July 2, 2015

On June 25 the Board of County Commissioners adopted the 2015 Climate Action Plan. The new plan updates the 2009 Climate Action Plan that Multnomah County and the City of Portland jointly adopted. The plan serves as a roadmap to reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the decrease needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The good news is that across Multnomah County emissions have decreased 14 percent since 1990, even as the population has increased more than 30 percent.

Although we are on our way to reaching our greenhouse gas reduction goals, we are already starting to see the impacts of climate change. Average temperatures in the Pacific Northwest have increased 1.5 degrees in the past century, and 2014 was the hottest year on record globally.

Students display their knowledge of climate change

What this will mean for Multnomah County is hotter, drier summers with more extreme heat events; and warmer winters with more intense precipitation. These changes will worsen air quality, increase heat-related illness and vector borne disease, lead to more landslides and wildfires, and present other risks to our health, our ecosystems, and our built environment. And these impacts will fall hardest on vulnerable populations, people the county already serves. Older adults, the very young, people of color, homeless and people in poverty are all at greater risk, due to the impacts of climate change.

In response, the Office of Sustainability and the Health Department’s Environmental Health Division have teamed up to develop workshops that help explain climate change, and what steps people can take to protect themselves from those impacts.  To pilot the workshops, the Office of Sustainability and the Department of Community Justice’s Londer Learning Center have teamed up to bring eight weeks of curriculum focused on climate change to students working toward their GED.

The curriculum will end with the students participating in a service-learning activity of their choice where they will share the knowledge they learned with the community. Empowerment begins with education and that is the hope in teaching GED classes more about climate change's local impact as well as its impact on health.

The county also has work to do internally to make sure we are responding to climate change. Ongoing implementation of the Climate Action Plan, and the more than 200 associated actions identified in the plan, will be coordinated by the Office of Sustainability.  Every county department has a role to play. The Operations Council will be a central hub for implementation, and the Office of Sustainability will work directly with departments on specific projects.

Contact the Office of Sustainability's Tim Lynch at tim.j.lynch@multco.us if you would like to learn more about the plan and how the County is responding to Climate Change.