Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hopeless trying to adapt to Climate Change without saying it


CCCO2While many of us were pleased with the nod to our environment in the 2013 State of the City Address by Rochester’s Mayor Richards, there was no mention of Climate Change. Devoting a paragraph to park, trail, and water system improvements is not enough in a time of warming. Mayor Richards’ heroic efforts (unheralded in his address) in improving Rochester’s active transportation system, which really will lower greenhouse gases, still need to be directed towards connecting the dots regarding the greatest peril to our city--and all cities in the world.

Syracuse has no such reservations about the critical need to plan appropriately: City of Syracuse Sustainability Plan. They get it:

While it is important for the City to minimize the impacts of climate change through ag­gressive climate action and sustainability initiatives, scientists conclude that communi­ties will inevitably be impacted by climate changes that are already occurring. Impacts such as variations in the frequency and intensity of storm and drought events, which ef­fect aging water, transportation and energy infrastructure, increased demand for public health services due to heat stress, and the introduction of foreign and invasive species to natural systems, agriculture, and forest ecosystems, are likely to affect the Central New York region as a result of climate change. (Page 22, Syracuse Sustainability Plan)

Some may say that the political and economic climate is not ripe for taking action on Climate Change, so don’t kill the good in the pursuit of the perfect. It is true that these are hard times for addressing something as wildly controversial (controversial in the US, that is) as Climate Change. President Obama cannot even get his nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (his own cabinet post) installed: Gina McCarthy's nomination in doubt, angering Democrats. Thus, a political party is willing to threaten our environment for their gains. I’m beginning to think that the GOP in the last decade has been just as wrongheaded on Climate Change as the Democrats were on slavery in the 1850’s.

But without connecting present environmental issues with Climate Change, we will continue to suggest ad hoc solutions to a world that no longer exists. Doing some good will not be good enough on a planet that is warming quickly. Note this week, SCHUMER LAUNCHES PLAN FOR FIRST-EVER RAPID RESPONSE GRANT PROGRAM TO COMBAT AQUATIC INVASIVE SPECIES BEFORE THEY SPREAD. First of all, many aquatic invasive species have already spread so completely that extracting them may do more harm than good. Trust me, we are not going to ratchet back the Zebra Mussel’s pervasive effect on our lakes. Even more so in a time of warming, the term invasive species will become blurred as endemic and invasive species both struggle to gain a foothold on a planet dramatically shifting:

Higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels can potentially increase growth of many plants, particularly those with the C3 photosynthetic pathway growing under optimum conditions. The magnitude of the carbon dioxide effect varies widely among species and, even without climate change, could alter species composition in some ecosystems by favoring some species over others. Many fast-growing species, including many invasive plants and aggressive weed species, tend to show greater growth stimulation than slow-growing species and can gain a competitive advantage at high carbon dioxide concentrations (Ziska, 2003). (Page 125, Report 11-18 Response to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID)

We keep trying to solve environmental problems in the same old way we always have by eliminating the symptoms instead the cause. (For example, we dump more pesticides on crops instead of finding out if there are more insects migrating to a warmer climate and living longer because it’s not as cold here in NYS as it used to be.) Climate Change will force us (hopefully, sooner rather than later) to solve environmental problems realistically and sustainably instead of our fruitless attempts to have our way of life and force the environment to comply with it.

Not going to happen: Breaking news: Humanity’s ‘wait and see’ approach to Climate Change is not working: Carbon Dioxide Level Passes Long-Feared Milestone The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported on Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. (May 10, 2013) New York Times

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