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New Report: Climate Change Means Health Woes for Oregon

July 18, 2008

Portland, OR – Tough times for the West are predicted in a new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report about the effects of climate change on human health and welfare. For Oregon and other Western states, the list includes an increase in health problems related to heat and air pollution, droughts in some areas and floods in others, more wildfires and fewer streams open for fishing.

But Fred Hewitt, a Portland resident who chairs the national Committee on Energy and Global Warming for the Sierra Club, says the federal agency is sending mixed messages.

"On the one hand, you have these pretty decent reports coming out, saying that it's going to affect us in our lifetimes and it's something to get serious about. On the other hand, the leadership of the agency is basically taking a completely dig-in-their-heels, can't-do-it, don't-make-me-do-it approach to everything, as far as actual action."

Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, sees some good in documenting these health and environmental concerns by region. But, he adds, the public is being swamped with climate change warnings, and it's easy to get discouraged.

"They see movies that proclaim doom, and they say, 'Well, if it's going to be that bad; there's nothing I can do about it.' The message that we like to deliver is that there is something you can do about it. Every little bit helps."

Benjamin believes it will take major lifestyle changes in order to slow what's happening to the environment, and that the government could be playing a bigger role. The report doesn't make recommendations for slowing climate change, and there are some who believe it's a natural cycle, not caused by humans.

Report excerpts may be read at epaclimatereport.com. The full report,
"Analyses of the Effects of Global Climate Change on Human Health, Settlements and Welfare," is also available online, at www.climatescience.gov.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR