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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: The effects of climate change are already being felt; it’s time to take action

There are roughly over 60 million people living in the Southwest and many of them are evading the harsh winters up North. On the upside, the Southwest continues to grow in terms of population. With the current water crisis though, things aren’t looking too good, both literally and figuratively.

While the UA does steady research in regard to climate change and general research on the environment, not enough political action takes place. The issue here is agendas. Climate and environment issues are regularly shuffled into a pile on some politician’s desk. It’s not affecting us too much right now, so why deal with it?

Unless something needs immediate attention, such as an act of terrorism, the issue is often deferred in politics. This short-sightedness needs to stop because it becomes our issue later.

Politicains do not understand the issues surrounding climate change. Ice caps are melting, penguins are dying en masse, scorpions are coming out earlier because of temperature rises and polar bears are invading Norway. What more should it take to begin taking this issue serious?

Climate change affects everyone everywhere, even us here in the Southwest. We may not get hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes, but we do get severe monsoons, dust storms, wildfires and droughts.

“It’s easy to believe that climate change is an equal opportunity hazard, but the reality is different, with disproportionate climate impacts on low-income and minority communities,” said Margaret Wilder, associate research professor for the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy.

This is an interesting, yet unsettling, way to look at it. Yet, Wilder’s right. The reality is many of us can afford air conditioning, fans, sunscreen, access to clean water and even rain boots that you pull out once a year. We take them for granted and we’ll continue to do so until something affects us. But even then, people have shown indifference. Just look at politicians. Climate change is affecting us right now and we have the power to change it, but we choose not to because the effects are not immediate.We will have to wait until it hits the politicians where it hurts: in their funding.

Once climate change begins to impact major Arizona industries such as agriculture, farming, technology manufacturing and tourism, we’ll see the politicians make some changes. Without people in those industries, they won’t be getting much support or funding.

While Arizona has a significant agricultural industry, it is also the most vulnerable to climate changes. Agriculture and ranching face increasing heat, drought, water shortages and pest damages that combine to reduce yields and productivity.

While agriculture may not be our biggest industry, it is the one with the most political weight. There is pressure for farmers to transfer water out of their industry into others that are willing to pay for it. Yet, that action is illegal and there are legal and institutional provisions in place against water transfer. These provisions, however, are more of a safeguard against corporations and competing industries rather than an address of climate change.

The eco-friendliest state is Vermont. About five and a half percent of people walk to work, 12.3 percent of Burlington-area people carpool, 4.6 percent of people work from home and there are a lot of farmers’ markets and organic producers. Overall, Vermont seems to promote a green and healthy lifestyle and it is reflected in its people, businesses and government. In comparison, Arizona’s overall rank is 18th in the U.S., with environmental quality coming in at 21st and eco-friendly behaviors also at 18th.

In order for the Southwest and the rest of the world to achieve an improved environmental future, we need to begin pushing for more stringent, environmentally green political policies in addition to reflecting them in our way of life. We can have all the environmental policies we want, but if we don’t reflect them, we will not actually be helping.

Arizonans should follow in Vermont’s environmentally green footsteps so that we can stop leaving an intractable footprint in our environment.

Follow Michael Cortez on Twitter.

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