediately.
Our county has already experienced the impacts of climate change. From the dry, hot winds that led up to September's wildfires, to the ice storm, drought and the late June heatwave that claimed the lives of 14 county residents — it's clear that climate change is here and we're just beginning to feel its effects.
In 2017 the county board reaffirmed the goals in the 2008 resolution for a sustainable Clackamas County. In that original resolution were goals like, "Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl; preserve open space; create compact, walkable urban communities," as well as things like "promote transportation options."
It's unclear how spending hundreds of millions of dollars expanding I-205, the fossil-fuel infrastructure that helps perpetuate this crisis, will reduce sprawl and promote transportation options.
Meanwhile, we can't afford to provide transportation to cooling centers during heatwaves, and our Board Chair Tootie Smith questioned at the July 29 business meeting if it's the government's fault that those 14 people died in the extreme heat.
We need both climate action and climate resilience. No one should die a preventable death. Additionally, the county board needs to review what their climate resolutions stated and take them into consideration with every decision they make and every dollar they spend.
Having experienced so much hardship from climate change over the past year, Clackamas County needs to step up and be a leader on mitigation. This issue cannot be pushed off onto yet another generation. It's not the youth's job to save us.
The climate crisis is an emergency and needs to be treated as such. Clackamas County commissioners must move up the carbon-neutrality goal to make it a top priority. 2050 is too late.
Cassie Wilson is a 22-year-old disabled climate justice organizer with Sunrise PDX and is on Clackamas County's youth advisory task force on climate. Here she speaks only for herself.
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