At the Western Governors’ Association Annual Meeting on June 15, 2009, the Western Governors heard a sobering and candid report from Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, which, at its core, indicated that climate change is real and happening faster than scientists previously warned. According to Secretary Chu, "the news is getting scary . . . but the most scary thing in my mind is the [scientific] observations. People can be entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts." A few of the observations cited by Secretary Chu included the following:
- Loss of 1/2 of the Northern polar ice cap in the last 10 years
- Sea level rise
- 40% of the British Columbia pine is dead
- Extreme water stress in the Western United States (with exception to the Pacific Northwest) as a result of decreased snow pack and changing weather patterns
Secretary Chu was particularly concerned with the continued melting of the permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere, which he predicted could have "runaway effects" due to the massive release of CO2 and methane from the biomass that has accumulated over time.
President of the World Bank, Robert B. Zoellick, also participated in the discussion on climate change, indicating that the rule making that will be necessary for implementing climate change policies will stay with us for decades and will be some of the "toughest negotiations" he has ever seen. Mr. Zoellick stressed the importance of having the Governors plugged into the rule making process since this will be the framework that the states will have to live with. There was also an acknowledgment among the group that the farmers and ranchers are skeptical about climate change, but that this is a key stakeholder group that needs to be part of the equation. Governor Bill Richardson commented that the key will be the creation of a carbon offset market that will work. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, concurred indicating that a carbon offset market will be critical to the survival of rural communities.
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