Earlier this summer, our sunshine was filtered through the haze of smoke drifting from wildfires in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Many of those fires are still burning but the air patterns have changed and sent the smoke elsewhere. Fires are currently raging across large swaths of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and northern California. Millions of acres are ablaze. Hundreds of homes have been lost and billions of dollars have been expended trying to contain the flames. More than 29,000 firefighters have been working to beat back the fires. Three firefighters recently died in Washington and another in California.
Widespread drought and higher than normal temperatures have turned large areas of the West into kindling. Southern California, the source of much of the country’s fruits and vegetable crops is in “exceptional drought” according to the US Drought Monitor website. Water shortages in the West are creating problems for farmers and putting them at odds with cities and the people in them who like to drink, take showers, wash their clothes, and water their lawns.
Even in our part of the world, there are places where too much rain has fallen and other spots not far away where the ground is dry and the grass is brown.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July 2015, was the hottest month every recorded, not only in the US, but around the world. NOAA also is predicting that 2015 will also be the hottest year ever recorded.
There is little doubt that our earth’s temperature is rising, that weather patterns have changed, and that most scientists now agree that humans have caused much of the change by burning coal and oil, clearing forests, ploughing up grasses, cementing huge areas of cities to make streets, parking lots, driveways and more.
It’s time we stopped debating climate change and began seriously talking about what we can do to stop making it worse.
Little things might make a little difference. Hanging your clothes on the line instead of using a dryer might make a tiny difference. Driving slower and making fewer trips to town might cut out a few tons of carbon released into the atmosphere. The real changes, however, need to be made on a much larger scale. Real solutions need to be political solutions.
In a world where politics has become a dirty word and politicians are ridiculed and scorned, it is probably foolish to make such a statement. It will, however, take the involvement of society as a whole to make the changes needed for our grandchildren to be able to live securely and comfortably. It will take government incentives and disincentives to move us away from a carbon based economy to a more sustainable way of living on the earth.
Do we have another choice? How many record setting number of wild fires can we afford to fight? How many droughts before we experience wars over food shortages? Where will the water to irrigate crops, water our lawns, sustain our cities come from? How many floods can we clean up? How can we protect our coastline communities from a rising sea level? How will we deal with the millions of people around the globe who will be displaced by sweltering heat, dried up crops, and other environmental disasters?
I would rather tell my grandchildren that I was wrong and climate change really was a hoax after all, than to have to tell them we were warned and we did nothing.