“I think that the conditions that we’re experience now are ones that track with what we expect to see more of; so dry places getting drier, wet places getting wetter, and more extremes
in terms of variability of the weather,” said ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko
in the latest installment of CONTEXT
, a weekly Wilson Center interview series. While it’s difficult to link the current drought – or any one weather or climate event – directly to man-made climate change, Dabelko said that “the warming trends that we’re seeing and anticipating with climate change suggests that this is a preview of what may be to come.”
“The new normal in a world under climate change is going to be one that has some fairly straightforward changes – what it means for water availability and food, what it means for economics, what it means for even our forests and our coastlines,” he said. But the “new normal” also means short-term surprises whose ramifications could extend far beyond strictly climatic or environmental fields.
Looking at the Gulf of Mexico, for example, an extreme weather event “can really gum up or take offline our capacity to bring in energy, process energy, and move it around the country.” That could pose “really immediate short-term threats to our energy infrastructure, our energy grid, which are by any calculation high politics, high stakes issues for the country as a whole as well as the region itself.”
“I think it’s fair to say we are not in any way, shape, or form truly understanding the implications of the changes and responding in ways that will effectively help us adapt to those changes, and try to mitigate the problem itself,” Dabelko said.
But while action on the federal level to address climate change has been mired in political debates, Dabelko says that cities and states throughout the country offer hope for how the United States might mitigate and adapt to future weather patterns. Historically, progress on environmental issues “has been at local levels,” he said. “I think we should look to those areas, and in fact those are where a lot of the innovations are coming on the ground.”
“Hopefully the national level will follow,” Dabelko added. “Hopefully we will develop a discourse that allows us to focus on the substance, the analysis, and our policy options, and stop using it as a political football to score points each way.”