Saturday, January 24, 2009

Experts: Climate change disasters to hit Arizona hard

Good article by B. Poole in the Tuscon Citizen (Arizona), followed by ignorant, racist outbursts in the comments: As climate change sweeps across the landscape of the Southwest, Arizona will take a hefty hit from what one expert calls "disaster justice." When natural disasters strike - insect invasions, illnesses, floods, hurricanes and droughts among them - they do not strike everyone equally, said Robert Verchick, an environmental law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

"All of those things affect different sets of the population," Verchick told a gathering of experts in Tucson for a climate change conference Thursday and Friday.

Though details are fuzzy, scientists expect climate change to bring the Grand Canyon state an increase in disease-carrying insects, funguses, storms that cause flooding and heat that spurs smog. All of those things hit the poor and minorities harder than other groups, he said. "Arizona is disproportionately poor, when you compare it to populations of low-income people in the United States," Verchick said Friday.

…He offered a simple formula to illustrate how disasters strike: Risk = Exposure + Vulnerability. Because we have more vulnerable people, we will suffer more, he said.

…Such issues will force bureaucracies - whether in or out of government - to change their ways. Governments are ill-equipped to deal with climate change for a number of reasons, said Craig Thomas, an associate professor of public affairs at University of Washington. Climate change is marked by uncertainty, and there is disagreement among agencies over the problem and its solutions.

...Environmental policies in the 1950s and 1960s were based on the archaic notion of global equilibrium. Scientists and policymakers are beginning to understand that there is no equilibrium and that the Earth is constantly in flux, Gunderson said.

The Painted Desert in Arizona, shot by Jon Sullivan

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