The Oregon Global Warming Commission met this week to review the draft of their 2018 Biennial Report to the Legislature. The Commission, created in 2007 to provide oversight on Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction strategy, detailed that despite our current efforts, Oregon is struggling to make progress, and has actually seen an increase in emissions in recent years – the majority of it coming from the transportation sector (making it all the more notable that the transportation seat on the commission is currently vacant).
I took a look at the report and here’s what I learned…
The report begins with a powerful letter from Commissioner Chair Angus Duncan that begins with a quote from Winston Churchill about WWII: “Owing to past neglect,” Churchill said to the House of Commons in 1936, “In the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger…”
Duncan laments that leadership like Churchill’s is sorely lacking in the 21st century. “We’ve looked for that kind of leadership over the 30 years or so that climate change has loomed as an existential threat to our society and our children’s future. Rarely have we found it.” While there are a few bright spots of progress, Duncan writes, “This Letter reflects my profound concern, after ten years as Commission Chair, with whether we are rising to the challenges in meaningful and sufficient ways.”
Duncan’s concern is based in part on the fact that Oregon is no longer seeing a downward trend in emissions, with more than half of the recent increase due to gasoline and diesel. From 2014 to 2016, transportation emissions increased from 35% to 39% of Oregon’s total, while electricity decreased from 30% to 26% during the same period.
So where do we go from here? The answers come from ODOT’s own projections. In 2013 they modeled a Sustainable Transportation Strategy (STS) that, if fully implemented, would reduce all transportation emissions 60% [of 1990 levels] by 2050, and light-duty passenger vehicles by 80%. A 2018 monitoring report done by ODOT shows that we have deviated significantly from this vision, and will likely achieve a 15-20% reduction by 2050 instead.
Several assumptions from their 2012 model have changed: lower fuel prices, strong economy and population growth, and a slower transition to more fuel efficient vehicles than anticipated, with Oregonians hanging onto their vehicles for an average of 12 years. The report points out that when the STS came to the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) in 2013 was “accepted” instead of the stronger “adopted”. As a part of the 2018 Oregon Transportation Plan the STS strategies were formally adopted but still have no legal framework for enforcement.
The following recommendations for action were pulled from the 2018 ODOT Monitoring Report:
— Extend the Federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards
— Extend the Zero Emissions Vehicle Program
— Extend the Oregon Clean Fuels Program
— Initialize mechanism for true-cost pricing.
True-cost pricing, an important piece of incentivizing other less carbon intensive modes, is still in the future. A few fees from the STS are being considered, such as congestion pricing and pay-per-mile (via the OReGO program) but could still be several years away. A greenhouse gas emissions cap expected to be considered by the Legislature in 2019 is one mechanism to capture true-cost pricing.
Notably absent in this report is the mention of the billions of dollars into highway widening projects as a part of House Bill 2017 (a.k.a. Keep Portland Moving Act) passed during the last legislative session. The previous report, released prior to that 2017 session, recommended strong action to bring transportation back under control. Here’s what the Commission wrote before HB 2017 was created and passed:
In the 2017 session, the Oregon Legislature has an opportunity… to prioritize policies and programs that will make material differences in GHG emissions from transportation… The Commission recommends that the 2017 Legislature… use the occasion to devise and adopt measures that will bring transportation GHG emissions under control…
There is no critical analysis of whether that bill was ultimately aligned with the goals of the Commission or of its estimated impact on transportation emissions. Also not mentioned was the Oregon Public Transportation Plan which was adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission last month.
Only one line in the report references HB 2017 (emphasis mine): “Although recent funding from the 2017 Keep Oregon Moving Act helps move in the direction of the STS, the levels envisioned in the STS call for exponentially more investment in transit service, along with converting bus fleets – public transit and school buses – to electricity as older buses are replaced.”
It’s going to take a lot of action from ODOT and legislators to push the GHG emissions needle in the other direction. This report — and Duncan’s call for bold leadership — should be a wake-up call.
