Inconvenient reality

By Samantha Bates
The East Oregonian; April 1, 2008

Bradbury assigns task of slowing down climate change

Monday night, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury gave a talk to about 30 Eastern Oregonians and, in the end, charged them to make a difference individually when it comes to climate change.

He compared the problem of climate change and global warming to other social issues fought in the United States, such as slavery, women’s suffrage and segregation.

"A lot of times we wonder if we have the courage, or the resolve, or ability to take this issue on," Bradbury said. "But if you look at our history, that kind of challenge really is the very foundation of this country."

Bradbury on a slide show, the first half of which mirrored Al Gore’s slide show and film, "An Inconvenient Truth." Bradbury was one of the first fifty participants to be trained by Gore to give the talk.

Bradbury said the slide show is always being adjusted – even just before Monday’s presentation he was changing a few slides.

He has added slides and topics to make the slide show less general and more specific to Oregon, including addressing glaciers shrinking on the Cascades, the dead zone off the Oregon coast and wildfires exploding in the west.

Bradbury showed a map of Mount Hood‘s glaciers and pointed out the White River Glacier, which he said shrunk by 61 percent in the last century. The shrinkage of other glaciers on the mountain varied. White River shrunk most substantially, but other percentages were lower, shrinking 36 percent or 15 percent.

"All of them have been shrinking," he said.

That decrease in glaciers, along with warming trends, could also affect snowpack. Bradbury said by 2040, it’s estimated the snowpack will decrease by 44 percent and 58 percent by 2060.

"I think all of us here know how much we depend on snowpack for river flow," he said. "How much we depend on snowpack for salmon migration, how much I depend on snowpack because I like to take my kayak on the Rogue River and run the rapids in the summer."

Bradbury also showed how climate change is affecting other waters, particularly off the Oregon coast.

"The best example of wind patterns really doing something different is the dead zone," he said. "The ocean off the central Oregon coast experienced its most severe dead zone in recorded history in the summer of 2006. The dead zone is dead because of extremely low oxygen in the water."

He showed video of the sea floor carpeted with the carcasses of crabs and fish where there should have been bare rock or sea plants.

"What you’re looking at here is some dead fish and a lot of dead crabs," Bradbury said. "Because the crabs couldn’t get out of the low oxygen water and they just asphyxiated."

Bradbury said scientists once couldn’t be sure of a connection between climate change and dead zones, but the science community recently issued a report saying the opposite.

"Dead zones like this one are caused by changes in wind patterns and changes in wind patterns are consistent with the effects of climate change," Bradbury said.

The west also is seeing changes in fire behavior during the summers. At the end of August 2006, there were 82 wildfires burning at the same time in the northwest, west and southwest, Bradbury said.

"I think all of us know there’s devastating impacts coming from wildfires," Bradbury said. "Whether it be wildlife habitat, … whether it be the value of timber or whether it be salmon trying to make it through the water to get out of the stream."

After an hour-long lecture on the daunting challenges of climate change, Bradbury ended with his suggestions of how people can make a difference and challenged them to do so.

"We have the ability to deal with this problem," he said. "We live in a democracy where we can bring our concerns forward… . But the process starts with each citizen standing up and making sure their voice is heard.

"I believe the 21st century can be a time of incredible renewal," he continued. "If we unleash our creativity, our innovation, our inspiration, we will open up a world of new opportunity and solve this problem. It’s up to us. The choice is ours. The responsibility is ours. The future is ours."

7-Point Pledge
Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury recommended this "7-point pledge" for people to undertake and make a difference when it comes to climate change:

1. Demand our country join an international treaty for global warming pollution.

2. Take personal action to reduce our own carbon dioxide pollution on a personal level. Take small actions, such as ride a bike or walk more often, buy compact fluorescent bulbs.

3. Fight for a moratorium on construction of any new-generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.

4. Work for a dramatic increase in energy efficiency at your home, place of work or place of worship.

5. Work to see that the government passes laws and policies that expand the use of renewal energy.

6. Plant new trees.

7 Buy from business and support leaders who share the commitment to stopping climate crisis.