Welcome to global warming, Arizona! All the usual environmental issues – habitat loss, invasive species, unchecked development, water shortages, poor air quality, etc. – are much more damaging when coupled with global warming.
If we aren’t proactive, these conditions and more will develop and worsen unchecked.
Record-breaking heat waves will be common. Deserts will expand, and wildfires will become even more frequent and intense. For all who love wildlife and the outdoors, this is terrible news.
There are ways to reduce or mitigate the worst effects of global warming and help our natural resources adapt to a changing climate.
That’s why, as a lifelong conservationist and a resident for more than 50 years, I’m pleased with our governor’s leadership in joining the Western Climate Initiative, working on Western solutions to this problem.
Gov. Janet Napolitano, with six other governors and premiers of four Canadian provinces, known as the WCI Partners, released a draft plan to reduce global warming in the West.
This is a vital and historic step for protecting Arizona’s natural resources, recreational economy and wildlife.
The WCI Partners courageously included emissions from cars and trucks, and from oil and gas drilling, in their draft plan. It will be difficult to cut these emissions, but it must be done to make any real difference.
Serious flaws in this plan remain. The WCI Partners haven’t determined whether to make polluters pay.
The plan doesn’t specify if utilities, oil and gas companies and other polluters will need to purchase “allowances” or will get them for free.
“Allowances” have real monetary value, so the WCI Partners shouldn’t give polluters a free ride.
Requiring polluters to buy “allowances” by auction would raise much-needed state funds to be invested in clean energy technologies, help seniors and low-income residents pay their energy bills, and help workers take advantage of new job opportunities in our transition to a clean energy economy.
Funding to invest in wildlife and natural resources is critical to help them survive the effects of global warming.
Scientists are actively developing techniques and guidelines to help wildlife adapt, but these efforts are costly.
Investing in our natural resources could help Arizona’s land and wildlife managers protect state lands and waters so native animals and plants remain healthy – the lifeblood of more than $2 billion in wildlife-related recreational spending each year.
Currently, the draft WCI plan doesn’t mention dedicated funding for natural resource protection. We must ask Gov. Napolitano to ensure that such funding is in the final plan.
Doing anything less would be a disservice to what makes Arizona special.
Last year, when Napolitano signed up for the Western Climate Initiative, she proved she is serious about fighting global warming.
Sportsmen and conservationists across the state applauded that action and now seek a strong commitment to follow through.
This is Gov. Napolitano’s opportunity to call on her fellow governors to create a strong system that puts the West at the forefront of protecting our wildlife and natural resources from global warming. I urge her to do just that.
Ryna Rock is president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation. E-mail rynaken@ swiftaz.net