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Ocean Acidification and Warming: The Economic Toll

In a new study authored by Dr. John Talberth and Ernie Niemi of Natural Resource Economics, CSE reviewed the economic consequences of ocean acidification and warming – the two most prominent effects of climate change on our oceans – and estimated what increment to the existing social cost of carbon (SCC) needs to be made to account for these damages. Preliminary results suggest that proper accounting of an economic risk that could approach $20 trillion per year by 2100 would raise SCC 1.5 to 4.7 times higher than the current federal rate, to $60–$200 per metric ton CO2-e. The study has been published online by Elsevier as part of their Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences.

Climate change has the potential to disrupt ocean and coastal ecosystems on a scale that is difficult to grasp. There are two interrelated processes at work: ocean acidification and ocean warming (OAW). Oceans have absorbed roughly half of all anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide. Acidification occurs as the absorption of CO2 triggers a series of chemical reactions that increase the acidity and decrease the concentration of carbonate ions in the water. So far, absorption of CO2 has increased acidity of surface waters by about 30% and, if current trends in atmospheric CO2 continue, by 2100 these waters could be nearly 150 percent more acidic, resulting in a pH that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20 million years. Among the dire predictions associated with acidification include dramatic reductions in populations of some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton – the latter effect putting the entire marine food chain at risk. Some models suggest that ocean carbonate saturation levels could drop below those required to sustain coral reef accretion by 2050.

The second process is ocean warming. The mechanisms of ocean warming are complex, and include heat transfer from the atmosphere, downwelling infrared radiation, stratification, reductions in mixing, changes in ocean currents, and changes in cloud cover patterns. Already, the global average sea surface temperature (SST) has risen by over 2.0 °F since the post-industrial revolution low point in 1909. Sea level rise is one of the most conspicuous effects with potentially catastrophic consequences. Models that account for collapse of Antarctic ice sheets from processes driven by both atmospheric and ocean warming indicate sea level rise may top one meter by 2100 and put vast areas of coastal infrastructure at risk.

Obviously, all these physical effects have enormous economic consequences, yet relatively little research has been completed to date on their expected magnitude, timing, and distribution. Indeed, as late as 2012, several prominent climate researchers concluded that economic assessments of the effects of ocean acidification “are currently almost absent.” To help fill in this information gap, we combed through all published research on OAW economic consequences, updated figures where needed, and made some original calculations of our own to estimate some plausible worst-case scenarios. These scenarios appear in Table 4, below. Alarmingly, they suggest that OAW costs could near $20 trillion per year by 2100 in association with a variety of dramatic impacts, such as loss of all charismatic marine species.

Table 4: Plausible worst-case scenarios and values at risk from OAW

Resource or service at risk Scenario Values at risk

($2016 billions/yr)

Net primary productivity Ocean net primary productivity reduced by 16% $9,232.00
Coral reefs Loss of at least 50% of current coral reef area $5,661.70
Coastal infrastructure Additional SLR of 3 meters via WAIS collapse $3,561.69
Charismatic species 25% of charismatic marine species go extinct $1,104.08
Carbon sequestration 50% loss of ocean CO2 uptake $641.16
Mangroves Loss of at least 15% of current mangrove area $287.42
Fisheries 400 million at significantly increased risk of hunger $245.74
Coastal ecosystems Marine dead zones expand in area by 50% $126.82

The relative lack of understanding about economic consequences has, in turn, translated into a lack of policy mechanisms and research focused on OAW. One of the policy mechanisms where OAW costs are notably absent is the social cost of carbon (SCC) – an increasingly popular regulatory tool for assessing both the costs of greenhouse gas emissions and the benefits of actions to limit emissions. Ostensibly, the SCC includes all known market and non-market costs, yet there are many categories missing or incomplete. One of the bigger holes is OAW and one of the justifications for its absence is the relative dearth of methods or data to quantify economic consequences and the assumption that such impacts are minor enough that society will be able to adapt. In the paper, we argue that such barriers need not restrain the government agencies participating in the SCC’s development and application from incorporating estimates for OAW based on the best available information and inclusive of high-impact but low probability scenarios – two factors that are baked into the regulatory framework for the SCC.

