Climate Change, HB 2020, and You

Climate change: it affects us all. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how wealthy you are, what you do for a living, what ethnicity you are, or what country you are from. So long as you reside on plant Earth, you are susceptible to the harmful effects of climate change. Some, however, are more susceptible than others. Likewise, some are more responsible for the development of this issue than others. And so, it is the moral duty of those responsible to use that same power to find solutions. As one of the main contributors to the excessive carbon dioxide emissions that’s caused climate change, the United States has been coming up with ways to play their part in bettering the issue. In the state of Oregon, government officials are attempting to pass House Bill 2020, also referred to as the “cap-and-trade bill,” which aims to place a cap on Oregon’s carbon emissions. The bill has sparked controversy among Oregon residents and even resulted in the walkout of Republican state senators. However, with the rapid development of climate change, we cannot afford to postpone or take more time to decide on plans to resolve it.

According to research reported by scientific organization, NASA, one of the main causes of our current standing in climate change is the expansion of what’s known as the “greenhouse effect.” This occurrence results in global warming as the Earth’s atmosphere uses greenhouse gases to prevent heat from escaping. The source of these excessive gases in our atmosphere? Us. It’s you. It’s me. It’s your family and it’s your friends. Because of human activities – even the simple ones that have become part of our regular routine such as driving or utilizing technology – the burning of fossil fuels to allow these activities to happen has increased the carbon dioxide emitted into our atmosphere. This has already resulted in a temperature rise across the global, which has further resulted in extreme natural events, the melting of glaciers, the rising of sea levels, ocean acidification, and more. Because of this, communities have lost homes and we are losing natural resources. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization consisting of over a thousand scientists studying the causes and effects of climate change, “Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.” Basically, climate change will only continue to worsen from this point on should we not act drastically and immediately.

The House Bill that the state of Oregon is attempting to pass will require major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation, manufacturing and utility sectors to purchase credits or “allowances” for every ton of greenhouse gas they emit. The bill is aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and the money profited by the purchase of credits would go towards programs to help the Oregon’s community in adapting to the impacts of climate change and transitioning to a low-carbon future. The proposal and movement of the bill through the House has caused a split in the Oregon community, most notably between Democrats and Republicans.

As Democrats who make up majority of Oregon’s Senate greatly support the bill, 11 Republican state senators have fled the state as a means of boycotting the bill by withholding the senate from having enough people to vote on it, knowing that Democrat vote would outnumber them. In contrast to the Republican senators, other opponents of the bill have actually shown up to the Capitol to express their opposition in rally form. Some of the main reasons behind protest against the bill has been the economic impacts of it such as the potential loss of local jobs and the rise in in taxes.

In an article for Salem Statesman Journal, Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford stated, “Concerns plague HB 2020, from farm to families to transportation. One example is the estimated 15-cent a gallon gas tax increase.” In an article reflecting the views of other opponents, similar ideas are also expressed as it states, “Those who oppose the bill say it would dramatically effect some of the state’s rural communities and hurt businesses like timber companies. Opponents also say it would cost transportation companies, and hike up the price at the pump with added taxes.” These fears are reasonable, as they do affect the daily lives of most Oregon residents. However, reassurance can be found by looking at the effect of a similar bill passed in the state of California. In an article by former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s reported that “under a climate plan anchored by cap-and-invest, California grew its economy more than 20 percent on the way to achieving its 2020 emission reduction target four years early. Over that same period, job growth outpaced the nation’s by 27 percent, helping California become the national leader in clean energy jobs.” Looking at the loss of local jobs that may come as a result of the passing of House Bill 2020, it may help to be aware that the bill is also referred to as the “Clean Energy Jobs” bill because of its potential for expanding job opportunities in other fields.

A lot of uproar has also surrounded the potential rise in gas prices that may come with the passing of House Bill 2020. The President and CEO of Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, John Charles, even added his perspective of the bill in line with other opponents and stated, “This is probably the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen in my entire career. It is a tax, it will make gasoline immediately about 20 cents per gallon more expensive – dollars more expensive in decades to come… We’re supposed to take one for the global team, and no benefits? And pay all the costs? That’s insanity. That’s crazy.” Although I understand the concern, especially because the United States has the privilege of car transportation to be a part of majority of the population’s daily lives, it is also imperative to understand that, that in itself has brought us to the situation with climate change that we are in now. It is our everyday, human activities that emit carbon that has put the human population in the dangers of climate change it is in now. Therefore, it is our price to pay to fix it. It is not a matter of an individual paying for the benefit of the whole world; it is simply an individual making up for their own harm that they’ve caused.

Further research reported by NASA shows evidence that no immediate and drastic action against climate change can result in the continued rising of temperatures, irregularity in precipitation patterns, more droughts and heat waves, stronger hurricanes. In the United States specifically, this can negatively affect agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Representative Christ Gorsek, D-Troutdale stated, “This bill is not just about Oregon, it’s about building environmental momentum. I believe that this will inspire other states, cities, counties, and perhaps even the federal government at some point to join us.” To allow the passing of House Bill 2020 wouldn’t just be a step for Oregon towards a better environment, but a step for the whole world. Climate change affects us all. If we all decide that we are too small a part of the problem, then the entire problem continues. However, if bit by bit, we decide to be a part of the solution, then we can solve the problem together.

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One Comment to “Climate Change, HB 2020, and You”

  1. To me, it is insane to hear that senators would just disappear in order to hold those bills “hostage” and prevent a vote from happening. It seems like such a blatant disregard for their job and is instead an action fueled by wanting to see their opponents fail as opposed to merely accepting the bill. Instead of having dialogue, they are opting for none.

    I really like that idea of “environmental momentum” by Rep. Christ Gorsek that is quoted here. Many people question whether or not one person is able to make a difference. However, no one questions the fact that the collective, a group of individuals, are able to, in fact, solve the problem. Because everyone impacts the environment, it makes sense that everyone has a responsibility in being conscientious of their actions.

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