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October 27, 2005

The Coverage of Climate Change

There's this cheery bit from the Christian Science Monitor: as climate change continues, the Northwest is expected to warm faster than the rest of the planet. In fact, according to climate scientists, the Puget Sound region has already been warming at a "substantially greater" rate than the earth as a whole.

Apart from the usual dire ecological problems--shrinking snowpack, screwed up streamflows, rising sea levels--the news is precipitating considerable worry from some economists. As the article has it:

Economists in the region warn that this could come with a big price tag. Global warming "is likely to impose significant economic costs," 52 leading economists from around the country warned in a recent letter to government and business officials in Oregon.

"The adjustments that businesses, households, and communities will have to make are without precedent," the economists wrote. "Many changes seem largely unavoidable, and some are clearly imminent."

For just one example of the costs of climate change, remember the Northwest's ski industry, which took a beating last winter because of the lousy snowfall. Today's Seattle Times covers the ski industry's woes and, in a positive development for media coverage of this issue, the Times mentions the connection to climate change (though in an oddly elliptical way).

Readers of this blog may remember that I covered this ski-less season ad nauseum last winter (here, here, and here, for example). Despite tons of Northwest media coverage of the skimpy snowfall--and a pretty direct link to climate change--the media almost never attributed the shuttered businesses to climate change. But less than a year later, the media appears to have (finally) connected the dots--yet another promising sign that the public consciousness of global warming is evolving rapidly, if none too soon.

UPDATE: Seattle's conference, ""The Future Ain't What It Used to Be -- Planning for Climate Disruption" was attended by a number of heavy-hitters, including Christine Todd Whitman. Read the coverage in the Seattle Times, here, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, here.

Posted by Eric de Place | Permalink


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The wind-up for the CSM article uses this conference:


as it's jumping-off point. I was unable to get away to attend, if only to meet Schneider, but more importantly to share thoughts with others on how to secure water for my town, which depends upon the snowpack and glacial runoff from Rainier.

The overarching point is that there are conferences now being held for decision-makers at the local level to begin to strategize about adaptation and mitigation measures for society regarding effects of climate change.

Any lingering doubts sowed by the vested interests regarding the effects of future climate change can effectively be ignored by you folk who inform decision-makers. The chatter on the Internets about attribution issues is background noise; it certainly delays action, but won't stem the tide.

Society is moving, and from the bottom up. As I'm a bottom up guy, I think this is a good thing.

Posted by: Dan Staley | Oct 27, 2005 1:25:26 PM

Does anyone have a reference to the 52 leading econoimist letter?

The only 52 leading economist thing that I know of is the Blue Chip Indicators, and they're not a coordinated group, rather a newsletter than tracks 52 forecasters.

My search only brought up links to this story, but there are clearly quotes from the letter. There must be someone in Oregon on here that heard of this letter before this.


Posted by: Jeremy Brown | Oct 31, 2005 12:03:42 PM