I’m thinking about climate change as I wait for a thunderstorm to roll in with the temperature near 60 degrees on Dec. 4.
The Time Magazine on the coffee table says that the Alps are brown instead of white leaving skiers only strips of artificial snow on the slopes. The headline explains: “The big melt: climate change in the Alps.”
Closer to home, the Telluride Colorado ski area is nearly snowless, having missed its usual Thanksgiving opening. Maybe by Christmas. Our granddaughter in Ouray has to wait to try out her new skis.
My friend, Mike, just back from a trip out west, says that it was snowless and very warm in Glacier National Park where the glaciers are receding due to climate change. He visited relatives who live in Montana where one of the nation’s many wildfires came within a stone’s throw of their home. Climate change is cited in the increasing threat of such wildfires.
Much closer to home, the 12-foot long diorama photo display of the La Crosse bluffs located on a trail in the La Crosse River Marsh, may need to find a new site after this year’s flood filled the marsh and nearly covered the sign with muddy water. Again, climate change is seen as contributing to high-intensity weather events of all kinds, including the rains that caused the flooding.
Meanwhile, our governor and president and the agencies that they control seem not to have noticed the changes that we see every day, both in personal experience and in media accounts of change near and far, whether it’s melting permafrost in Alaska or rising sea levels engulfing a South Pacific island.
Well maybe the announcement last week by Moody’s Investors Service will get their attention: “The growing effects of climate change, including climbing global temperatures, and rising sea levels, are forecast to have an increasing economic impact on US state and local issuers. This will be a growing negative credit factor for issuers without sufficient adaptation and mitigation strategies.”
In other words, public bodies that want to borrow money may pay more if their credit rating suffers because they don’t recognize and prepare to deal with climate change.
Michael Wertz, a Moody’s vice president, said: “While we anticipate states and municipalities will adopt mitigation strategies for these events, costs to employ them could also become an ongoing credit challenge.”
Bloomberg summarized it this way in its report on the Moody’s announcement: “Start preparing for climate change or risk losing access to cheap credit.”
Although there may be skepticism that credit ratings downgrades will follow the warning, the Moody’s announcement creates pressure for climate action on decision makers that didn’t exist before.
It comes on the heels of a report in September that extreme weather made worse by climate change plus the health effects of the burning of fossil fuels has cost the U.S. economy at least $240 billion a year over the past decade. And that report didn’t include the costs of recent hurricanes and wildfires. The report, The Economic Case for Climate Action in the United States, published by the Universal Ecological Fund, was coauthored by Sir Robert Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Burning Fossil fuels comes at a giant price tag which the U.S. economy cannot afford and not sustain,” he said.
Just last month, 13 federal agencies released a report confirming previous reports by the IPCC that global warming leading to record-breaking weather events and temperature extremes was “unambiguous” and there is ““no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans are to blame.
Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center, said “What’s remarkable about this, of course, is that these findings, by government scientists, completely undercut this administration’s policies on climate change, including the cancellation of the Clean Power Plan and withdrawal from the Paris agreement. The findings are also utterly irreconcilable with numerous statements by top administration officials like Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, and others.”
The Woods Hole center prides itself as the World’s No. 1 Think Tank on Climate Change. But it shouldn’t require a “think tank” to tell us that climate change is real. Nor 13 federal agencies, for that matter. It is as plain as features on the face of the planet. And it’s time for our leaders to face up to the costs of ignoring it.