You can learn more about the Global Warming Commission on their website. Read the full Draft Bienniel Report to the Legislature here (PDF).
— Catie Gould, @Citizen_Cate on Twitter
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Catie is co-chair of Bike Loud PDX and member of the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee. She writes mostly about climate change and life as a volunteer activist.
I’ve been reading these reports for years, and participated early on in their public forums. Unfortunately they are in my opinion a waste of time, a huge missed opportunity. Reading these reports one gets hundreds of pages of wonky jargon, but no matter how hard you look one never finds people! No mention of actions people could/should take, no interest in their perspective, no anticipation of their participating in co-producing the outcomes we need.
> There is no critical analysis of whether [the transportation bill] was ultimately aligned with the goals of the Commission or of its estimated impact on transportation emissions. Also not mentioned was the Oregon Public Transportation Plan which was adopted by the Oregon Transportation Commission last month.
Transport is and is going to be the biggest driver of carbon emissions. As I mentioned when the 2017 report came out: the State is on course to blow past the 2020 goal by 20% — that’s the equivalent of nearly 3 new coal power plants built between now and 2020. 
This report is the best Oregonians can hope for in terms of a broad and deep assessment of the state’s climate progress (or lack thereof).
Shame the report didn’t take a good look at the transportation bill. Oregon legislators (and voters) need to understand the climate impacts of these legislator’s inaction.
But perhaps in draft form there’s room for edits?
Activists are awake, and very, very tired.
I definitely hear you mh.
I did some edits to Catie’s story and added that part about this report being a wake-up call. What I was trying to communicate was how the draft report could be a valuable tool/resource for advocates. I wasn’t wanting to say that advocates need to do more. Sorry for the confusion.
I’m sure some activists were also “tired” during other genocides.
This is worse.
1) stop producing petroleum burning personal cars tommorow.
2) start up the car shredders the next day and don’t stop till all petro jalopies are recycled in solar systems and bike tubing.
If we had started 30 years such a drastic program would not be needed, but now it is all we are left with.
Why don’t we just limit families to one child?
How would you do that? Reduce tax breaks, perhaps, but I’m not sure how much that would change things. And the politics of even that would be tricky.
Whoever would lead on the climate issue needs to basically serve as the public’s grief counselor. Everybody has to go through all the Kuebler-Ross stages of grief so we can get on with it. The thing being lost and grieved-for is Your Way Of Life. (Said leader would do well to avoid saying “our” way of life, not only because some people aren’t part of the problem to the same degree, but also because it needs to be that direct and immediate. “We” offers too much room to hide in. “We” should call the cops so Kitty Genovese stops being attacked, type of thing. Versus *I* should call the cops…)
The macro scale and micro scale have an interesting way of matching each other. Hence we’ve already seen plenty of…
Anger – self-explanatory
Denial – by people literally called deniers
Bargaining – this could be its own blog post, but it would include: trading carbon credits; or counting parts-per-billion and degrees C saying “okay if we don’t go past this, we should be okay… whoopsie I mean if we don’t go past THIS we should be okay…”
Depression – a lot of people are depressed over it, but the Great Recession could be said to qualify too (if we weren’t in Denial by calling it a Recession, har har)
Getting a person to “Acceptance” is step 0 before step 1 can begin.
So, what did the American people do a couple years ago? Elected a climate change denier who promised more coal and oil while eliminating emission standards and environmental protections. Not to mention withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Really, you can’t save people from themselves. Let Natural Selection work its wonders as it has for the last 4.6 billion years.
I take solace in the fact that our election system is very unfair. Remember that he did lose by nearly 3 million votes.
It’s not “unfair” so much as it doesn’t work the way you want it to.
As a practical matter, if you wanted to do something about it, you could push for Oregon to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Popular_Vote_Interstate_Compact). That seems the most likely way out.