We do so by demonstrating three basic approaches rooted in standard microeconomic models of externalities, capital investment, and risk aversion. The first is based on federal agencies’ current approach for quantifying externalities from GHG emissions using the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) integrated assessment model and economic damage functions suggested by existing literature. The second is a replacement or adaptation cost approach, which views SCC as a current capital investment liability that can be amortized over the adaptation time horizon. The third is an averted-risk approach based on willingness to pay to eliminate the risk of catastrophic changes, an approach that seems most compatible with worst-case scenario requirements under existing law.

In the next phase of this work, the study will be presented to the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Academy of Sciences, who is conducting a review of SCC methods and accepting recommendations for changes in approaches and sources of information. If the SCC is to be an effective regulatory tool and send the right market signal to polluters it must be as complete as possible. By engaging with the IWG on how to best incorporate the enormous toll associated with ocean acidification and warming, we hope to help fill one of SCC’s most serious omissions.

Further reading:

 

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    Forest Carbon Tax and Reward: Creating more jobs and carbon in the woods.

    Deforestation, forest degradation, and unsustainable forest practices are major drivers of climate change. Deforestation and other land-use changes have released approximately 150 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere since 1850, roughly one-fifth of the current atmospheric total. The contributions from forest degradation (i.e. converting real forests into tree plantations) and unsustainable practices (i.e. those that cause irreversible damage to soils) are on the rise. Globally, emissions from forest degradation have increased from 0.4 to 1.0 gigatons CO2 per year between 1990 and 2015. In Oregon, emissions from deforestation and industrial forest practices are not monitored by any state or federal agency but are likely the scond largest source of greenhouse gas pollution each year.

    A swift transformation to sustainable forest practices that halt and reverse deforestation and forest degradation has the potential to capture and store much of the excess carbon that is now fueling climate change. For example, climate scientist James E. Hansen has calculated that we can pull 100 billion tons of carbon from the air through large scale restoration of areas denuded by logging and agricultural expansion. This has the potential to reduce CO2 concentrations by 30 parts per million by 2100, which can make all the difference as to whether humanity achieves the 2° C warming cap established by international agreements or blows past that critical threshold.

    As it has done in the past on so many other issues, Oregon can lead the way. It can do so by passing globally replicable legislation implementing a forest carbon tax and reward program to penalize clearcutting, chemical sprays, short rotations and construction of logging roads and dramatically scale up climate smart forest practices that enhance carbon sequestration and storage capacity of its state and privately managed forestlands.

    Here’s how it would work: Forestland owners who release more carbon through logging than is sequestered by natural forests on their properties would be levied a tax equivalent to the social cost of carbon – roughly $42 per ton of carbon dioxide emitted – on these net emissions. However, forestland owners would receive credits against the levy for a wide range of beneficial practices that bolster carbon storage including long rotations, selective harvesting and set-asides for streams, wildlife, non-timber forest products, recreation, and other beneficial uses. In addition, forestland owners that embrace these practices would be eligible for generous payments from a Forest Carbon Incentive Fund (FCIF) capitalized by the tax and managed by the Department of Forestry in consultation with the Oregon Global Warming Commission. Many forestland owners would make money on this deal – in particular, good actors who know how to produce timber while leaving a real forest behind.

    The revenue impacts of the proposed legislation have yet to be calculated. But a reasonable estimate is that the net (after credits and deductions) tax would generate $50 per thousand board foot harvested – equivalent to $120 million per year at current rates of harvest on industrial forestlands. Oregon’s Department of Forestry and the Oregon Global Warming Commission would keep what they need to fill in their budget holes and administer the tax and reward program. The rest (about $100 million) gets dispersed to forestland owners who agree to implement climate smart, labor intensive practices needed to boost carbon storage and transform Oregon’s private forest landscape from a veritable wasteland of clearcuts and logging roads into a green carpet of healthy, functioning, and naturally evolving forests. If managed well, Pacific Northwest forests have the potential to capture and store more carbon per acre than any other forest type on the planet. A forest carbon tax and reward program would help fulfill this potential and by doing so, create thousands of new jobs.

    A typical multiplier for money spent in the woods paying workers to restore timber plantations back to real forests and implement other climate smart practices is about 60 direct and induced jobs per million dollars invested. That’s 6,000 jobs per year associated with FCIF payments of about $100 million per year. Not a bad deal for skilled forest workers. And a welcome shot in the arm for distressed rural communities searching for ways to decouple from the booms and busts of industrial, high emissions logging cycles.

