Snowpack: Going, gone

 

If you love the Pacific Northwest—its forests, its coastlines, its abundant natural and economic systems—the new Consensus Statement from the region’s best climate scientists will make you weep.

Titled “The Scientific Consensus Statement of the Likely Impacts of Climate Change on the Pacific Northwest” and issued by nearly four dozen scientists, it includes a litany of arresting projections. Here are a couple: In 25 years, a quarter of the snowpack in the Washington and Oregon Cascades will probably be gone. By the time my kids retire, the snowpack figures to be less than half of what it is now if we don’t kick our fossil fuel addiction. Snow, of course, is critical to the Northwest. It’s water’s time-release strategy, an ingenious device for turning winter’s bounty of precipitation into salmon habitat and apples and city lights all year round.

Climate activists have been warned not to dwell on catastrophic consequences. But what happens when the sky really is falling and the savvy message-crafters won’t say so because they don’t want to sound like Chicken Little? (And remember the really, really bad thing that happened in the Boy Who Cried Wolf: the wolf ate the sheep while the complacent villagers moralized.) The Consensus Statement’s warnings are as disconcerting as anything that conservationists dare say. (See this Oregonian article as well.)

  • It also provides backdrop for a series of far-reaching recommendations for reducing global warming pollution in Oregon and Washington. Developed by stakeholder groups representing the states’ leading businesses, public agencies, and public interest groups, the recommendations will include proposals to set limits on global warming pollution from cars and power plants, while expanding the region’s clean energy economy and playing host to the technology and business pioneers who will lead the world in climate solutions. You can find and comment on the Oregon group’s draft recommendations here. Washington’s process is described here.

    The Consensus Statement confirms what we know: Action to stabilize the climate is an environmental, economic, and moral imperative. The rest of the world’s advanced economies figured that out years ago, and will begin collaborating under the Kyoto Protocol to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. And despite the unfathomable (and temporary) persistence of Flat Earth policy in the other Washington, the West Coast states can rise to the challenge right now.