Comment from Steitz, Jim
I write to urge Northwest Power and Conservation Council to make more aggressive use of efficiency and conservation to cut the region’s use of fossil fuels. These cuts must be as rapid and aggressive as technologically feasible, at least on a scale commensurate with the proportional cuts that the world would need to make to avoid catastrophic global warming, marked by scientists as any increase beyond 2.5˚ F. According to the scientific consensus among climate models, this corresponds to a cut of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2020, and a long-term level of carbon dioxide of approximately 350 parts per million. Although this seems politically and economically unfeasible, the laws of physics and chemistry make no regard for what we consider feasible. Any further delay will ensure that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will reach levels committing our children and grandchildren to ecological and economic havoc that exceeds our worst imaginations. My own home in southern Oregon is projected to experience severe reductions in winter snowpack and worse summer droughts, causing severe degradation of our forest ecosystems and agricultural production. The stress of summer drought is currently a limiting factor on both the natural vegetation systems and the agricultural productivity of southern Oregon. Global warming is likely to exacerbate the summer drought beyond the tolerance limits of these vegetation and agricultural systems. There is also a strong likelihood that the Mt. Ashland ski resort will not survive the projected winter regime changes. Before long, the winter snowpack and season length will diminish below that required for a viable ski resort in this location. Scientists have shown that the observed trends in global warming are beyond even the worst-case scenarios of the International Panel on Climate Change. The accumulation of carbon dioxide is careening out of control, toward levels that will alter the basic geochemical processes on Earth, and thereby threaten human survival. Scientists have shown that, to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the long-term atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide must not exceed 350 parts per million. The current level is 390 parts per million and continues to rise at an accelerating pace. Continuation of current policy will send carbon dioxide levels to 600 parts per million and beyond, rendering the Earth uninhabitable to human civilization as we know it. I believe the NPCC should endeavor for a level of emissions cuts that, if attained proportionally across the world, would avert these worst-case scenarios. While significant damage to our agricultural systems, oceans, coastal cities, and water supplies is now inevitable, there remain more catastrophic consequences that we can still avoid, and the NPCC should play its proportional role. NPCC should also recognize the important influence of urban planning and land-use policy upon electricity demand. NPCC should exercise any means available to encourage the use of multi-unit, high-density housing, which exerts less per-capita electricity demand than low-density, single-unit housing. NPCC should also recognize the value of high marginal electricity rates in encouraging conservation, and encourage utilities minimize the flat-fee portion of electricity bills. Electricity prices that reflect the full impact of its production upon the environment and upon society are the best incentive for widespread conservation efforts.