    Time is running out on the climate time bomb. One of the great contributions Oregon can make on the global stage is to recruit its state and privately held forestlands into its climate agenda, help restore the world’s most effective carbon sink, and create thousands of jobs in doing so. The Oregon Legislature and Governor Brown would do well to provide such leadership by enacting forest carbon tax and reward legislation this year.

    Further reading:

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      Feds Deny LNG Export Through Oregon – Developer Turns to Trump

      nolng-salem_dsl-rally-11-14_12-copy-2

      Students rally in opposition to the LNG pipeline at the Oregon state capitol. Photo: Rick Rappaport.

      by Ted Gleichman

      The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has conclusively rejected the only remaining US West Coast plan to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Canada and the Rockies to Asia. On December 9, 2016, FERC commissioners announced that they had again voted unanimously, 3-0, to refuse federal approval for the $7.6 billion Jordan Cove Energy Project export terminal and the Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline (PCGP).

      Jordan Cove and PCGP are owned by Veresen, Inc., a mid-sized Canadian fossil fuel company trying to use LNG export to catapult into the ranks of the energy big-leagues. On December 15, Jordan Cove announced that they expect that Trump appointees to FERC will reverse the decision, so they intend to restructure the project and reapply for federal approval.

      Here’s why Veresen thinks that could work:

      FERC is chartered for five members serving five-year terms, and they must be divided between the two major parties (or unaffiliated). Two Republican appointees have completed their terms and those seats are vacant. The three remaining commissioners are all Democrats appointed by President Obama. Because of Senate GOP refusals to consider Administration appointees, the White House did not propose anyone to fill the two GOP vacancies. (Obviously, the expectation was that the Hillary Clinton administration would find two moderate Republicans, to be considered by a Senate that seemed likely to be controlled by Democrats.)

      The Trump team will nominate for these two vacancies, and select one of those two to become FERC chair. Presumably, that will happen sometime in the first half of 2017. Then, one of the current Democratic commissioners completes her term June 30. When that vacancy is filled by Trump, his people will constitute a majority. By mid-2019, all five members will be Trump appointees.

      FERC’s original ruling against this fracked-gas export project came March 11, 2016, in a 4-0 vote – even the last GOP commissioner opposed Jordan Cove and PCGP. The December 9 decision denied Veresen requests to reopen the federal approval process.

      This is FERC’s first-ever LNG export rejection. The agency is funded through back-charging its costs as fees to the energy industry, so it is considered a zero-budget entity for the overstressed federal budget process. FERC is notorious for its easy approvals of dirty fossil fuel projects, making this two-part verdict all the more striking.

      FERC’s unprecedented double denial needs to be seen through the frame of an 11-year coordinated grassroots campaign. Dozens of organizations, supporting hundreds of outraged landowners along the pipeline route, have brought together thousands of people all over Oregon to fight this LNG terminal and pipeline.

      The pipeline would run 232 miles across four counties in southwest Oregon, slashing a clearcut the width of an interstate highway across two mountain ranges, five rivers, and 400-plus wetlands and waterways. It would terminate at the Pacific Ocean in Coos Bay, in a fragile estuary inlet. There, the largest dredging project in Oregon coastal history would reconstruct a sand spit for a massive industrial plant – destroying oyster beds and fisheries.

      The plan FERC rejected required a massive new 420-megawatt gas-fired power plant, solely dedicated to Jordan Cove, to cool the fracked gas to minus-261 degrees Fahrenheit, liquefying it for tanker shipping across the Pacific. That plant would have been the largest single carbon emitter in Oregon.

      But along with announcing that they would reapply to FERC, Veresen pulled their request to Oregon to approve the new power plant. They said that they would build gas turbines within the liquefaction plant to cool the gas. This may be cheaper for them to construct, but may emit even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  We’ll be watching as they put out new detailed plans.

