Others Say 6/6/14

John Kitzhaber has other challengers within his party

Eighty-one Democrats in Clatsop County took the trouble to write in votes for governor on the primary election ballot. Some of those votes were for Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler.

Elsewhere, something more significant happened.

In last week’s edition of Willamette Week, Nigel Jaquiss reported: “(Voters) even appeared to send a subtle message to Gov. John Kitzhaber. We’re not sure, but the 27,000 Democratic voters backing a challenger — who didn’t campaign and has the unforgettable name of Ifeanyichukwu C. Diru — might have been telling Kitzhaber something about Cover Oregon.”

If significant numbers of Democrats withhold their votes from Kitzhaber in November, the Republican candidate Dennis Richardson would have an opening.

Kitzhaber’s margin of victory over Republican Chris Dudley in 2010 was only 22,238 out of roughly 1.5 million votes cast. The electorate four years ago was ambivalent about giving Kitzhaber a third term as governor.

Richardson does not have the star power that the former Portland Trail Blazer Dudley possessed. But state Rep. Richardson has the legislative experience Dudley lacked.

The Cover Oregon debacle is the most glaring evidence that Kitzhaber is not in control of state government. The expensive Rudy Crew embarrassment was another clue that Kitzhaber was not on top of his game.

If Richardson plays to his strength —deep knowledge of state government — and stays away from social issues that have hobbled GOP candidates in statewide elections, he will have a good shot at upsetting Kitzhaber.

­— The Daily Astorian


Deal with climate now

Tens of thousands of studies on global warming have been published in recent years, enough to discredit the idea that human-caused climate change is not real — or that it can safely be ignored until it gets much worse.

Now, the third U.S. National Climate Assessment says the effects are having increasingly severe consequences in every region of the U.S. That includes Oregon, where changes in snowmelt are drawing down water supplies; rising sea levels, erosion and increasing ocean acidity are damaging infrastructure and compromising ecosystems, and forests are under assault by intense wildfires, insects and tree disease.

The White House report says these and similar changes across the country have been caused by an average warming of less than two degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. If greenhouse gases generated by burning fossil fuels continue to accumulate at the current rate, temperatures could rise by 10 degrees by the end of this century.

Let the scientists speak for themselves: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present,” they wrote. “Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours. People are seeing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that thrive in their gardens, and the kinds of birds they see seasonally in their neighborhoods.”

Mandated by Congress and published every four years, the assessment is a rigorously researched and peer-reviewed resource that is intended to help public officials, business leaders and everyday Americans make more informed decisions — not, as critics claim, a conspiratorial attempt to scare Americans and cripple the economy.

And, yes, the report duly notes that there are benefits from warmer temperatures, but in most cases those benefits eventually will be negated by the ratcheting effects of climate change. For example, the report finds some parts of the country enjoying longer growing seasons. But it warns food production in those areas will decline as temperatures rise and water becomes more scarce.

In the absence of action from Congress, President Obama has taken measures. He created “climate hubs” in Oregon and other states to work with farmers, industry groups and federal agencies to help prepare them for climate disasters such as wildfires, flooding and droughts. He ordered the EPA and the Transportation Department to develop tougher fuel economy standards for heavy trucks. The administration plans to reduce emissions of methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas. And the EPA is expected to issue controversial new rules to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are spewed by power plants.

They’re all long-overdue measures. But even tougher steps will be needed, requiring the kind of powerful public support helping to force changes for cleaner water and air in the 1960s and 1970s. It will require cooperation and leadership from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. And it will require the kind of sacrifices and cooperation that Americans have made in response to past crises — actions they are fully capable of taking once again when they understand that climate change is already happening and that the stakes are high for future generations.

— The (Eugene) Register-Guard


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