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UW professor on climate change: ‘This is here and now’


The issue of climate change isn’t merely theoretical anymore, according to one UW climate professor. According to her, it’s here, it’s happening, and it’s something we need to be concerned about, before it’s too late.

RELATED: New climate change report lays out grim future for the Northwest

A recent climate change report released by the federal government paints a grim picture for the future of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Dr. Amy Snover is the Director of the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group, and she believes that the biggest takeaway isn’t so much the “what” of the report, but the “when.”

“The current national climate assessment is really emphasizing the urgency and immediacy of the climate change issue,” she told Dave Ross on Seattle’s Morning News.

The report outlines a range of outcomes for the Northwest in the not-so-distant future, including a 22 percent reduction in salmon habitats by 2100, disease and insects causing massive tree death by the 2040s, and water shortages by as soon as 2020.

That timeline makes the issue of climate change less of a problem for the current generation’s grandchildren, and more of an issue that those alive today could experience firsthand.

“This is here and now,” warned Dr. Snover. “This is being caused by our activities, scientists around the world agree on this, [and] we know that we’re making a choice every day to make the problem worse, or to start making it better.”

One issue we’re already beginning to see is a decline in snowpack — “As it gets warmer, we have less mountain snow — that’s our natural mountain reservoir,” said Dr. Snover.

According to Snover, now that the issue is at our doorstep, it’s going to take a massive shift in the way we think, especially as predictions from scientists begin to demonstrate the immediacy of the problem.

“It’s very alarming to look at the projections,” she said. “It was alarming to look at them when they seemed even to me like they were going to happen quite awhile in the future. To see it happening around you, and examples of the problems you’re likely to expect where you live, in the places you care about, is really, really hard to see.”

That of course has many asking: Are we doing enough now to combat climate change? Snover would argue we’re not.

“We’re not addressing this with the urgency it warrants,” she cautioned.

That said, she did note that investments in renewable energy and greener technologies do have us moving in the right direction. Right now, it’s more of a question of shifting our collective mindset about the issue at hand.

It’s never easy, she noted, readjusting attitudes to account for the fact that climate change is no longer a problem for the future.

“One of the hard parts of understanding exactly what to do, is that we have to get out of the habit of thinking that this is something far off in the future that may or may not happen.”

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