      All this is planned for the most dangerous earthquake and tsunami zone in North America, the Cascadia subduction zone. The region is overdue for a earthquake that is guaranteed to be the largest in U.S. history. The Cascadia fault lines crack at a minimum of Magnitude 8, and can exceed Magnitude 9. The earthquake zone ruptures on an average of every 250 years; the last time was 317 years ago, in 1700. The tsunami wiped out every Indigenous coastal village from Northern California to Vancouver Island.

      Veresen has presented itself to Oregon stakeholders and elected officials as an inevitable success. Financially, though, Jordan Cove and PCGP are arguably the weakest of some three dozen multi-billion dollar North American LNG export facilities, proposedapproved, or already operating.

      FERC rejected Veresen’s plans because the company has no guaranteed contracts to sell the fracked gas overseas. Developers must show a so-called “public benefit” for the people of the United States, and FERC defines that to be determined by approval by the market: If a developer can sell a planned fossil fuel product, they’re good to go. FERC had warned the Calgary-based company for years that guaranteed contracts would be critical for permission to move ahead, with specific requests for progress reports – but got back only vague promises that Veresen was unable to fulfill.

      That bottom line requirement was compounded by Veresen’s dismal record in negotiating construction easements from hundreds of landowners along the pipeline route. By the March 11 denial, PCGP could show FERC easements from only 10% of ranchers, farmers, and other private-sector landowners.

      img_5551

      Most land owners along the proposed pipeline route rare challenging the notion that eminent domain should be given to a foreign corporation that intends to export the gas. Photo: Ted Gleichman

      FERC has the power to authorize eminent domain against landowners. This controversial and destructive tool in fracked-gas pipeline development has led to bitter struggles all over the country. Developers typically have to negotiate about 80 percent consent by affected landowners before FERC is comfortable authorizing eminent domain against hold-out landowners and local communities. Forced deprivation of property rights is no small matter.

      Along the PCGP route, landowners and their environmentalist supporters have fought back hard, pledging resistance. According to FERC, the refusal of this enormous majority of landowners along a pipeline route to sign on was unprecedented. In the March 11 and December 9 announcements, FERC detailed deep concern about using unheard-of levels of eminent domain against 90 percent of private landowners for a project that could not demonstrate a “public benefit.”

      The most difficult public issue for project opponents has of course been jobs. The developer can claim accurately that billions of dollars of equipment manufacturing and project construction will generate thousands of temporary living-wage jobs. But jobs that ravage communities and public lands and contribute massively to climate change are not “good” jobs. So simultaneously, we consistently advocate for genuine good jobs, sustainable jobs, converting our state to clean energy and rebuilding our infrastructure for earthquake preparedness and other urgent needs.

      As Veresen showed with the announcement that they will now rely on Trump, the battle is not over. It will take the company several months to assemble a new application for FERC and other agencies; that will launch a renewed environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Veresen contends that their September 2015 Final EIS from FERC is still valid, but that is public spin.  It still exists, for a project that has been denied, like an obsolete law.  They can recycle much of it for their new application, but big pieces of it are obsolete – or were environmentally-flawed when written. Oregon continues to process state permit requests, but our coalition is fighting those effectively too.

      For now, some 12 years since this Canadian company came to Oregon, Veresen has no clear path to construction: FERC has taken them off the federal map. Even a Trump-controlled FERC has to follow the law – although we can expect them to push against their legal obligations. We will push back at each step in a federal process that would likely take two years to get to another FERC decision. In the meantime, we will triumph over them in local and state decision-making.

      In a country filled with critically-important fights to “Keep It In the Ground,” this battle is one of the most consequential. One way or another, grassroots Oregonians are going to continue to defeat dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and build the just transition.

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        This City Just Banned Virtually All New Dirty-Energy Infrastructure

        nnffi_12-14-16-vote_-10_finalcrop_flat-copy

        Portland activists celebrate with Mayor Hales (in tie) the passage of the City ordinance opposing all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Photo: Rick Rappaport.