It won’t fix the fact that it really matters a lot if somebody like Heidi Hidecamp wins in North Dakoda senate race, when North Dakoda has 600,000 people and one congressional representative. A senator from Washington represents 7,000,000, a senator from California represents 40,000,000. I call that unfair for a republic. Who doesn’t call it unfair, seems unfair on it’s face.
Again, whether it’s fair or not really depends on the variable your comparing against. Our system was built to balance different interests, which is arguably more fair (by some measures) than a system built around a single variable.
The intention, according to my civics and political science teachers, was to prevent a populist takeover because the it was felt that masses could be be too easily manipulated. Like we are seeing.
Those interests that were being balanced were independent small “states” that functioned as nations. They were fearful of joining a union that required them to give up their autonomy if they could be steamrolled by larger states. The initial price paid to form the United States from the united states (loose confederation of independent nations) was this Senate composition compromise.
We should have moved beyond that by now. Can you even differentiate a person from Montana from a person from California? We’re pretty much one homogeneous culture now. It’s time to stop giving some people disproportionate power to shape our government simply because there are fewer other citizens inside the not-noticeable lines that define their state.
Sadly, rulers, and our small population states really are our rulers, rarely give up unearned power without a fight. Let’s hope this one can be more like women’s suffrage than the Civil War.
Do you have any ideas about how to convince those in small inland states to give up their power and be dominated by the large coastal cities that are culturally very different? (and yes, MO and CA are very different places) Doing this would require rewriting the constitution, something I would never recommend in this political climate.
The reason we’ve never changed the system is because it’s really hard, and quite likely impossible, as any change would have to be agreed to by those losing their power.
But if you have some ideas about how it might work, I’d love to hear them.
“we have a democracy. this should not be tyranny of the majority”
sounds like the progressive dems must favor the electoral system over direct democracy. 🙂
Actually there is a fairly easy solution to the imbalance we have and the Republicans have worked and used to their advantage.
60% of Senate seats are being held by 30% of the population.
If and when the the Dems gain control of congress they can seek Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico…
It should have been done when the Dems had control in 2008 but they don’t play hardball and the Repubs do.
4 new Democrat Senators.
Makes up for Wyoming, etc…
Democrats basically can cement the majority that they actually deserve.
Blame Trump all you want. Your state and local leaders have been epic failures.
None of this matters unless China changes…it’s really sad but it’s true.
China’s CO2 emissions offset any long-term gains from commuters switching from driving to biking in America.
“China produces 28% of the world’s CO2 emissions, spewing out 9.2 Billion tons which is 50% more than second placed America. This is almost four times India’s emissions level, even though they have similar sized populations. However, India is catching up, with a CO2 growth rate twice China’s.
Over the past decade, China’s increased CO2 output of 2.02 Billion tons was 60% of the global increase. Clearly, lowering CO2 won’t happen without China’s help.”
Does that mean we should do nothing?
“Does that mean we should do nothing?”
Obviously not…why would it?
As with any problem, we focus our energy where it matters most.
For Portland city level decisions, that means helping all modes flow more efficiently, not a “bad for cars good for bikes” mentality…and more broadly we need to accept that the idea that we cannot fight global warming by turning car lanes to bike lanes.
Our enemy is the false dichotomy that to promote biking we have to make driving harder….in Portland at least.
Globally it’s about high-level economic policy and institutional-level incentives like tariffs, tax cuts for good behavior, funding research…at the macro level it really is all about incentives.
America should be the world’s #1 exporter of non-polluting alternate energy sources and technology like electric hybrid conversion kits for traditional combustion engines or basics like solar panels even…we need to pull the macro level levers to make that happen.
“we cannot fight global warming by turning car lanes to bike lanes”
OK! I’ll bite. How would you propose fighting global warming, a.k.a. climate change?
i doubt that skoler has any genuine interest in fighting climate change. in fact, i believe very few USAnians are interested in fighting climate change. after all, this would require collective sacrifice that is simply unimaginable to anglo-europeans.
for example, the recent ipcc special report argues that by 2030 we would have had to implement carbon taxes of $5000/ton and have spent at least ~$30 trillion on energy, agricultural, and transportation restructuring.
the likelihood of this happening is zero.
