Hello friends, I am El Niño — which is Spanish for…the Niño — and am pumped to join the amazing team Spinach. On the go in New Orleans this evening so will keep the pleasantries to a minimum, but in short I look forward to posting on all things climate change and weather!
(Be forewarned…it was either a great idea or a terrible idea to write this while meandering Bourbon Street)
The popularity and relevance of a scientist in the policymaking world is similar to that of being the kicker on a football team. It’s a role that lacks the sexy allure and respect that comes with being the quarterback (politician), running back (economist), or basically any other position on the team aside from maybe the holder (intern to the scientist?). You respect or despise the high-profile players depending on what team you cheer for, but either way you still know who they are and that they’re kind of a big deal. This is typically not the case with kickers, but once in awhile they get their “5 minutes of fame” when the game is on the line. The latest “5 minutes” for scientists in the policymaking world has come in the wake of Hurricane turned Superstorm Sandy’s devastating impacts in the Northeast U.S.
Some policymakers and much of the general public have been foaming at the mouth with fascination regarding the historic destruction caused by the storm and any potential links to climate change. I’m not going to rant about the politically sensitive aspects of climate change that enhanced Sandy’s impacts — that’s meant for a highly technical sleep-inducing 500+ page official report that no one will read — but Sandy hopefully left a lasting impression and appreciation for how vulnerable the U.S. is to extreme weather and climate change that can spur some bipartisanship in addressing the issue. While I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for federal legislation to address climate change — too many “cliffs” to jump off at the moment — some localities are making ground-breaking strides. I witnessed this last week while attending the 4th Annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit in Jupiter, Florida. The Summit was held by four counties (Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) with a combined population of 5.6 million (fun fact: exceeds the population of 30 states) that have decided to put aside partisan politics and join forces to address climate change. Their Action Plan combines 110 adaptation and mitigation strategies that will be implemented over the next 2 – 5 years to combat the already costly impacts of sea-level rise, and is hopefully a scrumtrulescent taste of what is possible on national scale.
Now, accepting climate change was a little easier for the governments of these counties because it is literally already at their door step and in some cases coming in their homes (i.e., sea-level rise), but on a national scale this “seeing is believing” approach will come with a lofty price tag that we can’t afford — google Fiscal Cliff for reference. I like avoiding my problems as much as the obese family member who says their weight issue is 100% due to their genes…while they polish off their third piece of cake in the last 10 minutes…but there comes a time when you need to look in the mirror and realize you are actually the problem, and start becoming the solution. Do us all a favor, America, and substitute a fourth serving of fossil fuel dessert for a renewable energy carrot.