Hey, Oregon Senators: You Can’t Run Away From Climate Change
By Adrienne Alvord
This week Oregon stands on the cusp of approving historic cap-and-invest legislation, HB 2020, that experts have said will help grow the Oregon economy. After three years of legislative consideration, numerous studies, hearings, public meetings and debate, the Oregon House approved the legislation decisively (36-22) on June 18th, and the bill moved to the Senate Floor, where a vote was expected on June 20th.
But outnumbered bill opponents, who in the House had tried to throw up every possible procedural roadblock to forestall a vote, resorted in the Senate to a highly unusual tactic – they didn't come to work. That's right: Oregon's elected Senate representatives who oppose climate action didn't show up on the Senate floor this morning, thus depriving the body of a quorum and making a vote procedurally impossible. There are press reports that several have scurried out of state to make it harder to compel them to return to do their jobs.
What on Earth Are These Senators Thinking?
The opponents of HB 2020 believe the bill will result in economic hardship for their constituents, but the performance of existing carbon pricing programs just doesn't support that conclusion. The bill's opponents know that neighboring California, with a much larger and more complex economy, enacted a similar program over a decade ago and the state's still-booming economy has grown from the 8th to the 5th largest on the planet. Canadian provinces that have put a price on carbon are also thriving.
Climate Change Is Already Costing Oregon Plenty
The great irony is that while HB 2020 won't cause economic hardship, climate change already is. Oregon is already experiencing costly impacts that are only getting worse the longer governments shirk their responsibility and don't take action. Scientists in support of this legislation warn that Oregon oyster nurseries and fisheries are facing serious risks from ocean acidification while rural and urban communities are already portending with increasing heat, droughts, floods and wildfires. These impacts will continue to put economies and lives at risk.
Much of the debate in the Oregon House centered on the problems of rural Oregon. But climate change is impartial and nonpartisan: every corner of the state will be impacted. In particular, rural areas will be hard hit by the vulnerability of natural systems like forests and waterways to climate impacts.
Rather than watching their representatives duck out of their responsibilities in a move of calculated political theater, rural Oregonians need actual help for farms and forests to prepare for and manage climate change. If enacted, Oregon's climate bill would create funds to directly help these communities adapt.
Don't Run Away, Do What Is Right
Climate change is impervious to partisan politics, belief systems, rhetoric and spin. No one can or will escape climate impacts. Foes say that Oregon's emissions reductions will not make a difference because the state is too small, but size hasn't prevented over a hundred countries with economies smaller than Oregon's, including Portugal, Greece and New Zealand, from pledging to reduce their emissions under the Paris agreement. Why did they do this? Because it's the right thing to do for a globally shared problem.
Yet these state Senators — at best misguided, at worst abetting a fossil fuel industry hanging on to every misdirection it can muster — are fleeing their constitutionally-mandated work. They need to stop running and start looking at the facts.
Oregon has an awful lot at stake. The entire nation — and the world — is watching. This small group of state Senators who choose not to do the jobs they were elected to do are betraying Oregon's workers, families and children.
Adrienne Alvord is the Union of Concerned Scientists' California and western states director.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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