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          Fossil Fuel Risk Bonds: Making Polluters Pay for the Climate Crisis

          ffrb_blog
          One of the most aggravating aspects of the climate crisis is the fact that fossil fuel companies are passing on huge financial risks to taxpayers and politicians are simply turning their backs on the problem instead of holding those companies accountable. At each stage of the fossil fuel product life cycle, taxpayers are increasingly burdened with a litany of costs such as those associated with fracking-induced earthquake swarms, pipeline explosions, abandoned infrastructure, water pollution and, of course, the costs of climate change. Fossil fuel risk bond programs – a policy innovation proposed by Center for Sustainable Economy – can help reverse this glaring inequity by shifting the economic risk back where it belongs: on the polluters.As set forth in our new report, fossil fuel risk bond programs are systematic efforts by state and local governments to evaluate and respond to the financial risks they face at each stage of the fossil fuel lifecycle in their jurisdictions. Specific fossil fuel risk bond program instruments can be grouped into two broad categories:

          • The first category of risk bonding for fossil fuels would consist of conventional financial assurance instruments such as surety bonds and environmental liability insurance that would address discrete risks caused by particular entities in particular places – such as abandoned infrastructure, explosions, or localized pollution. Fossil fuel risk bond programs can expand the scale (i.e. required coverage amounts) and scope (i.e. types of hazards covered) of these conventional instruments.
          • The second category of risk bonding for fossil fuels would consist of surcharge-based climate or natural hazard risk trust funds. These trust funds can be used by governments to offset public costs of climate-related natural disasters, to pay for the costs of climate adaptation, or to pay for economic damages associated with fossil fuel production and trade that are difficult to attribute to a single entity. They would be capitalized by a surcharge on all fossil fuel transactions in the local economy. The surcharge rate could be based on a jurisdiction’s expected costs associated with climate change, climate adaptation, and other pervasive risks such as earthquake swarms and pollution, and be levied on each ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) embodied in fossil fuels extracted, transported, stored, distributed, and combusted (at least by industry and power plants) by any source in a given jurisdiction.

          The benefits could be huge for states, counties, and cities struggling with rising climate-related costs with no clear way to pay for them. For example, consider a county in which oil, gas, and coal extraction takes place that is also suffering the effects of a strengthening climate change signal in the form of regular 100-year floods. Climate risk trust funds maintained by that county could be used to: (1) compensate homeowners for fracking-related earthquake damage; (2) pay for the costs of filtering water contaminated by tailing pond leaks; (3) pay for the increased public service cost burden associated with oil or gas boomtowns; and (4) relocate infrastructure from floodplains.

          CSE has begun work along the West Coast to promote this policy innovation as part of our work on a just transition toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. In particular, fossil fuel risk bond programs provide a way to ramp up the funding necessary to put scores of people to work – including displaced oil, gas, and coal workers – while ramping down fossil fuel consumption, decommissioning obsolete fossil fuel infrastructure, restoring mines, oil platform sites, and gas well pads back into a natural condition and implementing climate adaptation projects to help make communities safe in the face climate disasters. In a 2012 analysis of oil platforms in Cook Inlet, Alaska, we estimated that decommissioning 16 active oil platforms and 160 miles of pipeline could inject over $1 billion into the local economy.

          As our report goes to press, Fort McMurray, Alberta has experienced one of the scariest signals of climate change – an unprecedented wildfire of epic proportions that burned large portions of the city to the ground. Over 1,600 structures were lost. The economic toll is $1 billion and counting. The irony, of course, is that the city lies at the epicenter of the tar sands industry, producing oil that packs an enormous climate change punch. If fossil fuel risk bond programs were in place, the city, province, and federal governments would have adequate funding to respond to this disaster, help residents rebuild, and invest in a future beyond fossil fuels. Instead, they are left with a blackened landscape and a mountain of debt that has yet to be tallied.

          For a copy of Fossil Fuel Risk Bonds: Safeguarding public finance from product life cycle risks of oil, gas, and coal, click here.

           

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            Economists: New BLM Logging Plan Would Generate More Economic Harm than Good

            deforestCenter for Sustainable Economy has teamed up with Ernie Niemi of Natural Resources Inc. in Eugene to lodge a formal protest of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new long-term logging plan for western Oregon on the grounds that the plan would create more economic harm than good and sabotage sustainable development opportunities in forest-dependent communities.

            According to Dr. Talberth, President and Senior Economist for CSE, “The Obama Administration has chosen to sacrifice natural resources essential to future economic health in order to prop up a destructive industry from the past that has gotten rich off deforestation while leaving workers and communities in the lurch. This does not bode well for the President’s environmental legacy.”

