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Our Voice: Oregon governor should confront climate change in ways that help economy, as well as environment

Published on November 20, 2017 3:31PM

Last changed on November 20, 2017 5:02PM

AP Photo/Martin Meissner A replica of the Statue of Liberty by Danish artist Jens Galschiot emits smoke in a park outside the 23rd UN Conference of the Parties (COP) climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

AP Photo/Martin Meissner A replica of the Statue of Liberty by Danish artist Jens Galschiot emits smoke in a park outside the 23rd UN Conference of the Parties (COP) climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

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To understand why Gov. Kate Brown traveled to this month’s United Nations climate change conference in Germany, look back to a meeting of West Coast governors in June.

Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and California Gov. Jerry Brown gathered in Sacramento with Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.

Oregon’s governor returned home from that meeting energized. Bainimarama had told the governors how their states’ efforts to combat global warming gave hope to the Fijian people.

Climate change is real in Fiji, which is why Bainimarama was heartened by the environmental efforts of individual states even though the U.S. officially has backed away from the Paris climate accords. The sea level around Bainimarama’s island nation is rising .2 inch each year, forcing villages to relocate, inundating ancestral burial grounds and increasing the salinity of water for agriculture.

Bainimarama is president of this year’s climate change conference in Bonn, called COP 23, which ended Friday.

Despite the skepticism of the Trump administration, a U.S. government report released this month says that global warming trends will continue, it is “extremely likely” that human activities are the dominant cause, and the resulting tidal flooding already has affected dozens of U.S. cities.

Oregon officials echo that assessment, saying the Pacific Ocean along the state’s 363-mile coastline will rise one to four feet by 2100. The federal report also links climate change to this summer’s devastating wildfires in the West.

The three West Coast governors spoke at COP 23. Jerry Brown said most people have other things on their minds, so it’s critical to help them understand the urgency of confronting global warming. Inslee characterized the West Coast as a blueprint for “how you build a thriving, innovative economy that combats climate change and embraces a zero-emission future.”

Continuing that theme, Kate Brown said that a small state such as Oregon can have a global impact by being a petri dish for innovation.

We hope that she returned from COP 23 energized to confront climate change in concrete ways that help the state’s economy — especially in rural Oregon — as well as the environment.



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