Takes from a debate: Policy should be informed by science

On October 5th, a debate took place between the two major candidates in Oregon’s Second Congressional District: incumbent Greg Walden (R-OR2) and challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. One topic of the discussion was how to address the increased frequency of wildfires in Oregon.

Both candidates see the thinning of forests as part of the solution, although they differ on specifics of implementation. In particular, McLeod-Skinner favors more public input on process, and restrictions on clear cutting.

However, McLeod-Skinner is the only candidate who firmly identifies climate change as a key cause of the increased wildfire frequency. And only she offers a vision for mitigating this cause, by reducing reliance on fossil fuels and increasing investment (including training and job opportunities) on renewable energies.

Is climate change indeed impacting the frequency of these wildfires, as McLeod-Skinner claims?

Yes, say experts of the Union of Concerned Scientists: “The effects of global warming on temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture are turning many of our forests into kindling during wildfire season.” The consequences include longer fire seasons and wildfires that will be more intense and long burning. Attached is one of the overview analysis of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which builds on peer-reviewed research published in prestigious journals including Science and PNAS.

Science should inform policy. Climate change is not a new concept. The consensus among the scientific community is that climate change is occurring and is human-caused. This consensus is not new, and has been periodically re-enforced through assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Why would a 20-year incumbent from a District like ours not have mitigation of climate change as a top priority?


(1) The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded in 1969, by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They focus on solving pressing environmental and social problems. Towards that goal, they “share information, seek the truth, and let [their] findings guide [their] conclusions.”

(2) I am not affiliated with the Union of Concerned Scientists.


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