Cutting CO2 in Corvallis, by Johnny Moses

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Climate change has been an issue full of controversy and conflicting ideals for decades. Scientific discoveries have continued to validate the very real reality that our world is undergoing drastic change at an unsustainable level, unless dramatic changes are implemented as soon as possible. While there are still those that oppose this notion, it can be fairly said that this stems from naivety or by having an ulterior motive that would incentivize you to combat the concept of climate change, such as being a lobbyist for coal and oil production. The extensive impacts that humans has caused over the last few hundred years have begun to become detrimental to ecosystems, wildlife, and life as we know it.

Our home here in the pacific northwest hasn’t had to deal with the full extent of these changes, but by no means does it mean that it should be ignored. Even though those of us living in these areas may not outwardly notice the shifts, there are red flags appearing everywhere. Seasons are starting out of place, temperatures are consistently reaching new highs, and the frequency and magnitude of storms continues to rise at an astronomical rate. Huge portions of pollution are sourced from just a few major countries such as China and the United States. While it may seem like your choices matter in comparison to these entities, It takes a conscious effort from each and every one of us to slow the damage that we have caused, regardless of how communities in other regions choose to operate.

Now that global climate change has been proven, it’s time to take a look at how this will have an impact here in Corvallis. It’s difficult to predict exactly how rapidly change will occur, as it is entirely dependant on how well humans handle this issue. Thankfully, the city of Corvallis is aware of the pressing issue, and has since initiated their first ever climate action plan. The plan started back in 2013, and has been working diligently to combat climate change for the last five years. Over the next several generations we will start to see more and more of the negative effects of climate change; our coasts, forests and waterways are all at risk.

The Corvallis Climate Action Plan has a set of four goals spanning out over several decades to do their part in slowing climate change. A major goal aims to reduce community wide greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent each year, with the aim of emitting only a quarter of the emission levels produced back in 1990. The plan also works to implement new strategies that will prepare us for increasing temperatures and fossil fuel prices. Finally, as a way of tracking progress; greenhouse gas emissions will be monitored annually. Optimistically these goals can be met or even exceeded. If they are not reached however, our local community can expect a number of consequences. The most noticeable effect will be the dramatic rise in temperature. We have experienced an increase of over one degree fahrenheit during the last century, but that number could rise into a range of eight to twelve degrees by 2080! Even just an increase of a single degree has had a substantial impact, so just imagine what ten times that amount could do.

The members of the Corvallis Climate Action Plan meet with each other on the fourth thursday of each month to track progress and discuss future plans. The advisory board is in place to make sure that emissions are being cut at a steady rate in order to meet the established goals stated in the climate action plan. The most recent meeting of the advisory board was on october 25th, located at on the second floor of the Corvallis fire station. Each meeting follows a structured format; starting with reviewing the previous meeting, going into detail about their plans of operation, and even leaving some time to open up the floor to community members that may have comments or questions regarding the plan.

Currently, the advisory board is working on coordinating with the mayor’s office to increase their funding and hire a full time staff that works on the Climate Action Plan agenda. Another project that the board is working on is to integrate C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) into Corvallis. C-PACE is currently only being used in Portland and Multnomah counties, but the team is hoping to bring it into Benton county. C-PACE works to help fund sustainable projects, such as new solar panels or electrical vehicle charging stations. C-PACE will make certain projects much more feasible to implement sooner rather than later.

There is also the possibility of a carbon fee being instituted in Corvallis. The fee would charge $10 per ton of carbon pollution, with that money eventually going back to households. This is something that is being done in other areas and is working well to lower CO2 emissions. The plan incentivized households to cut their own carbon footprints by rewarding them with a dividend return based on their emission levels. It gives power to us as individuals to take this initiative into our own hands, rather than allowing it to be entirely dictated by the power companies.

Another way that we will be able to monitor where some of the most correctable sources of emissions come from is by conducting home performance ratings. These ratings are now in full effect in Portland, and the effects are noticeable. Home performance ratings test the efficiency and potential average energy consumption of each household, providing the homeowner / City of Corvallis with valuable information about each property. By identifying which homes and building styles are the least efficient, we can then prioritize updating these homes and upgrading them with more modern technologies. The performance ratings will also challenge home builders to stop producing inefficient homes that aren’t as sustainable as they could be.

The final initiative that the Climate Advisory Board is working towards is to create the Corvallis Carbon Offset Fund. This fund is not a perfect solution to combating CO2 production, but it does help to stabilize emission levels and has been proven to make a positive difference in other places. If the fund gets put into place, then the funds would be collected and distributed to organizations around the area that work on offsetting carbon emissions. There are active carbon offset funds in place that many people donate to, but these are hard to quantify on a local scale and don’t necessarily impact the climate here in Corvallis. Creating an offset fund locally would allow for Corvallis residents to donate towards a good cause, while having some control on how their donation will have an impact. This will motivate more concerned citizens to step in and do their part when they can see the results of their contributions.

The Corvallis community has been working towards becoming green for much longer than the Corvallis Climate Action Plan has been in place, as the plan is mainly to make it an official and measurable goal. Corvallis has officially been a green city for several years now, and continues to find new ways to make the “green” push. The OSU campus is home to every single native plant species in the state of Oregon. We have protected parks and nature areas all over town. We have bike lanes incorporated into nearly every single street, along with paths that lead to all of the nearby surrounding areas. Many people do not drive to work or to class, which helps to cut back on some of the CO2 emissions from vehicles. Corvallis also is home to a large amount of solar panels compared to many of our neighbors.

The Corvallis Climate Action Plan is a great way to set measurable goals and inspire members of our community to step up and achieve the goals that we have set. Having specific goals in writing adds a level of seriousness to this cause, rather than it being more of a concept / idea. While the members of the Climate Advisory Board work diligently to get all of their plans set into action, it is on us to each take care of the little things and do our parts to lower our carbon footprints! If we can band together and find a way to cut our emissions in half, then hopefully we can set an example for other communities that they can do it to!