I don't mean to be harsh, but what is it with Arizona's climate-change denial? Sure, it's not as bad as North Carolina, which is trying to outlaw using climate science to estimate the rise in sea level. But Arizona is the focus of this blog, the home state I love (no matter what you believe) and fight for, even if it must be at a distance. Aside from the Republic's indispensable Shaun McKinnon, I am unaware of any public figures who are discussing a subject they should be screaming from the rooftops: The clear and present danger that climate change specifically presents to Arizona.
Of course, the Kooks (I coined the term, you're welcome) will be deniers. But consider the congressional primary race among Democrats Kyrsten Sinema, Andrei Cherny and David Schapira. I'm not sure the survivor from this circular firing squad will prevail in a new district that includes Chandler and Mesa. But one would think, especially given the talent and brains of the two candidates I know (Cherny and Sinema), that this could be a time for truth telling. Yet — and forgive me if I missed it — I can't find a mention of it on their campaign Web sites, much less in the "send money" push emails from Cherny and chirpy-happy-everything's-great-in-Arizona tweets from Sinema.
So I turn to ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability. I find a promo to Michael Hanemann, a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, with a page entitled "assessing the cost of climate change." Aside from mostly bio briefs, it contains this statement: "Water supply and climate change are the two challenges that concern me most, both individually and jointly. While aquatic ecosystems are currently strained by population growth, economic development, and land use changes, the effects of climate keep building up – perhaps more quickly than many suppose." The page was posted last May. The Institute's Web site lists 42 items under "climate change and adaptation." There may be some fine work going on, but what gets the most publicity seem to be things aimed at finding a way to keep the living arrangements we now have in place and growing — somehow — while the university pimps the antithesis of sustainability: The Sun Corridor. In other words, trying to sustain the unsustainable.
Here's the news: There's not going to be any single-family-house, master-planned-community nirvana containing 8 million people and running from Yavapai County to south of Tucson, spreading out to Buckeye with half-a-million happy souls and over to the vast new master planned communities of Superstition Vistas. Attempting it will only end in tragedy and a further misallocation of resources. This will happen for a variety of reasons: Debt and deleveraging, a poorer middle class, the drag of the underclass, the chickens come home to roost on inadequate infrastructure and people just not wanting to live such a "lifestyle." It will be stressed by further local warming caused by paving over agriculture and desert, failing to plant shade trees and covering grass with gravel.
But the big enchilada is the one nobody wants to order: World climate change, happening faster and more severe than expected, and the unique vulnerability of Arizona. Like all of the Southwest, it will see the extinction of species, migration of diseases (hello, West Nile), the decline of its forests, huge wildfires and desertification that in the long run could spell the death of the magically distinctive Sonoran Desert. Water resources will be in serious trouble, including from declining snow melt. It will see all this and more. But Arizona is the third most populous state in the West, with 4 million people sitting in the frying pan that is metro Phoenix. The short- and long-term dangers will not be addressed by magical cool concrete. "Adapting," e.g. doing nothing, may work some places with manageable damage, but not in Arizona.
Intelligent responses would begin with a healthy increase in state income taxes on the better off ("You can't stop people from coming here," developers keep telling me). The tax code should also be changed to penalize sprawl and leapfrog development and reward infill. Spend the money on a comprehensive rail and transit system, investing in cool oases within the urban footprint, a soup-to-nuts solar-power cluster and a serious, quality-based economic-development strategy. As I have written before, any hopeful future for a large population base is to retreat back within the footprint of the Salt River Project, building a dense, shady oasis. Let the population statewide fall in half. Then you're getting serious.
It's so much more welcome to build more freeways and wait for the growth machine to sputter back to life. And quibble about temperatures, how the weather is always changing and, really, we're just not sure about climate change. Meanwhile, the Kookocracy remains in charge, in total denial. The fossil-fuels industry doesn't even have to spend much to keep Arizona confused and in denial, to beat down, discredit and intimidate those who would discuss the emergency upon us. Almost all leaders are either stooges for, or must steer clear of, the Real Estate Industrial Complex.
One begins to wonder, as with the banksters, are these people corrupt or stupid? The greatest existential crisis in history is bearing down on us, and ... nothing. Corrupt or stupid? Which is it?
Want more on this topic? Read Rogue's Climate Change page.