Opinion

Puget Sound has lots at stake on Earth Day 2018

Elly Claus-McGahan is an organizing member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby - Tacoma.
Elly Claus-McGahan is an organizing member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby - Tacoma. Courtesy photo

On Earth Day this weekend, we think about the health of Mother Earth and what we can do.

We Puget Sounders live in a beautiful area of the world. Some of us go clean up our beaches, weed out invasive species or plant trees. Some will buy more LED light bulbs or even an electric car.

While our state and city governments work on policies that will help mitigate the effects of climate change, it’s inspiring to see the depth of effort by these and other groups.

The Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the Treaty Tribes in Western Washington, the state Department of Transportation and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group are all engaged in collecting data on climate change impacts in our region.

Their work is important as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere blanketing the earth. Because these gases stay in the atmosphere a long time, we constantly add to them, driving up the global temperature.

In Puget Sound, that translates to higher temperatures in summer, more frost-free nights in winter and an increasingly rain-dominant climate. Snowpacks and glaciers are decreasing, causing changes in the flows and temperatures of the Puyallup and other rivers, and causing an overall drying out in summer.

The combination of sea level rise and increased peak flows of the Puyallup in winter season increases the likelihood that floods will inundate the Tacoma Tideflats by 2100.

Lowland Douglas fir trees are expected to gradually vanish in places such as Point Defiance Park, and we’re already experiencing more intense wildfires along with a related decline in air quality.

Salmon are in decline due to temperature sensitivity, and potentially harmful fish are moving in. Young shellfish can’t maintain their shells in increasingly acidic sea waters. We’re seeing longer growing seasons but must watch for new pests moving in and old pests reproducing.

WSDOT projects more road closures due to mud slides, sink holes, blown-down trees, road bed failures and local flooding. Coastal erosion will increase and storm water drainage and tide gates will be damaged with storm surges and more extreme rain events.

The tribes and other groups are collecting data, making projections and helping think through how we will adjust.

But shame on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for rolling back emissions standards and clean-air standards. This will encourage the burning of more fossil fuels under the pretense of being “pro-business” or “good for the economy.”

If this matters to you, remember to vote and to urge your representatives to support policies that promote the faster development of renewable energy resources, reduce Americans’ use of fossil fuels in transportation and reduce greenhouse gases through new techniques in farm and land management.

Be a voice to get the EPA back on track with its primary mission: to protect the environment, both in the short and long term.

On this Earth Day and beyond, let’s not forget that tending to the health of our planet benefits our economy, health and quality of life.

Elly Claus-McGahan of Tacoma is a member of Citizens’ Climate Lobby - Tacoma, which lobbies for federal carbon fee and dividend legislation. For more information, go online to www.facebook.com/CCLTacoma

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