“this would require collective sacrifice”
Dramatic change to how we conduct ourselves, yes. But I’m not at all sure that the familiar word ‘sacrifice’ is the best or most accurate way to describe those changes, especially given the pedagogic elements of our predicament.
I’d much rather live in a society where fossil fuels were marginalized, local economies prioritized, where human labor formed the primary source of energy besides sun and wind. Most people in my social circles have very little experience with any of this, and so are understandably spooked not to say paralyzed by the thought of what this might mean, but it would be much more constructive to start facing this music, whittling away at the unfamiliarity, the cluelessness which presently surrounds this whole subject.
“keeping it in the ground” and “localism” is incompatible with current modeling.
absent some sort of fantastical technology that can scrub hundreds of billions of Gt of CO2e out of the atmosphere, modeling indicates that unprecedented lifestyle changes in the west are essential to limiting warming:
http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf (see sections c2.3-2.6)
living in large houses, overconsumption of manufactured products, consumption of staggering quantities of animal products are all incompatible with a <4 F future. in other words, many of the things that make current USAnian lifestyles "fun" would need to be abandoned.
I don’t disagree with you about the scale of the necessary transformation. What I’m suggesting is that the degree to which this scale seems daunting/impossible is directly related to how un/familiar we are with what living under very different conditions entails. How awful or pleasant it might be.
Why do you think that one particular ethnicity has a singular failure of imagination?
Not sure where you got that from?
I was talking about habit, lack of exposure to, you know, meeting ones needs with muscle power, providing for oneself without all the intermediaries, living in a manner we might agree was resilient.
From the text: “collective sacrifice that is simply unimaginable to anglo-europeans.”
Oh, I thought your question was directed at me.
We need to persuade Jonathan to open up more levels in this comment tree.
it’s not ethnicity, it’s economic math. the bulk of CO2e in our atmosphere is derived from the emissions of anglo-european nations and the bulk of our wealth is concentrated in anglo-european nations. if we are going to begin to address ongoing ecocide (we are actively worsening it now) enormous transfer of wealth from OECD nations (e.g. anglo-european nations) to developing nations is essential.
The history is, frankly, irrelevant. What does matter is that the West has more resources to try to solve the problem. But spouting off about wealth transfer is a great way to ensure nothing will happen.
anglo europeans gave up straws…..PLASTIC STRAWS. TELL ME THEY DON’T KNOW SACRIFICE.
the oceans should be saved by tuesday of next week.
Spouting off that history is irrelevant is a great way to ensure nothing will happen. History is crucial. How are you proposing we make sense of the current predicament if we can’t be bothered to understand our history?
I never said history is irrelevant, or that there are no lessons to draw from the past.
You are so right. This is why I support immediately deporting the tens of millions of illegal immigrants currently in this country. After all, the carbon footprint of the average citizen in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia is much lower than in the US. In addition, traffic congestion will be greatly relieved and the sudden departure of all those consumers will dramatically reduce the manufacture of pointless consumer goods. Who’s with me?
Our president, for one.
“For Portland city level decisions, that means helping all modes flow more efficiently, not a “bad for cars good for bikes” mentality…and more broadly we need to accept that the idea that we cannot fight global warming by turning car lanes to bike lanes.”
Give us one specific example of how you would propose we make cars travel more efficiently, and how that would help fight global warning.
I’ll give you one:
When you press the crossing signal at 16th & Hawthorne, the signal has to go through it’s cycle until it comes around to the activation phase. It seems to do this unfailingly when a new platoon of cars is about to arrive at the signal, so they all have to stop.
Using a better signal system, if there are no vehicles approaching the intersection, the walk phase could be activated immediately; if vehicles were approaching, it could go through the yellow phase; if by staying green a little longer, the entire platoon could pass, it could do so; and if it had been activated recently and more time was required to let vehicles pass, it could be activated when vehicles had passed.
