Drought shines light on NM climate change
By Vincent P. Gutschick, John Nelson and Loe Ellen Kay
The current six-year drought in our area is demonstrating the effects of climate change in New Mexico. Farmers have been hit especially hard, with severely reduced irrigation allotments, and the Rio Grande is conspicuously dry over extended times and reaches.
We need to learn what can be done about climate change, either to slow it down or to help us to deal with its effects. Much work has been done already, so an important national hearing on climate change on Sept. 18 should have experts as participants, including several conservative economists who have looked at climate change, and several top climate scientists.
Whether we are skeptical, or are 98 percent certain that climate change is human-caused, the projected drastic consequences of rapid climate change require a real discussion about the origins and effects of climate change. The hearing by the Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the Energy and Commerce Committee is being convened by its head, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R, KY). Nominally a discussion of President Obama’s climate change action plan, the hearing is most likely to focus on the EPA’s regulations of carbon pollution (carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and black carbon or soot as a sunlight-absorbing warming agent), the major cause human-caused climate change. The hearing could, instead, be an earnest discussion of the human-caused part that dominates climate change, as established by hundreds of methods from physics-based modeling to chemical analysis of the atmosphere to examination of the geological record to remote sensing of Earth’s delicate balance of solar and thermal radiation.
We should consider protective actions, much as we each insure our homes, our cars, and our loved ones, to reduce the carbon pollution from cars, trucks, power plants, fires, fracking leaks, and more. A grassroots group, the Citizens Climate Lobby, offers a focused and practical course of action to systematically decrease carbon in our energy supply at an economically sound pace. Congress could place an annually rising fee on fossil-fuel production at each source, be it well or mine, and redistribute all the monies collected to all households in the US. Two-thirds of all households should have a net energy cost equal to or even lower than currently, and the incentive for energy producers to go low- or no-carbon helps us move to a sustainable energy economy.
Is this practical and hard-nosed? A number of economists and energy analysts think so. We believe that they deserve the chance to speak. We in the Citizens Climate Lobby propose that the concerned citizens of the Las Cruces area ask Rep. Whitfield, through our Rep. Steve Pearce, to invite these economists: Greg Mankiw, Bush and Romney advisor; Andrew Moylan of the R Street Institute; Art Laffer, a Reagan advisor; Gary Becker, a conservative Nobel Laureate in economics. At the same time, key science experts merit inclusion: Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech; Kevin Trenberth from the National Center for Atmospheric Research; and Veerabhadran Ramanathan from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This request of our Congress is a simple start that we can all consider.
Vincent P. Gutschick, Las Cruces, is a career scientist holding a Ph. D. in chemistry from Caltech. He has published 77 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in chemistry, physics, physiology, ecology, remote sensing, agronomy, global change, and extreme events, as well as reports on energy technologies.
John Nelson, Las Cruces, now retired, graduated from MNSU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He worked for NASA as a flight controller, project engineer, and chief of the Quality & Safety Office at the White Sands Test Facility. He owns a small pecan orchard and has been concerned for several years about the future of farming in the Mesilla Valley.
Lou Ellen Kay, Las Cruces, is a career educator and scientist, holding a Ph. D. in biology from the City University of New York. She is now Head of School at the growing non-profit independent school, the Las Cruces Academy.
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