Register-Guard Readers in Oregon Get Frequent Climate Change Op-Eds

Readers of the Eugene Register-Guard are getting a regular dose of climate change insights by way of a frequent column written by the Director of the University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative.

Bob Doppelt, who also is director of resource innovations at the university, has conducted several training workshops for media covering climate change. Since January of this year, he’s been contributing a regular 800-word column under his byline. The paper publishes the column opposite its editorial page, along with other columns.

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Doppelt, who says his column “very rarely” undergoes substantive editing prior to being published, is not paid for his submissions, which he sees as an extension of his regular responsibilities for outreach on climate change issues.

His columns often, but not always, have a substantial Pacific Northwest component, and climate skeptics are unlikely to find his views much to their liking.

This past January, Doppelt introduced his column with the words “Global warming is the defining issue of our times.” Emphasizing that he was not writing a science column, he took on a friend’s (and skeptic’s) questions about whether there is proof that Earth is warming and proof of a human contribution.

“The answer is yes,” he replied, backing up his assertions in both cases.

“The bottom line is that global warming is indisputably happening, and humans are the primary cause …. That’s not to say that scientists know exactly how global warming will play out.”

He pointed in that opening column to fossil fuels as “the main culprit,” but also listed deforestation and land use issues. He expressed confidence – “if we get our heads screwed on correctly” – that combating climate change can lead to increased prosperity and social well-being.

In a February 24 column, Doppelt asked if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, might be “biased” or might have “a political agenda.” He was having none of it. “IPCC assessments are by far the most thoroughly reviewed scientific documents in history,” he wrote. “So when the IPCC says we can expect more extreme weather volatility, it should not be taken lightly.”

Doppelt in an April 28 column acknowledged climate change as a “politically divisive issue” but suggested it need not be. He pointed to national polling data showing Democrats more concerned about related risks than Republicans and said the same likely holds true in Lane County, home of the Register-Guard.

Doppelt speculated in that column that Republicans and Democrats may care equally about protecting the environment, but he said Republicans generally support a more limited government role in resolving problems. “Unfortunately, voluntary actions and market-based solutions alone, although important, cannot resolve global warming,” he wrote.

“Let’s hope we bridge the partisan divide quickly. The window of opportunity to resolve global warming without huge impacts and costs is rapidly rising.”

In a May 28 column, Doppelt said presumed Presidential nominee and Arizona Republican Senator John McCain “should be given tremendous credit” for his climate change initiative. He pointed to differences between McCain and his Democratic opposition, but said how they stack up “may turn out to be less important than the permission he [McCain] provided for people of all persuasions to search for ways to solve global warming.”

Commenting on the Doppelt columns, Register-Guard Editorial Page Editor Jack Wilson said one of his goals for the column is to provide “a local focus to this global issue.” He said the column so far has succeeded in doing that “without hitting people over the head” and while pointing to economic and environmental benefits that could result from a less carbon-intensive economy. Asked readers’ reactions, Wilson pointed to “some hostile reaction from people who don’t accept the fundamental premise” of warming and of a significant human contribution.

Hostility to the columns so far has been “less than I anticipated it might be,” Wilson said, pointing to Doppelt’s “fairly optimistic message.” Wilson said he does not believe there has been an organized letter-writing campaign for or against publication of the Doppelt columns, although some critics have asked to hear opposing perspectives.

The Doppelt column runs as an op-ed along with columns by national columnists such as Thomas Friedman and David Broder, Wilson said. The Register-Guard is a third-generation family-owned paper with a weekday circulation of about 70,000.

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