Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Desert? What desert?

If we thought about local climate and ecology the way some commentators approach global warming, today's unseasonal wind and rain in Tucson would cast categorical doubt on the area being a desert!

It's a fairly well-documented if not quantitatively studied phenomenon: the common person does not understand that claims such as "drought", "global warming", or "desert" have associated time scales. "I can water my rocks, because it rained last week. Those people saying we're in a drought are a bunch of commie alarmists who have something against property rights and a good old fashined green lawn!"

Surely the louts, at least at the margin, will be extra wasteful this week. Hopes to get them to understand or even believe that water is a finite resource are perhaps misplaced. We have a "technology", if you will, which can bring about water conservation without getting the IQ-95 set to understand complicated arguments or waiting for the curmudgeons with mal fide objections to science in line. It's called "the free market". Aquifier-by-aquifier cap-and-trade would cause water's scarcity to be reflected in its price, and provide a means to gently wean the region off of diminishing stocks of Colorado River water.

What's keeping this ready-made "technology" from being applied? The last time Tucson Water raised its rates, there was political upheaval; understaning the meaning of "drought" and "scarcity" is not a necessary voter qualification. Thus we elect politicians who confound technocratic mitigation schemes and long-term solutions. This despite the current "going green" fad! Where's our homegrown Al Gore?

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