Climate change in the Rogue Valley

When I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, the prognosis without treatment was two months to live. The proposed treatment of four rounds of chemotherapy, total body irradiation and a bone marrow transplant raised this to a 50 percent chance of survival at two years. While this might not seem very positive, compared to the two-month prognosis it glowed. There was no guarantee treatment would cure the condition, but failing even to try guaranteed an unpleasant outcome.

The same is true for climate change. It may be too late, but if we don't even try to address the problem it assuredly is too late. When our grandchildren ask us what we did about climate change, responding, "I threw in the towel — there was no use trying" won't be adequate.

This last article in a series focuses on what is happening locally and the imperative for us to act.

The "Renewable Energy Assessment; Jackson and Josephine Counties" confirmed that the major sources of carbon emissions in our valley are transportation, electricity generation and the manufactured consumer products we buy. The project's main goals are to encourage clean energy generation and promote energy efficiency wherever possible.

In terms of reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions, energy efficiency is always the "low-hanging fruit." Rogue Solar promotes installation of solar systems domestically and commercially throughout the region. Clean Energy Works of Oregon helps homeowners increase domestic energy use efficiency and transform energy-wasting homes into comfortable, energy-efficient living spaces.

Additionally, in Ashland, the Conservation Commission educates and advocates for the wise use of resources by the city government and the people of Ashland while the Geos Institute helps people predict, reduce and prepare for climate change.

Finally, a recently formed grassroots Rogue Valley climate protection organization is developing plans to promote public awareness and understanding of climate change and its consequences and promote reasoned local responses. The group meets monthly; for information contact this author.

At the state level, Gov. John Kitzhaber has developed a draft 10-year energy plan and supports the Oregon Global Warming Commission.

Although the impression often created in this country is that the public generally rejects climate change, a recent poll revealed that 75 percent accept global warming is happening while 66 percent think action is required to address the problem. Unfortunately, we have a fossil fuel industry — joined by a number of wealthy individuals, politicians, and political commentators — actively spreading deception, distortion and disinformation about climate change and promoting the illusion of scientific disagreement. This despite the fact that 97 percent of practicing climate scientists agree it's happening and driven by our actions; a greater scientific consensus is difficult to imagine.

One result of the skeptics' campaign is that elected representatives at all levels reject the science and fail to act in appropriate ways to address the issue. Another problem is that many of us think our contribution to addressing climate change is insignificant, so we avoid personal commitments to doing so.

Two claims regarding climate change that we often hear are false: that it's too expensive to address, and that addressing it requires returning to the Stone Age. A valuable study by Mckinsey & Company consultants reveals, first that we could mitigate the total annual carbon releases of the U.S. and China combined with actions that save money. The study also indicates that, rather than returning to the Stone Age, these actions involve the application of advancing technology.

Given the general failure of all levels of governments to address climate change, the advice of Mark Hertsgaard seems timely: "If America is to vanquish the climate villains and win the quest for survival, we the people will have to be our own (climate) heroes."

We cannot change the behavior of everyone on the planet, but we can do what we can do. On a personal level, there are many adjustments in daily behavior that we can undertake to address the issue.

The key is to reflect on our daily lives and reduce our energy consumption wherever possible. This especially requires that we focus on electricity use, transportation and consumer purchases. Thus we should evaluate the need each time we turn on a switch that consumes electricity, hop in a vehicle to take a trip or buy items that require energy in their manufacture or transport. While each act we undertake may seem small and inconsequential, it's worth remembering that the cumulative impact of millions of painless choices can be immense.

Finally, before voting, we should insist that our elected representatives at all legislative levels acknowledge climate change in decisions they make addressing natural resources and functions of their governmental jurisdictions that consume energy.

For Internet links and links to documents mentioned, please visit:

Alan Journet, a retired ecologist, lives in the Applegate Valley. He can be reached at

Share This Story