I ask because it was labeled as such by Stu Clark, Washington State’s air quality program manager. His statement was in a follow-up article to something I posted on in August, a series of lawsuits filed by NGOs on behalf of children against state bodies. If the lawsuits prevail (and several have been summarily dismissed by courts) states would have to shoulder the burden of fixing a global problem.
However, I am curious at the statement that climate change is our most important environmental problem. Public opinion polls don’t reflect that in general perceptions. Water quality, air quality and soil quality routinely are cited well above climate change as environmental concerns.
Washington State has problems with all three. Puget Sound has water pollution problems that have affected wildlife. The Seattle area has real air quality issues on many days. And the presence of military bases and defense contractors have led to toxic soil issues. I’m not suggesting that Washington is environmental hell. It’s not–it’s really a beautiful state.
But the population there is growing swiftly and this does lead to environmental issues–habitat loss and pollution, while their position across the ocean from Japan and China makes it vulnerable to introduction of alien species.
Climate change is projected to have impacts very relevant to Washington. It is a coastal state–sea level rise will affect it. They have forests vulnerable to both wildfire and drought. Drought leads to increased infestation. Much of their water and a good bit of their power comes from mountain snows. Reduced snowpack will have a very real effect on Washingtonians. A deeper look at how climate change is found on Washington’s Department of Ecology website.
I agree with those who say that Washington should take future climate change seriously and make planning decisions with it in mind. But whether it should rank top of the list is to me not a settled issue. A state that has grown in population from 4.8 million to 7 million since 1990 risks looking like some of the less attractive parts of California, Arizona and other states that have received similar inflows.
Planning for growth might solve as many real world problems as planning for the effects of climate change.
If they’re really smart, perhaps they can do both at the same time. You don’t want the whole state looking like this.