16 June 2015

Make No Mistake

I didn't have to see it to believe it, but seeing it was profound.

Yesterday, on my flight back to Washington state from a conference on environmental communication, I saw a much different home state than I am used to seeing.

Global warming has already made huge impacts around the world. Washington has certainly seen some changes as well. For example, larch trees in the mountains have expanded their range up the slopes, last year's wildfire season was one of the worst yet, and oyster farmers have had to face ocean acidification. However, for the most part, the impacts of global warming in Washington have been gradual.

All that changed last winter when the state's snowpack failed to develop as usual. In January, unseasonably warm weather wiped out much of the early snowfall, and those same temperatures prevented more snow from accumulating. For much of the winter, the snowpack was less than 25 percent of normal. It is now at zero percent (that's not a misprint) of the usual level. As the state's Department of Ecology says, "It's gone." And that's what I saw yesterday.

As the snowpack failed throughout the winter, I knew something major was happening. This wasn't one of those gradual changes. It was quick, big, and monumental. I sensed the loss of the Washington I grew up in. Yesterday's flight merely provided the disheartening visual confirmation of my intuition. At the same time, what I saw yesterday reinforced the need to address global warming immediately and fully.

We've made a lot of mistakes on our way to this warming planet we currently live on, and the effects of those mistakes are unmistakeable. The margin of error is gone, and it's time to do it right.