Oregon became the 33rd state of the U.S. in the late winter of 1859. Today, with 4 million people over 98,000 square miles (250,000 km2), Oregon is the ninth largest and 27th most populous U.S. state. Home to both the deepest lake and the largest mushroom are located in Oregon. It is known for its extremely diverse and famously beautiful terrain. Oregon plays a prolific role in the narratives of western settlement as the state at the end of the Oregon Trail, a route the US Government encouraged settler colonialists to travel in order to strengthen claims to the territory. “The Manifest Destiny” painted Oregon as “undiscovered” — land divinely ordained for development by white America. In reality, Native Americans had been maintaining the landscape for millennia. More than 60 tribes lived in Oregon before colonization. Nine tribes are federally recognized in-state today.
Water resources, coastal issues, and forest ecosystems are the three main challenges facing Oregon as identified by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute. Summer drought is expected to increase in Oregon by 50% by 2050. Flows in rivers and streams are increasing during late winter and early spring and decreasing during the summer. By 2050, Oregon’s snowpack is expected to melt three to four weeks earlier, which decreases the amount of water flow in the summers. On the coast, Oregon will be facing two-four feet of sea level rise by the end of the century under a high-emissions scenario. The waters off of Oregon’s coast are also particularly vulnerable to acidification, one of the oceanic side-effects of excessive carbon-emissions, which poses an urgent threat to those ecosystems. Changing climactic suitability, as well as disturbances like wildfires, drought, insects, and disease, will drastically shift Oregon’s forest landscape.
Wildfires in Oregon captured everyone’s attention in the early fall of 2020 as more than 10% of Oregon’s citizens had to evacuate.
Oregon is making strides towards shifting to a renewable energy economy. In 2017, 70% of Oregon’s electricity generation came from renewable energy resources, mostly from hydroelectric powerplants and wind farms. Oregon is the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power in the country. Natural gas accounts for about one quarter of Oregon’s electricity generation. Coal provides only 2% of the state’s electricity.
Oregon has already surpassed the Renewable Portfolio Standard it set in 2016, which set a 50% by 2040. Former Governor Kulongoski took action to prepare Oregon for climate-related challenges by establishing the Governor’s Climate Change Integration Group. This led to the state’s publishing of the Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework in 2010. In the decade since, Oregon has enacted a slate of legislation at both the local and state levels addressing a variety of specific issues. For example, a 2017 Oregon Climate and Health Resilience Plan outlines a set of recommendations for the State’s Public Health Division.
Oregon is one of twenty five states committed to the U.S. Climate Alliance, which is working to implement policies that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement.
CREDIT: The New York Times