Our View: Climate change begs for action

If ever an issue cried out for action on the international, national, regional, state, local and individual level, it is global warming.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which combines the scientific rigor of 2500 experts from 130 countries, has made a striking case that global warming is under way, disrupting the earth's biological and physical systems.

Today, in the second of four assessment reports the IPCC is slated to release this year, the panel was expected to outline some of the predicted effects of climate change across the globe, including droughts, food and water shortages and loss of wildlife habitat.

A state-sponsored study of the effects of global warming on the Northwest earlier this year spelled out the likelihood of more severe forest fire seasons in the years ahead, sea level rise that could radically increase flooding here in South Sound and loss of winter snowpack in the mountains, which will have a drastic effect on regional water supplies, especially on the east side of the state.

Climate change is a global problem and regional problem that requires reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are at the root cause of global warming.

Just last week, a panel of 21 government, business, environmental and tribal leaders convened in Lacey to start work on a statewide climate change plan designed to:

* Reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the state to 1990 levels by 2020 and 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

* Triple the number of jobs in the clean energy economic sector in this state by 2020.

* Reduce money spent on imported fuel in this state by 20 percent by 2020 through development of clean energy sources and energy efficiencies.

The state directive issued by Gov. Chris Gregoire last month also challenges the climate change team and its work groups to develop strategies to cope with inevitable changes to water resources, forest health, sea level rise and human health brought about by climate change in the Northwest.

It's no coincidence that also last week, the Olympia City Council decided to spend an extra $300,000 to $550,000 to raise by one foot the site for the new City Hall. The reason: the city is building on downtown Olympia property vulnerable to sea level rise.

The local and state deliberations over climate change are surfacing as a Democratic-controlled Congress considers federal legislation to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The legislation received a boost last week when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

After years of neglect and denial by the Bush administration the time to act on climate change is now.