            According to the economists’ protest, the new logging plan would:

            • Kill more jobs than it would create;
            • Force taxpayers to absorb $60 in costs for every $1 in timber sold;
            • Add to the deforestation crisis plaguing western Oregon, and;
            • Generate carbon dioxide emissions that cost society at least $40,000 for every acre clearcut.

            The plan boosts logging levels by 37% over previous levels. Under the new plan, the BLM will offer 256 million board feet of timber for sale each year, the equivalent of over 50,000 log truck loads. To accommodate higher logging levels, the plan would rollback protections for water quality, fish, recreation, spotted owls and old growth forests established over 20 years ago by the Northwest Forest Plan brokered by President Clinton. For example, the number of acres managed for primitive or backcountry recreation experiences would fall by 112,000 acres. The plan would reduce the amount of land in protective streamside zones for water quality and fish by 292,000 acres. The protest argues that the BLM failed to take the negative economic consequences of these changes into account.

            According to NRE’s Ernie Niemi, “The BLM ignored the many studies that document what most of us recognize as common sense: unlogged lands generate jobs by improving the quality of life in nearby communities, attracting new residents, and stimulating business growth. The BLM’s proposal to clearcut unlogged federal lands would kill more long-term jobs than it would create in the timber industry.”

            The core issue raised by the protest – a formal step required by the BLM before a new management plan can be challenged in court – involves often overlooked provisions of the Oregon and California (O&C) Lands Act of 1937 that place constraints on the amount of logging BLM is expected to conduct every year. Those constraints require that the BLM only sell as much timber as it can in “normal” markets and at “reasonable prices.” The two economists argue that timber markets in western Oregon are severely distorted by hidden subsidies that allow buyers and sellers of timber to ignore costs that clearcut logging imposes on others by degrading water in streams, spoiling outdoor recreation opportunities and exacerbating climate change. These costs far exceed the unreasonably low prices the BLM will charge timber companies to clearcut federal lands throughout western Oregon.

            The economists’ protest cites previous studies by CSE that identify the timber industry as Oregon’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter and document how voracious clearcutting has resulted in a loss of forest cover on over 522,000 acres since 2000. “To be consistent with the goal of sustained yield, the BLM should be pulling back on its timber sale program altogether,” Talberth added.

            Read:

            CSE Protest
            Exhibit A: Negative Impacts of Logging (NRE)
            Exhibit B: Benefits and Costs of Logging (NRE)
            Exhibit C: CSE’s comments on the draft RMP and DEIS

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              How Industrial Forest Practices are Subverting Oregon’s Climate Agenda

              ccabClearcutting and use of forest chemicals and fertilizers on industrial forestlands could represent Oregon’s second largest source of global warming pollution and are subverting the State’s climate agenda by making landscapes more susceptible to wildfires, landslides, floods and warm waters that kill salmon. And despite legal requirements to do so, the Oregon Global Warming Commission has failed to track and evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from forest practices or follow through on commitments to develop and promote alternative management techniques that can transform these lands from a net source to a net sink for atmospheric carbon. The key culprit: a flawed international greenhouse gas accounting protocol that lumps all forest owners into one aggregate “forest sector” and allows the timber industry to take credit for carbon sequestered on forests protected by non-profits, small landowners, and public agencies.

              These are the key conclusions of a new report released today by Center for Sustainable Economy and Geos Institute. The report – Clearcutting our Carbon Accounts – is an analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions estimated from State and private lands in western Oregon between 2000 and 2014. The report considered emissions associated with timber harvest, which removes carbon stored in forests for decades, clearcutting beyond the rate of forest regrowth and forest chemicals like Atrazine, 2,4 D, and Glyphosate. Oregon has 1.08 million acres less forest cover than it did in 2000 due to controversial clearcut forestry practices that not only degrade water quality, fish and wildlife habitat but also impede attainment of Oregon’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

              After taking into account carbon stored in longer lived wood products and carbon absorbed by residual forest cover, these emissions were estimated to be 9.75 to 19.35 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMT CO2-e) per year. This represents between 16% and 32% of the 60.8 million MMT CO2-e “in-boundary” emissions estimated for the State by the latest (2012) GHG inventory. The timber industry’s operations on its lands in western Oregon are likely one of the State’s largest sources of GHG emissions – second only to transportation. According to Dr. John Talberth, President and Senior Economist at Center for Sustainable Economy, “Oregon’s climate agenda is taking a big hit from industrial forest practices. Yet decision makers continue to look the other way and buy the industry’s rhetoric that since they grow trees, the State should ignore their greenhouse gas emissions and look elsewhere to meet pollution goals for 2020 and beyond. The reality is that reducing the overall rate of timber harvest and promoting alternatives to clearcutting and chemicals are some of the most effective strategies for meeting Oregon’s emissions targets and will help rebuild our forests’ resiliency to fire, floods, and disease.”

