Katie Kulla photo##This panorama was captured in Spring Valley, which lies in Willamette Mission State Park. It’s future may depend on our ability to cope with a warming climate.
Katie Kulla photo##This panorama was captured in Spring Valley, which lies in Willamette Mission State Park. It’s future may depend on our ability to cope with a warming climate.
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Casey Kulla: County can help us all address climate change

Over the course of my campaign for county commissioner, I was asked regularly, “What is the greatest challenge facing Yamhill County?”

While we face many complex challenges today, including homelessness, lack of affordable housing, population growth, mental illness and chemical dependency, we can solve all these problems together with our existing partners and knowledge. So, I answered honestly: “Climate change.”

I view climate change as our greatest challenge because it’s global in scale and affects every aspect of our lives.

When we are presented with a challenge on the farm, we see an opportunity. In climate change, I see opportunity for our county to strengthen the relationship between farmers and consumers and rebuild the relationship between the county and its residents.

What does climate change look like for Yamhill County? According to the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, the basic framework of our future entails shorter, wetter winters and longer, hotter, drier summers.

If we continue to increase our carbon emissions, the county average temperature will increase by 3-7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. What does that mean?
It means a shift from conifers to oak and other drought-tolerant species in our forests, and increasing wildfire risk. You can learn about the wildfire risk for your specific address at the Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer, found at oregonexplorer.info/topics/wildfire-risk?ptopic=62.

The crops we grow on the farm will change, too.

In its Third Climate Assessment Report, the institute says, “Warming winters, expanding growing seasons and carbon enrichment may boost yields for some Oregon crops and create opportunities to grow some new crops.” However, in the long term, increased heat and drought stress, water shortage and additional pest pressure will likely outweigh benefits, according to the summary found at occri.net/media/1045/ocar3_final_legsummary.pdf. 

Guest Writer

Casey Kulla is a Grand Island farmer and county commissioner-elect. He’s also the holder of a master’s degree in forest ecology. He enjoys surfing the Oregon Coast and hiking wild areas with his wife, Katie, and children, Dottie and Rusty. He is committed to preserving those opportunities for future generations, despite the challenges posed by climate change.

We are facing shorter, wetter winters and longer, hotter and drier summers, resulting in more wildfire, poorer growing conditions for our favored crops and lower water quality and quantity. Lower stream flows, warmer water and spreading algal blooms on the Yamhill River will damage agricultural irrigators, recreators and fish.

Speaking of fish, according to the report, “Climate change uniquely affects the culture, sovereignty, health, economy and ways of life of American Indian tribes,” who are typically more dependent on and invested in traditional natural resources.

Tackling climate change at the county level is necessary and timely.

The governor’s office is presenting a cap-and-trade/invest bill in the 2019 legislative session. It would restrict Oregon’s carbon emissions, with a goal of reducing emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The trade component involves taxing carbon emissions by the largest point-source emitters, but allowing companies that have reduced their emissions sufficiently to sell emissions permits to others who find it harder to reduce their carbon emissions so rapidly. The invest component means the state invests carbon tax revenue in carbon emission-reduction through the financing of window and insulation upgrades in older homes and installation of rooftop solar collectors on rural buildings.

While the Legislature will likely pass some version of cap-and-trade/invest, what can we do in Yamhill County to address climate change without singling out point-source emitters? How can we tackle climate change together?

There are three primary ways we can combine forces to address climate change in the county: mitigation, adaptation and sequestration. Mitigation means reducing our carbon emissions, adaptation adjusting to a changing climate and sequestration removing carbom from the atmosphere.

In the simplest terms, mitigation is about making more of our electricity from carbon-free sources and increasing the efficiency of our energy-consuming devices. For example, Oregon is hoping to achieve 50 percent carbon-free energy generation by 2050, and some other states, along with many cities, are aiming for 100 percent.

In Yamhill County, we have a number of utility-scale solar arrays, which produce carbon-free electricity. They do require energy in the production of the panels, of course.

Thus far, these solar arrays have been sited mainly on farmland featuring high-value soils, thanks to proximity to high-capacity power lines and relatively low rent. But the county effectively banned solar arrays earlier this year, due to concerns about loss of farmland, use of gravel, persistent use of herbicides and aesthetic considerations.

With a little creative thinking, our county could spur greater generation of carbon-free electricity without sacrificing either farmland or our breathtaking views.
For example, the county could leverage state dollars to upgrade the capacity of power lines in areas of lower-value soils, so arrays could be installed there. And it could require all farm tracts to feature solar arrays continue to be actively farmed.

The county also has the ability to waive permit fees for new residential and commercial buildings in exchange for incorporating solar arrays. For existing buildings, the county could waive property taxes for 10 years in exchange for new on-site arrays.

On another front, Yamhill County could match the state goal for carbon-free energy by becoming more efficient.

In rural areas, an older, less-insulated home might use 200 kilowatt-hours of PGE electricity a month for heating and lighting. If the county devoted state carbon tax dollars to upgrading insulation, windows and lights, it could cut usage in half.

