Last winter, my wife and I welcomed our second daughter into the world. As the father of two young girls, I constantly think about the legacy we are leaving for our children. I want Hazel and Zoe to grow up experiencing the Oregon I know and love — one with thriving farms and snowy ski areas. For this to happen, our rural economies dependent on outdoor recreation and agriculture must take precedent over the fossil fuel industry and its carbon emissions.
I grew up on my family’s farm in the Colestine Valley. When you work the land you live on, it’s not hard to see the impacts of climate change. This is something I learned at a young age. Our farm was susceptible to swings in temperature and rainfall, trends that will become worse thanks to increased carbon pollution warming our climate.
My love of the outdoors and the natural world grew out of my childhood on my family’s farm. I learned to ski at nearby Mount Ashland at age 5, after a family friend encouraged my parents to put me on a pair of skis. I was immediately sold on the sport. Now, as a professional skier, it is easy to see how climate change is affecting our winters, too.
Variations in snowpack, earlier snowmelt and warmer temperatures throughout the year threaten winter as we know it. I’ve witnessed these impacts around the globe, but they are also happening right here in Oregon. If we continue business as usual, a 2017 report from the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute notes Oregon’s average temperature could warm 3–7 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2050s and 5–11 degrees by the 2080s, which is well within my kids’ lifetimes. These warmer temperatures will surely contribute to a decreased snowpack and dwindling water supply. The snowsports industry, which provides a significant stream of revenue in our state, is quite literally feeling the heat.
More than 1.6 million tourists visit Oregon each winter. Outdoor recreation generates over $16 billion annually and directly employs 172,000 people in our state. Nationwide, this industry generates $887 billion a year and is responsible for 7.6 million jobs. Without a stable climate and snowy winters, it’s clear our economy will suffer. And, these statistics only cover the outdoor recreation economy, which is just one sector that will feel the impacts of climate change. Our farming, ranching, and fishing industries will be hit hard, too.
Fortunately, we can avoid this future by putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and reinvesting in clean energy for our communities. Putting a price on pollution is a proven mechanism with bipartisan support, working in 10 other states right now. Accounting for the true cost of climate pollution enables a strong, competitive market for clean energy to thrive. In February, the Oregon Legislature will have the opportunity to pass the Clean Energy Jobs bill to cap and price climate pollution from the largest emitters in the state, and reinvest the proceeds into Oregon’s clean energy economy.
The best part? Putting a price on pollution will strengthen our economy. I want my old stomping grounds in the Rogue Valley to be able to maintain outdoor recreation and farming jobs. Clean Energy Jobs not only addresses the climate impacts threatening our outdoor recreation economy, but it will help farmers, too, by funding energy efficiency upgrades like drip irrigation. Even more, it will put more Oregonians to work by installing solar panels and retrofitting homes to be energy efficient.
I am excited to see momentum on pricing climate pollution in Salem. As federal leaders continue to deny climate change, Oregon has a chance to lead the nation in the transition to a clean energy economy — to better the future for our children and our mountains.
— Pep Fujas is a professional skier who grew up in Ashland, skiing every winter at Mount Ashland. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and two young daughters.