Oregon is vulnerable to increasing heat, reduced snowpack, ocean acidification and wildfires
Oregon’s climate has warmed about two degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Snowpack is melting earlier in the year, reducing the flow of meltwater in streams during the summer. In addition to reduced flow, streams are becoming warmer, threatening to reduce fish populations. Coastal waters will become more acidic, wildfires will be more common and current rangeland will likely desertify.
- Increasing temperatures: Extreme heat will increase in the Northwest region. The Northwest will go from experiencing just 5 days of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above temperatures on average per year to an additional 7-15 days of extreme heat by mid-century and an additional 18-42 days by the end of the century.
- Reduced Snowpack: Much of the water used in Oregon for personal, commercial, and agricultural use comes from mountain snowpack. Rising temperatures are causing snowpack to melt earlier in the year. By 2050, snowmelt is projected to shift three to four weeks earlier than the last century’s average, reducing flows during the summers. This will put pressure on the electricity system which is based largely on hydro generation, especially during summer months which will see an increasing demand for cooling and irrigation.
- Ocean Acidification: Oregon’s coastal water are particularly susceptible to acidification because nearby currents bring more acidic water from deep currents to the surface. Due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide absorbed in the oceans, Oregon waters are even more acidic than usual. Increasing acidity threatens the life cycles of shellfish and other small marine creatures important to the marine ecosystem. Shellfish and plankton are crucial important components of the diet for salmon.
- Wildfires: By the end of the century, climate change is projected to double the area of land burned by forest fires during an average year. Higher temperatures and lack of water is also likely to make trees more susceptible to pests and diseases like the pine beetle, increasing the likelihood of fire.
- Adaptation: The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework was published in December 2010. The plan includes 122 discrete goals focused on emergency preparedness, water, coasts and oceans, and biodiversity. So far Oregon has made some level of progress on 53 of the goals in the plan.
Oregon residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 72% of Oregon residents recognize that global warming is happening. The study finds that 77% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 83% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
Oregon is rich in hydro and wind resources
- In 2015, 68% of Oregon’s utility-scale net electricity generation came from conventional hydroelectric power plants and other renewable energy sources.
- Major transmission lines connect Oregon’s electricity grid to Southern California, allowing for large interstate electricity transfers.
- The Mist field in northwestern Oregon is the only producing natural gas field in the Pacific Northwest.
- Oregon’s geothermal potential is ranked third in the nation after Nevada and California.
- There are 464 electric vehicle charging stations in the state, with a total of more than 1,100 charging outlets.
- Oregon ranks 8th in the nation for installed wind capacity, with a total capital investment of $6.5 billion in wind energy projects in the state. In total, Oregon has 3,200 MW of installed capacity, or the equivalent to power 662,000 homes. The state is home to major players such as turbine manufacturer Vestas and gearbox manufacturer Moventas. The industry employs 2,000-3,000 people in Oregon.
- Oregon ranks 19th in installed solar capacity in the US with 264 MW installed. The industry employs 4,500 people across the industry value chain and is home to 166 companies.
- First enacted in 2007, the Oregon legislature increased the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in March 2016. The RPS now requires the largest utilities to derive 50% of their sales from renewable resources by 2040.