End result: Better for pedestrians/cyclists; better for drivers; less fuel consumed. Win/win.
PS In the shorter term, just coordinating it with the signal at 12th would help.
I’ll offer a contrary example (that already exists), and which involves the same interface: pedestrian signal reprogramming.
Back around the time bikeportland started the electric utilities in Oregon participated in (or cooked up) a scheme whereby they would receive carbon credits by paying for the signals along metro area arterials to be reprogrammed, ostensibly (and I don’t mind if you snicker here) to save carbon by speeding up car traffic/reducing idling. One unsurprising consequence from my pedestrian perspective was that a pedestrian who wished to cross, for instance Chavez (then still SE 39th) had to wait longer. I called PBOT (then PDOT) and was assured this was not the case, but remember not being persuaded. I am well aware that you can’t maximize two variables simultaneously, and given the change: reduce impediments to free flowing auto traffic, I think we know how muscle powered peds were parameterized in those models.
So… you’re saying there is no way to make that signal work better for everyone? Have you ever used it?
At the end of the day, no. Though I’m certainly open to learning otherwise.
There are now a thousand reasons we need to jettison the car, move beyond automobility, rediscover post fossil fuel mobility, so besides what look to me like logical impossibilities I’m not interested in rescuing, improving, smoothing the rough edges of car travel.
That may be true, but is not at all related to improving the operation of the infrastructure we’ve got.
For all users (bikes and pedestrians included).
“not at all related to improving the operation of the infrastructure we’ve got.”
How is that?
We can fix the infrastructure we’ve got without any acknowledgement of what lies ahead, the modal shifts looming, spending billions to shore up the auto alongside the modes that actually have a future, trying desperately to accommodate our favorite stranded asset….
Or we could instead recognize that time is short, the stuff out of which me make/modify/repair infrastructure not available indefinitely, and cut to the chase. Focus all our efforts on fixing/converting what we’ve got to work post-car.
I don’t see how we could improve what we’ve got without coming to terms with these larger questions. But then PBOT seems to agree with you so I’m obviously hearing a different drummer.
It might actually be possible to push forward on multiple fronts at once. You know, make small improvements where we can, while trying to figure out how to make the bigger transitions we all know will be required. And since PBOT will not be responsible for decarbonizing our economy, they’ll need something to do. Unless you think we should just disband them now.
Ostensibly this has been our policy for the past forty years.
But as we might agree this hasn’t turned out very well.
I don’t think we should keep pretending this could work. As Amory Lovins famously put it more than forty years ago,
“A society cannot aspire to be both conspicuously consumptive and elegantly frugal. The hard and soft paths are culturally and institutionally antagonistic, and furthermore, compete for the same limited resources.” The Energy Controversy: Soft Path Questions & Answers p. 5�
“less fuel consumed”
this kind of magical thinking is why we are where we are today.
In the context of the question, it was a reasonable answer.
The question was posed to sikoler.
There are lots of win/wins in the signal upgrade/optimization department.
I suspect that most of the wins are already booked.
As with many things, egregiously bad engineering of the past presents plenty of options, but there is a finite well from which to draw these wins. I grew up in Germany, and in the eighties the municipalities there figured out how to re-time the lights to optimize flow/reduce idling/etc. They didn’t wait thirty years—as we did here in Portland—and engage in the smoke and mirrors of carbon credits and electric utilities. But in both cases, those changes have been made. I doubt there’s still very many rocks to turn over.
Well, that’s an obvious consequence of “nothing else matters”.
I fundamentally agree with you that there is a lot of false dichotomy on this site. However, there are plenty of examples where there are real choices to be made, where one mode has to be prioritized over another. In those instances, I will generally side with the active transportation mode, unless there is a compelling case not to.
That is one helluva winning strategy, my friend.
Let’s do nothing because, you know, the other guy isn’t doing anything. That is at the level of kids arguing in the sandbox.
Who said “do nothing”?
I sure didn’t.
