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Press Release
September 8, 2010

New Report Says Global Warming to Bring More Extreme Weather

PORTLAND, OR - On the heels of a summer that saw many parts of the U.S. and world hit by record heat, severe storms and damaging floods, a new Environment Oregon report documents how global warming could lead to extreme weather events becoming more common in the future. The report highlights extreme weather events across the country over the past four years.
“Whether it’s the 2007 Great Coastal Gale or Portland’s 2008 Snowmageddon, extreme weather events cause extremely big problems for Oregon’s economy and our public safety,” said Brock Howell, state policy advocate for Environment Oregon. 
“Given that unchecked global warming will likely fuel even more variable and severe weather, we need to start freeing our skies of global warming pollution by repowering with clean energy.”
The new report, entitled Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, the Forecast, and the Impacts on America, details the latest science linking global warming to hurricanes, coastal storms, extreme precipitation, wildfires, and heat waves. The report also summarizes some of the most damaging recent weather events nationally, including the 2007 Great Coastal Gale.
The 2007 Great Coastal Gale cut off transportation, electricity and communications to part of the Oregon Coast, while floodwaters and mudslides isolated the town of Vernonia from the rest of the state. Similarly, during the December 2008 “Snowmageddon,” three winter storms shut down Portland with as much as 30 inches of snow.
The report was released as Congress considers several bills to let polluters off the hook by blocking global warming pollution standards for some of the largest pollution sources. Senator Jeff Merkley also recently introduced the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act, which would eliminate the need for oil imports by making energy efficient buildings, increasing transit and freight options, expanding alternative fuels, and deploying more electric vehicles.
Part of Senator Merkley’s plan would also include a current proposal by the Obama administration to advance new fuel economy and global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks—standards that would achieve substantial reductions in global warming pollution while also cutting oil use and saving consumers money at the gas pump.
“The clean energy economy creates jobs while cutting global warming pollution and thus decreasing the threat of more frequent extreme weather events,” said Howell.
“The first steps at the national level are simple: block efforts to rollback EPA’s authority to regulate global warming pollution and adopt a national standard for cars and trucks to travel 60 miles on a gallon of gas by 2025. In Oregon, grow Oregon’s number one job creation sector by sharpening our state clean energy investment strategy and adopt policies that save homeowner’s electricity and money through efficiency and rooftop solar.”
Howell noted that while no single event can be entirely attributed to global warming, a warming climate is increasing the odds of more extreme weather. Each weather event arises from a combination of short-term weather patterns and long-term climatic trends, and global warming “loads the dice” for severe weather.
“Today’s report shows how the 2007 Great Coastal Gale and the 2008 Snowmaggedon were just a taste of what’s to come for Oregon unless we tackle global warming and repower with clean energy,” said Howell.
Rachel Shimshak, executive director at Renewable Northwest, noted that the report findings should motivate citizens and policymakers to take new steps toward a clean energy future.
“Clean renewable energy options – such as wind, solar and geothermal – are abundant throughout the West and offer vast opportunity to improve our environment and economy. States like Oregon have attracted global green energy businesses, bringing jobs and new prosperity to our communities.” Shimshak added, “Countries like Spain and Denmark are demonstrating what is possible when renewable energy becomes a priority for the sake of clean air, economic stability and national security, and we support policies that will bring these benefits to our communities.”
Key findings from the Environment Oregon report include:
  • Sea level at many locations along the East Coast has been rising at a rate of nearly 1 foot per century due to the expansion of sea water as it has warmed and due to the melting of glaciers. In the Mid-Atlantic region alone, at least 900,000 people live in areas that would be threatened by a 3.3-foot (1 meter) rise in sea level.
  • Global warming is projected to bring more frequent heavy downpours and snowfalls, since warmer air can hold more water vapor. Already, the number of heavy precipitation events in the United States increased 24 percent between 1948 and 2006, helping to make flooding the most common weather-related disaster in the U.S. Recent years have seen a string of incredibly destructive floods and snowstorms, including the 2008 Midwest flood that caused $8 to $10 billion in damage and East Coast’s 2010 “Snowmaggedon” blizzard that resulted in more than $2 billion economic loss.
  • Scientists predict that a warmer climate could lead to a 54 percent increase in the average area burned by wildfires in the western U.S. annually, with the greatest increases in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains. In 2008, California spent $200 million in a single month fighting a series of wildfires in the northern part of the state.
Environment Oregon is a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization that works on behalf of its more than 35,000 members. Their core mission is to protect Oregon's clean air, clean water, and open space. In practice, their professional staff combines independent research, practical ideas, and tough-minded advocacy to preserve our state's wild places and natural beauty, protect Oregonians from toxic pollution, reduce our material consumption, build livable communities with a backbone of high speed rail, and create a complete clean energy economy.
For more information contact:
Brock Howell, Environment Oregon
(503) 231-1986, ext. 314
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