              In 2007, the Legislature adopted targets for reducing Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions and charged the Oregon Global Warming Commission with developing strategies to achieve them. Yet the Commission, to date, only tracks emissions associated transportation, electricity use, natural gas use, agriculture, businesses and homes and ignores what happens on timber industry lands altogether. This is despite clear legislative requirements to track and evaluate emissions from all important sectors as well as “carbon sequestration potential of Oregon’s forests” and “alternative methods of forest management that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce the loss of carbon sequestration to wildfire.” Moreover, the Commission’s Roadmap to 2020 merely assumes that “Oregon’s forests are a carbon sink, capturing more carbon than they release. As such, Oregon’s forests and its forest sector have and will continue to contribute to the goal of achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by remaining a robust and sustainable sector in Oregon.”

              The CSE-Geos report tells a dramatically different story. According to Dr. Dominick DellaSala of Geos Institute, “Oregon’s clearcut forestry practices are polluting the climate with the equivalent emissions of over 2 million vehicles or 7 coal-fired power plants making forestry one of the biggest polluters in the State at a time when Oregon is seeking to drastically cut its global warming emissions. It’s time for forestry to be proactive like numerous other businesses in the State in being responsible for a safe climate and ecologically healthy future.”

              The report was submitted to the Oregon Global Warming Commission, Governor Kate Brown, the Board of Forestry and key legislators. In a letter transmitting the report to the Commission, CSE and Geos have requested a meeting to review the report’s findings and begin the process of enrolling the timber industry in Oregon’s climate agenda.

              Please click here for a copy of our report, “Clearcutting our Carbon Accounts.”

              Please click here for a copy of the transmittal letter to the Oregon Global Warming Commission.

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                CSE Hires Nicholas Caleb as Staff Attorney


                For immediate release

                May 22, 2017

                For more information, contact Nick Caleb: 541-891-6761; Daphne Wysham: 202-510-3541


                The Center for Sustainable Economy (“CSE”) announced today that Nicholas Caleb has joined the organization as CSE’s Staff Attorney. Caleb will provide legal and strategic support to CSE’s Climate Justice program in a full-time capacity.

                Caleb comes to CSE after a stint as the Environmental Policy Analyst for Portland, OR City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. Caleb’s previous positions include: Staff Attorney at Neighbors for Clean Air, Local Climate Law Fellow at Our Children’s Trust, and adjunct professor of government at Concordia University.  Caleb also worked as a legal and policy fellow for CSE in the past.

                Caleb also helped Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler develop an environmental strategy for the City of Portland during the 2016 election. Caleb received his law degree from the University of Oregon and his LL.M. from Tilburg University’s Law and Technology Program.

                “Portland has put in place the strongest ordinance in the country banning all new fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Daphne Wysham, director of CSE’s Climate Justice Program.  “Nick was a key player in the grassroots coalition that worked hard to achieve this victory. We are thrilled to have his skillset in the mix as we develop a strategy for advancing climate justice campaigns at the state and local level, nationally.”


                “I am excited to join CSE,” said Caleb. “The climate movement in the Pacific Northwest is on fire and I feel so lucky that I get to work on the campaigns and projects that will ensure a livable future on this planet.” 

                CSE’s Climate Justice Program takes bold action around the urgent moral imperative of rapidly reducing our collective carbon footprint while ensuring our land use is sustainable for present and future generations. Specifically, we are working to ensure high value carbon sinks, such as old growth forests, are bolstered and expanded as rapidly as possible while ensuring that cities curtail all new fossil fuel export infrastructure as they advance a just transition agenda toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy. Please click here for examples of recent victories and achievements.