I know the truth hurts, and I understand that putting words in my mouth to set up a straw man helps you avoid confronting the truth, but it’s the truth.
Funny how two people who are engaging you on this subject (and who, um, frequently disagree here) both interpreted what you were saying upthread to mean let’s do nothing, because China. I think the onus is on you to explain yourself. Something you’ve not invested a whole lot of energy into hitherto.
I don’t understand how the tax per mile makes any sense to decrease greenhouse gases. It gives a financial incentive to drive vehicles that get terrible fuel economy. Your transportation taxes go down as your fuel economy goes down. Just try their calculator on the website. It is quite possibly the worst idea I’ve heard yet. What’s next, a tax on bicycles?
I tried the calculator on the OReGO website too. It looks like the break even point is having a vehicle with average 20mpg. Vehicles that are less efficient pay much less with the new program vs at-the-pump fuel tax. Vehicles more efficient than 20mpg, pay much more with the new program.
You’re absolutely right, Jon. It’s like they’re encouraging folks to drive huge gas guzzlers. Ridiculous.
The trucking industry pays weighted mile fees. It’s high time we implemented the same for passenger vehicles to encourage lighter vehicles. It would be fairer as well, since road damage is proportional to the fourth (or is it fifth?) power of vehicle weight.
By steadily and predictably increasing the gas & diesel tax for non-commercial vehicles by something like $.05-$.15 per year for 10 years we would accomplish the same thing since lighter vehicles get better fuel economy. We already have fuel taxes at the pump so we don’t have to create a new system.
We should also add more taxes on electricity generated by non-renewable sources (coal and natural gas) along with residential natural gas. There is no better incentive than cost to encourage people to change behavior. Just look at what types of cars that were purchased around the time of each large increase in gasoline cost. As soon as the price comes down people start buying giant gas guzzlers again. Energy efficient appliances would be much more cost effective if people had to pay the true environmental cost of fossil fuel generated electricity and natural gas. Utilities would build a lot more wind, solar, and battery storage systems if coal and natural gas powered electricity was taxed.
That arrangement would inevitably bog down in the “regressive” taxation argument.
There are ways to do it at are not regressive. One idea is to implement a broad carbon tax and then divide the proceeds among all tax payers and give them a payment of their share. That money could be used to offset the effects of a carbon tax, or, if a person can reduce the CO2 they emit, they could pocket some of the money.
I’m not sure this would work politically (with either the left or the right), but it is my preferred model.
I could not disagree more.
Oregon, the USA, and the world are burning more fossil fuels than ever and emitting more methane than ever with no evidence of this changing anytime soon.
I also wondered how, in the face of increasing emissions when we had previously targeted reducing emissions, we’re suddenly going to reverse this deadly trend. Seems like the same magical thinking that got us the initial so-far-from-the-mark projection.
Does anyone know why our air quality is so bad right now? It’s currently at 90, over double that of Los Angeles. Is it smoke from wood burning? Low winds? I’ve been watching it for the last couple weeks and we are often much worse that LA. It’s some of the worst in the country.
I think what we’re seeing is less how bad emissions are, but rather what happens when the wind patterns locally, temporarily are such that no mixing can occur.
But if we weren’t adding tons of toxic muck to the air daily, the inversion wouldn’t matter so much since there wouldn’t be nearly as much stuff to accumulate.
Yeah weather can have a multiplier effect on pollution:
There are some angry finger pointers here. I’d love them to share what steps they are taking to combat climate change. “Sharing the wealth” is clearly not the answer.
Cut your energy and water use by 50%, 80%, 90%.
Jettison the auto if at all possible.
Patronize public transport, local business.
Eat locally and low on the food chain.
Measure your consumption, set goals, figure out how to ratchet down the total incrementally.
Boycott multinationals, Amazon.
Or stop breeding.
Sure. Lots of possibilities.
Stopping the unnecessary breeding of animals for our entertainment would have an enormous impact by reducing >50% of methane emissions and allowing for staggering amounts of reforestation.