Climate change: Can we be winners instead of losers?October 29th, 2009 by cdunagan
These two words have been spinning around in my brain since I attended a conference on water resources a couple of days ago. Check out my story in today’s Kitsap Sun.
Western Washington may not experience an overall water shortage as a result of climate change the way some regions will, according to climatologists. But our rains, on average, are likely to come in heavier downpours. To me, that means we will have our hands full trying to reduce the frequency of flooding, which affects natural systems as well as man-made ones.
In areas of the country that become drier, water could become scarce and the price of water is likely to go up. We’ve seen an ongoing drought in the Southwest. While it could be a just temporary trend, the situation calls for better water management and makes people nervous about the future. Click here to see an animation of changing conditions over the past 12 weeks.
A speaker at the conference, Michael Read of the Water Environment Federation, predicted that the Northwest will attract population from the Southwest as climate change continues. Winners and losers?
It may not be a question of whether we want the extra people. It may be more about whether we can manage the population growth with the least disruption to our ecosystem. Will we find ways to work with the coming changes in climate — or not? Will we be winners or losers?
If water gives our region a competitive edge, maybe we could attract industry looking to move away from more arid regions. That could help stabilize our economy, which seems to be a perpetual goal of many people. Winners and losers?
If climatologists are right, many species in the Northwest will struggle to adapt to the changing conditions. Some will survive and some will go extinct. Winners and losers.
I am not discounting efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and possibly avert some of the more dire consequences of climate change. But a growing effort is looking into how humans and animals may adapt to whatever changes will come.
While experts study adaptation, I don’t believe the concept has entered our general consciousness, let alone our actions. Perhaps waiting to see what happens is the prudent thing to do. After all, how do we plan for something uncertain?
On the other hand, maybe it would be wiser to begin considering the range of futures we could face within a few short decades. How do we become winners instead of losers?