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by Joanne Cvar
Coastal residents gathered in Waldport to join more than 5,400 rallies and demonstrations across the world on Saturday, Oct. 24, a Day of Climate Action bringing attention to the number 350, as in parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere. Scientists now believe that number is the upper limit the planet can sustain if life on earth as we know it is to survive. We are now at 390 ppm.
Vicki Osis, marine education specialist now retired from a 30-year career at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, presented the disturbing facts of current climate science to about 15 concerned citizens at the public library in downtown Waldport, where the upper level of estimated sea level rise plus tidal action had been marked with yellow ribbon on an outside pillar.
According to Professor Osis' research review, potential impacts on the Pacific Northwest of climate change due to global warming include temperature increases of 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2040; shorter, wetter winters with more intense storms and rainfall; longer drier summers resulting in earlier runoff and less stream flow for power, irrigation, and municipal water sources; extreme wildfire danger; warming and acidification of ocean waters resulting in loss of fisheries; and sea level rise, particularly north of Florence, where the coast is subsiding.
Benchmarks located in Old Town, the south end of the Alsea Bridge, and the east end of the Lint Slough Bridge indicate an average elevation in lower Waldport of 12.24 ft. Although estimated levels would vary according to geological conditions, the UN Environment Program recently estimated that, due to thermal expansion of warming waters and melting of land-based polar ice and glaciers, a general sea level rise of six ft. will occur by 2100 if sufficient mitigating steps are not taken.
Activists placed blue ribbons on the flagpole in front of Waldport High School and near the benchmark at the north end of Mill Street which indicate the six-ft. predicted increase plus the current average high tide level of 7.5 ft., for a total of 13.5 ft. potential tidal reach by 2100. Yellow ribbons indicate the highest recorded storm tide in the area, for a potential tidal reach of 18.28 ft. above current sea levels.
Significant steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are urgently needed to avoid such catastrophic environmental changes. Osis urged her audience to reduce individual "carbon footprints" through energy conservation in their personal lives, such as weatherization of their homes and upgrading to energy-efficient vehicles and appliances. Osis noted that state and federal tax credits, plus incentives from local utility companies, are available to help with the cost of these and other conservation measures. Car-pooling, using public transportation, cutting back on airline travel, and shopping locally also lower everyone's carbon footprint.
To help meet the challenge, new zoning laws taking climate change impacts into consideration are needed, especially for low-lying areas that will be flooded by higher tidal levels. Though individuals can make a significant difference, the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions are industrial. It is critically important to move away from fossil fuels. Switching to renewable fuels will reduce C02 emissions, end our dependence on foreign oil, and end the pollution and destructive mining operations involved in coal extraction.
Caption to the accompanying image. "A pole in Old Town Waldport, near a surveying benchmark, elevation 12.277 ft., is marked with blue ribbon at where a six-foot sea level rise, plus the average 7.5 ft. high tide would reach. The yellow ribbon marks the highest storm tide recorded in our area, at 18.6 ft. (12.6 ft plus the six-ft. predicted rise.)
Photo by Art Cvar"
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