Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Next Threat

Today is September 11. Usually on this day, I've preferred to step back and blog about memories of the horrors of that day 11 years ago. However, I can't just do that today.

Why not? I can't help but think about the horrors of the next threat awaiting us. And this time, it's directly hitting Nevada.

“I think it’s pretty desperate in a lot of places for a lot of people. We’re in a dry state in the first place, so moisture is critical. If it doesn’t show up, it’s a problem. It is by far the worst (drought) I’ve seen, and it’s got to be worse than what most people remember.” — Bruce Peterson, state conservationist, U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service

“The dry conditions have certainly been a very big problem. It’s a very serious problem primarily for (ranchers) on the federal ranges. They are having to bring cattle in and sell some of those cattle off.” — Doug Busselman, executive vice president, Nevada Farm Bureau

“There just isn’t any water here at all. It’s really kind of scary. Anybody who has done seeding this year, that seed probably won’t make it.” — Carson Valley rancher Barbara Byington

“The vegetation is very, very dry. There really isn’t much forage for livestock or wildlife. It’s a tinderbox for fire. It catches very quickly.” — Mark Coca, vegetation management specialist, U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Nevada is already in the midst of a record setting drought. And this past summer has been a real scorcher. And it's not some innocent coincidence that it's all happening now. Rather, this may only be the the beginning.

Many people are asking whether climate change can explain the recent spate of extreme events. While we have not performed analysis connecting any of these events to climate change, many of these occurrences are in line with what scientists have predicted in a warmer world. Plus,the science of attributing extreme events to human-induced warming has improved significantly. We document this evolving science on the timeline as well.

It’s too early to tell how the rest of the year will take shape, and it’s true that every year is marked by floods, droughts, heat waves, and other extreme events. However, these past months are unusual in that numerous records have been broken around the world.

What we do know is that many extreme events will increase in severity and intensity if we continue on our carbon-intensive pathway. While it’s too late to reverse the course of past extreme events,there is much we can do –and must do –if we are to stop fueling the intensity and severity of our changing climate.

Especially as the Arctic Ice Cap continues to shrink its way to extinction, the risk of even more volatile, extreme weather greatly increases. And as weather we now see as extreme becomes more frequent, expect our drought to further worsen. And yes, expect even higher food prices, greater food insecurity, and a threat to our economic livelihood like we've never seen before.

Yes, you heard me right. Mitt Romney may be laughing at the climate crisis, but there's really no reason for anyone to take this so lightly. As Nevada's own Harry Reid alluded to last month, climate change is a serious matter that really shouldn't be "up for debate" any longer.

What's desperately needed now is action. If we don't act, we'll face the worst catastrophe humanity has ever experienced. And in fact, we're already starting to feel the pain right here in Nevada. So really, we can't afford to wait any longer to start dealing with the next threat.

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