Adaptation in Yamhill County would require preparing for longer summers and shorter winters. For example, we could reverse the forecasted trend toward lower summer water levels in rural wells and streams by using abundant winter rainfall to recharge our aquifers. The water would re-emerge in summer as a filtered product.

Water management would require helping farmers, rural residents and county public works crews re-vegetate and maintain ditches and field edges. We could also slow down the water that emerges from farm drain tile outlets, allowing it to infiltrate swales lined with native plants.
Adaptation also means fireproofing our buildings as our wildfire risk increases.

Helping homeowners on the urban-wildland edge maintain a defensible perimeter and convert siding and roofing to non-combustible materials would serve to prevent wildfires from becoming structure fires. Providing incentives for maintaining on-site water storage for firefighting would also help.

Developing a countywide fire district would reduce wildfire loss by boosting manpower, thus reducing response time. Conducting prescribed burns under the direction of trained fire managers would help foster greater safety and a proactive county culture.

Ultimately, adaptation requires we acknowledge water is a precious resource that must be conserved in our county, and that fire is an inevitable factor in our landscape.

For farmers and foresters, adaptation also means a switch to new crops and trees. The USDA has a great resource at the NW Climate Hub, found at climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/hubs/northwest.

Sequestration is the easy part for us, as we are really good at growing plants, and absorb pull carbon from the atmosphere for storage in stable forms. An acre of mature Douglas-firs sequesters 120,000 pounds of carbon all on its own.

I propose our county contract with the Miller Woods native plant nursery to provide trees and shrubs to homeowners, farmers and rural residents, and assist them in planting field edges, yards and rights-of-way. There are many fields in our county that would benefit from conversion to forestland, an idea codified in our comprehensive land use plan.

Farmers have a role to play in sequestration, as soil can store tons of carbon in decay-resistant compounds. All it takes is planting cover crops for carbon storage.

And planting shade-loving native plants under and beside solar arrays would further our sequestration, adaptation and mitigation goals.

As residents of Yamhill County, we are already experiencing the effects of climate change. We need to seize the opportunity to innovate together for a better, more resilient future.

Comments

Joel

Thanks Mr Kulla for including the link to the wildfire risk map. I've spent the last hour or so exploring it. I had no idea that excellent resource was available. Thanks again!

gregtompkins

Could all the farmers in Oregon just get into the sequestration business instead of what they’re already doing? With cap and trade coming all their costs are going to skyrocket. And how much would state of Oregon pay them? I could envision a lot of folks retiring and switching to the sequestration business. And also wouldn’t it make more sense to instead of having wine fields all over the county have forests instead? We need our fresh air and our temperatures to be lowered not to be intoxicated on wine!

Don Dix

Mr. Kulla states -- 'If we continue to increase our carbon emissions, the county average temperature will increase by 3-7 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. What does that mean?'

3 -7 degrees F in 22 years? That's a larger pile of B.S. than Al Gore could even muster, and he has been proven totally wrong on many levels.

Carbon is the basis for life on Earth, and without it, all life forms go extinct. OHSA has health limits for CO2 -- 5000PPM for a 40 hr. workweek. At 150 PPM, life forms on Earth are at extreme peril. If today's measurements mean anything (400PPM), it is that the Earth is much closer to extinction levels than an overdose.

And taxing an essential element to supposedly mitigate a change in climate is typical government action -- which is creating new ways to extract $ from the sheep.

You can't legally make a scam like this up -- but the government certainly seems to have no boundaries!

Don Dix

Sorry -- should read -- 3 - 7 degrees F in 32 years?

Mike

Don. Why government? Kulla is expressing his personal opinion. He is new at being Government. Do you have the same reaction to another man who happens to be our president when he expresses his sometime pretty odd and not completely truthful opinions? Do you call his statements examples of government scams?

E.J. Farrar

gregtompkins, my vineyard produces lots of oxygen along with grapes, but by all means, cover your property with trees. I’m sure your neighbors will thank you for it.

Don Dix

Mike -- why government you ask. The organization that issues the reports and predictions, the IPCC, consists mostly of government diplomats. The final reports and assessments are not written by the scientists, but those same diplomats.

Ottmar Edenhofer, IPCC official, made this statement in 2010 -- "One must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole."

The EPA (government) has declared CO2 a 'pollutant'. A trace compound that is essential for every life form on earth, basically plant food, is now the evil root of all things related to warming (according to government) -- and needs to be taxed.

Locally, Oregon (government) will make every attempt to tax carbon universally. And the revenue will make no difference in the climate -- but state spending (most likely foolish spending) will certainly receive a substantial boost.

The predictions that have not materialized -- ice free Arctic by 2013 (but it did happen -- in 1922), flooding coastlines due to sea level rise causing 50M climate refugees, Polar Bear extinction, more frequent and stronger storms, global drought, raging fires, etc. All these (and other) scenarios have been based on results of computer models that used 'adjusted data' instead of the raw data available. In other words, the climate was made to appear warming by 'fudging down' historical data, which works until the truth is known.

