Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Getting Serious over Climate Change

It is becoming increasingly clear that Climate Change in not just an environmental issue of interest to "tree huggers" and "EcoVillagers". Still there are those who choose to remain in denial because admitting that global warming is real is more than inconvenient. It means that they will have to give up some very deeply held beliefs.

Some of the strongest climate change deniers come from rural, basically agricultural communities. Yet, in the most recent newsletter from the Center for Rural Affairs, the editors argue that Climate Change is an "Evnivonmental, Economic, and Moral Challenge."
It (how can the public decide when some scientists disagree) is a fair question, but it should not stop us from fulfilling our responsibility as citizens of conscience to search for the truth. If predictions are accurate, climate change is the most critical environmental and economic challenge confronting our generation and one of the most urgent moral issues.

It is a moral issue because we have responsibilities to future generations. If climate change is happening and we don’t address it, our children and grandchildren will face a lower standard of living and less environmental quality. Shifting weather patterns and more extreme weather events would make farming more unpredictable and risky.
Those same changes in weather patterns which the Center finds will make farming more risky will also force us to make fundamental decisions about how we deal with our remaining natural resources. This is the subject of the feature article in the Feb. 4 issue of High Country News. They are dealing with the problem of Unnatural Preservation. The lead to this article poses the question quite directly.
In the age of global warming, public-land managers face a stark choice: They can let national parks and other wildlands lose their most cherished wildlife. Or they can become gardeners and zookeepers.
One of the images is that of a part ranger using a garden hose to ensure that the Giant Sequoia has enough water to survive.

The real challenge for the west is the change in rainfall patterns. On one television news program this AM I saw the questions raised of Lake Mead being dry by 2021.

We have to get some sense of reality here. If the shifting patterns of rainfall have such a devastating effect on the availability of water, if they change how we farm and what crops we are able to raise then we are in for problems that have no easy solutions.

Why build new dams if there won't be enough water to fill the reservoirs that we now have? Yet, that is exactly what our governor is proposing to do. It is obvious that we need to rethink how we use water, as Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute reminds us.

Yes, Climate Change is a moral issue and it is too important to be left in the hands of politicians. We can get very worked up over the War in Iraq and the approximately 4,000 American lives lost, or even the (by some estimates) 500,000 Iraqi lives lost. We agonize over what should be done in Darfur where the number of lives lost are over 100,000 What will we do when the numbers are 10 million in Bangladesh, in Africa, in SE Asia? What will we do when California can no longer be America's produce counter?

It is not going to be easy to be green in the coming years because that means dealing with complexity and we like to keep our lives simple.

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