                ###

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                  Portland, OR Mayor, Activists Celebrate Trailblazing Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Ban

                  For Immediate Release:            

                  Contact: Mia Reback at 310-717-7966 or mia@350pdx.org; Daphne Wysham at 202-510-3541 or daphne@sustainable-economy.org; or Nicky Vogt at 202-331-2389 or vogt@newpartners.com

                  December 14, 2016

                  Portland, Oregon – Today, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales joined community leaders and activists to celebrate the unanimous passage of a new city ordinance banning new bulk fossil fuel terminals that renews Portland’s commitment to strong climate action, lower carbon emissions, effective seismic resilience, a safer Columbia River Gorge, and a safer environment for those in and around Portland.

                  This first of its kind ordinance prohibits the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure that has the capability to transload fossil fuels or is larger than two million gallons in capacity and forbids existing terminals from expanding in size, preventing any further potential damage to their local environment.nffi-victory_cities-lead-copy

                  (L to R): Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Walla Walla Tribal Elder Cathy Sampson-Kruse and City Councilor Amanda Fritz. Photo: Rick Rappaport

                  The Portland City Council passed two other climate policies on Wednesday morning: home energy scoring which will require energy audits before residential home sales and an update to the city’s electric vehicle strategy. ‘

                  Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said, “Portland has been a world leader in ‪climate action. We were the first U.S. city to adopt a climate action plan. We were the first to bring back the modern streetcar. Now we’ll be the first to deliberately transition from dirty, dangerous fuels to ‪clean, ‪renewable ‪energy with the passage of Portland’s policy that prohibits bulk fossil fuel facilities,” said Mayor Hales. “This work would not be possible without our strong grassroots organizations that have led our city’s efforts forward. Now more than ever, these local community voices are needed, because the risks of not acting on climate change are just too severe.”

                  Mia Reback, Lead Organizer for 350 PDX,  stated, “Portland is taking bold steps to protect our city from the immediate risks of fossil fuels while sending a powerful message to other cities across the nation and the world that the grassroots movement will not let national politics deter cities from taking the lead on climate action. City by city we can, and will, ensure the steps are taken to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, protecting the very essence of life on planet earth.”

                  Micah Meskel, Conservation Field Coordinator at Audubon Society of Portland said,“Today we saw the power of the grassroots prevail. This vote solidifies a historic climate action by the City, one that can be replicated in cities throughout the Northwest, and will spark additional community led initiatives here in Portland to severe our City’s reliance to dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure.”

                  Regna Merritt, Healthy Climate Program Director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility stated, “Low-income populations and communities of color experience the worst impacts of fossil fuels and climate disruption. As we celebrate a huge victory for the health and safety of our community, we urge other communities to take similarly bold actions.”

                  Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, Senior Organizer at Columbia Riverkeeper said, “At a time when people around the world are grappling with how to protect clean water and accelerate a transition away from fossil fuels, Portland is setting a globally significant example and using this geographic and economic opportunity to make a bold statement. “

                  Steve McCoy, Staff Attorney for the Friends of the Columbia Gorge said, “The explosive train wreck in the Columbia River Gorge last June is direct evidence of the dangers of shipping fossil fuels by rail. Portland’s action not only safeguards our children from the immediate dangers of more explosive oil trains passing through our communities, but also makes a strong stand for our children’s children by blocking an avenue for increasing the use of greenhouse gas intensive fossil fuels abroad.”

                  Daphne Wysham, climate program director at the Center for Sustainable Economy, and a member of the Climate Action Coalition said: “With this grassroots-led victory, Portland is showing where the future lies: Not in the boom and bust fossil fuel economy, but in a more equitable low- to zero-carbon economy. Portland’s low-carbon economy now provides about 47,000 middle-wage jobs, representing over $10 billion in goods and services annually, with an average 5 percent annual growth rate–a far more sustainable economy than fossil fuel exports would provide.”

                  This victory is the result of over two years of organizing from local activists and community members committed to the betterment of Portland’s environment and the protection of our neighbors’ health and safety. The ordinance is an important step forward for Portland and should serve as a model for other municipalities and states.  

                  This policy was worked on by 350PDX, Audubon Society of Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper, Climate Action Coalition, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Center for Sustainable Economy, the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club, and more.

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