My opinion is based on fact, history, and a penchant to question what seems, at best, dubious. Following blindly has never been my way.

Mike

Don. Yes now I see you were more focused on the scam of climate change by government and poor Mr. Kulla's use of it in his opinion article. Your facts are excellent and I'm sure your sources are impeccable. You do focus on Carbon (CO2). You don't mention any other of the other human produced contributors to climate change, like methane. I agree with you there is little a city, state, or a go it alone federal government can do about reducing our collective world wide impact on the Earth. You are wonderfully optimistic it is a scam by government to get you to pay more taxes with the con that they are fighting climate change. You even seem optimistic about a government being coordinated and competent enough to pull off such a vile scam. I guess I believe what I've seen of the information indicates we are killing ourselves. I hope your optimism is well founded and our great grand children and their children do not have to experience the horrors of our bequest.

Don Dix

Mike -- When an official member of the IPCC states that the climate change policies are no longer about the environment and instead about redistribution of the world's wealth, that should open eyes to the truth.

Since the 'scare' of communist invasion in the 50s & 60s, the government has 'created' several frightening predictions:
Early 70s -- global cooling
Late 70s -- peak oil in next decade (Carter)
80s -- millions will die from hole in the ozone
Late 90s -- Y2K computer meltdown
2000s -- global warming (changed to climate change to cover all bases)
2010s -- climate change will create monster storms and weather anomalies that will destroy the Earth

Did any of these 'predictions' occur? -- nope! And each were government produced.

When the Earth emerged from the Little Ice Age (approx. 1350 - 1850) global temps were 1 - 2 degrees cooler than the preceding the Medieval Warm Period (when parts of Greenland were being farmed).

So a warm period, followed by a cold period, and now followed by another warming is not natural? This phenomenon has been exactly the course of Earth's climate since creation. And suddenly it's man's CO2 that is responsible for the warm-up coming from a natural cold period -- sorry, but simple deduction reveals 'there's a finger on the scales'.

Mike

Don. You are an optimist. And everything is the government's fault. Who was it said the government's the problem? I'm glad you believe our 8 Billion people contaminating the Earth and her atmosphere as fast as we can is really all a government scam. We each take in information and choose what to believe. You're lucky to have a 'government scam' theory. Even for the dude who cried wolf, there was a time when there is a wolf. I guess I add up the current reports and date and see a wolf approaching. You see it as another false alarm. Lucky you.

Don Dix

Mike -- Pollution, in my perspective, is not anything essential to life. CO2 is essential. And nature contributes 96 - 97% of the total. Consider the entire atmosphere -- 10,000 white marbles equals the total atmosphere -- replace 4 with black marbles (CO2) -- there's the relationship (.04 -- 4 tenths of 1 percent).

Once again -- since 0 A.D. there have been 4 events of warming or cooling. Roman Warm Period to about 400 A.D. -- a slight cooling until 900 A.D. -- Medieval Warm Period until 1300 A.D. -- Little Ice Age ending about 1850 A.D. -- and today's warming since. If, as some scientists report, CO2 levels have been stable for 3000 years (around 300 PPM), how did the temps fluctuate so widely?

People believe one thing or another for different reasons. And information is processed in various ways. To abandon specific knowledge and known, proven events of history based solely on a flawed, unproven hypothesis (CO2 causes warming) is a negligent approach, in my opinion. And the prescribed cure to battle Mother Nature is 'send more money'? Seriously, can it be that simple?

Mike

Don. I'm enjoying our conversation. It is not only CO2, it is methane and other things we're doing to degrade our home. There are 8 billion of us burrowing and exhausting into our home and it's air. It is too late in my opinion to do anything about it. Like so many civilizations before us we will continue until we disappear. The ocean and land systems which moderate our environment (including CO2) are being altered by our behavior. You think it is a government scam to distribute wealth. I see it as each of us living the good life and screw our children's future.

Don Dix

Mike -- Distributing wealth is much different than re-distributing wealth. When those who provide the 'assessments of the climate' (IPCC) admit the policy is no longer about the environment, but a redistribution of wealth, there's an obvious clue.

All those alarmists (dignitaries, Hollywood faces, and investors in policy changes) who live the large life while urging us to limit our carbon footprint -- create suspicion as the first reaction. Most own large, multiple residences, travel abundantly, and point fingers at the waste of others. They include themselves in the 'collective we' (as in 'we' must cut CO2 output), yet those parameters apparently do not apply to them -- Animal Farm comes to mind.

Motherof3

I am very dismayed that Commissioner Kulla has focused on issues that do not directly concern our county truly. The issues he represents in the article are actually typical of weather patterns if you look over last 100 years. 1-3 % change in climate does not change the weather patterns. I have to wonder who Kulla is working for if his priority is climate change and weed at the Capitol. His family are big weed growers and immediately I assume conflicts interest.

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