Eugene teenagers press climate change case

CLIMATE CHANGE ROUNDUP: Suit alleges the atmosphere is a resource and that lawmakers must do more to protect it for the future.

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Two Eugene teens that filed a suit alleging the atmosphere is a resource and that lawmakers must do more to protect it for the future had their arguments heard Tuesday.

The case is intended to force the current generation of decisionmakers to think more toward the future, Register-Guard reports.

Attorneys representing state government assert that Oregon already has passed a number of regulations to protect the environment. But lawyers for [19-year-old Kelsey] Juliana and [14-year-old Olivia] Cherniak contend that the state’s carbon emission reduction plan is too weak and includes nonbinding goals that aren’t being met, rather than concrete requirements to reduce pollution.

Portland attorney Chris Winter, who represents the teens, told Rasmussen that the “gravity of the situation we’re facing has only become more clear” since the case began [in 2011]. The youths’ lawsuit was filed with support from Our Children’s Trust in Eugene. Similar lawsuits naming children as plaintiffs have been filed in all 50 states in a coordinated effort to pressure governments to speed up efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The case revolves around the public trust doctrine, reports.

The doctrine holds Oregon’s waterways and submerged land as a public resource that must be protected for future generations. The teens’ lawyers argue those protections should extend to all natural resources, including the air. Efforts so far to address greenhouse gas in Oregon’s air have been insufficient to protect future generations from the catastrophic impacts of climate change, the teens argue.

R-G writes that the teens’ attorney said at this point, “it’s impossible to predict the outcome.”

Low snowpack and drought continues

The snowpack in Oregon is at 40-90 percent below typical levels for the time of year.

A Portland Tribune report cited numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service that contend that more than half of measurement sites have no snow as of April 1.

“We have reached a point in the winter season where there is no doubt that the majority of streams and rivers in Oregon will have below normal flows this year, due to lack of snow accumulation,” said Scott Oviatt, NRCS snow survey supervisor. “Overall precipitation since Oct. 1 has been near normal statewide. However, warm temperatures have resulted in the majority of precipitation falling as rain instead of snow. Thus, snowmelt runoff will not be available to help sustain mid- and late-summer streamflows.”

During March, streamflow was below normal for most of Oregon’s rivers, which was a significant change from February when most streams were flowing near and above normal.

The Associated Press published a report on what those low rivers would mean for the summer:

Inflows to Upper Klamath Lake, the primary reservoir for the Klamath Reclamation Project straddling the Oregon-California border, are forecast at 39 percent of normal. In southwestern Oregon, the Rogue River at Gold Hill is forecast to be 69 percent of average.

In central Oregon, the Deschutes River south of Bend is forecast at 79 percent of average. In northeastern Oregon, the Grande Ronde River at Troy is forecast to be 52 percent of average.

Gov. Kate Brown declared drought emergencies in Crook, Harney and Klamath Counties on Tuesday.

In a statement, she said “Oregon’s unusually warm and dry winter has potentially dire consequences. By enlisting the support of our state and federal partners, we will be best able to ensure the safety of the residents of Crook, Harney, and Klamath counties, as well as their livelihoods and property.”




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