Recently Yale University researchers released the results of a nationwide opinion survey on climate change.* The large sample survey allowed researchers to provide results down to the county level across the U. S.
And what did it say about opinions in Marion County?
Our Marion County Board of Commissioners, who frequently express their skepticism and indifference to climate change, might be surprised at these results:
• 70% of Marion County residents affirm that global warming is happening; only 13% deny it is happening.
• 68% trust what scientists are telling us about global warming.
• 70% believe that global warming will harm future generations.
• 73% believe we need to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.
Despite this overwhelming trust in the results of climate science, and desire to do something about it on the part of Marion County residents, Marion County Commissioners have resisted, and continue to resist, doing anything about climate change.
At a candidate forum at the Salem Public Library on April 18th, candidates for County Commissioner were asked if they would have the county join the City of Salem in developing a climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region. All of the candidates said they would, with the exception of incumbent Commissioner Kevin Cameron.
What was his response? He said this: “So, climate change … if you look at the history of the earth it changes all the time.”
According to the website Skeptical Science, Cameron’s remark matches the #1 “climate myth” most used by climate change deniers. It’s an attempt to say the phenomenon is natural — we aren’t causing it and there is nothing we can do about it. So his opinion is in line with the 13% of Marion County residents who deny anthropogenic climate change and don’t want to do anything about it.
His colleague, Commissioner Sam Brentano, sits on the transportation policy committee of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments where he has threatened to block a required update of our regional transportation plan if it includes any plans to address climate change. If the plan is not adopted next year, our region will lose eligibility for Federal transportation dollars.
The Salem City Council opposes Brentano’s efforts and recently endorsed a goal for the transportation plan “to have a regional transportation system that is planned to minimize the impact to the natural and built environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
But Commissioner Brentano seems ready to have us lose millions of Federal transportation dollars if it means having to measure our greenhouse gas emissions and develop plans to reduce them in our transportation system. The minutes of the May policy committee meeting state that, “Commissioner Sam Brentano advised the group that the Marion County Board of Commissioners are united against specifying greenhouse gases in [the plan] … He has no problem with cutting pollutants in general but greenhouse gases can’t be the primary pollutant that we address.”
For now Brentano’s bullying on climate change is working. The policy committee has drafted language for their plan that states, “Consideration should be given to factors that reduce or mitigate the effect of the transportation system has on the environment, which may include air pollution, water pollution, stormwater, greenhouse gases, and noise pollution.”
That’s right. They want our plan to suggest that the threat from greenhouse gases is equivalent to that from noise pollution.
Many of us are appalled at the fact that we have a climate change denier in the White House. But we should be equally appalled by the climate change deniers on the Marion County Commission, and we should be working to show them the door at the earliest opportunity.