by Will Greene
Nearly every actively publishing climate scientist in the world – the folks who wake up every day and go to work studying our climate system – has concluded that humanity’s release of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses is changing our planet in a dramatic and essentially permanent way. Comparable periods in earth’s history where change occurred this rapidly coincided with extinction events of many species habiting the planet at the time.
That is why Arizona’s thought-leaders like Grady Gammage Jr. do our state a disservice when they publish “cooler-heads-prevailing” articles, such as Gammage’s spread in this Sunday’s Arizona Republic entitled “Phoenix’s Bright Future”.
Gammage writes, "Phoenix last year had 14 days greater than 110 degrees. How many people were killed by this unimaginable heat? Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and neighboring cities, recorded 21 heat-caused deaths (and an additional 22 heat-related deaths) during the weeks above 110. Tragic, yes. Thousands, no. Phoenix is built to deal with very high temperatures. Yes, temperatures may go even higher in the future, but we acknowledge and even expect that."
Gammage then jumps to another topic. Apparently addressing the projected 5-9 degree temperature rise this century with the line “but we acknowledge and even expect that” is sufficient to allay any concerns the reader might have.
Gammage’s article may succeed in making the author appear above the fray, but it represents a failure of leadership – our citizens have the right to be informed about the realities Phoenix and Arizona face in a dramatically changing world. Phoenix may have a bright future, but that is mostly dependent on how Arizona, our nation, and our world respond to climate change.