“I believe in climate change too,” said Doug LaMalfa, when asked about climate change at a debate with Jim Reed earlier this year, “It happens about every three months, we’re experiencing one right now, called Autumn.” In his derisive comments, LaMalfa squarely showed his disbelief in the evidence of climate change. The residents of the new 1st California Congressional District elected LaMalfa earlier this month, in spite of these comments.
Doug LaMalfa, and other politicians like him, are dangerous for California. They are dangerous because the denial of global warming puts the future of the Golden State at risk. How? California is home to the eighth largest economy in the world. An important base of California’s economy is agriculture. California is the fifth largest producer of agricultural goods in the world. Over 200 different kinds of fruits, vegetables, and grains are grown in the Golden State. Most of these crops are grown in the Central Valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.
Remarkably, the Central Valley’s productivity has only been marshaled in the past 150 years. In 1848, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to California to find gold. Very few found it, and instead, many found their fortunes growing cattle and wheat in the Valley for the hungry miners. Immigrant and Chinese labor helped build hundreds of miles of levee to supply water to early farmers in the region. In the early 20th century massive state water projects remade the San Fernando Valley, which previously was an arid desert, into an agricultural oasis. Water was moved, damned, and spread throughout the valley to create what it is today.
The agricultural production of the Central Valley and the state of California will be vulnerable to global warming. Despite Doug LaMalfa’s insistence that climate change is not real, virtually every peer reviewed scientific journal has published articles confirming the existence of man made climate change. Global warming poses specific risks to Californians. Climate change can affect the amount of snow pack in the Sierra Nevada’s, close to a third of California’s water supply. Rising sea levels can threaten the sustainability of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, another key to the Golden State’s water supply. High heat levels and increased droughts can severely impact the productivity of the Central Valley and the livelihood of its farmers. Climate change has the potential to remake California and the Central Valley into a barren wasteland. The state has addressed some of these issues and has led the way to combating climate change by lowering emissions and utilizing alternative energies. Now we need our elected leaders to do the same.
I’m not blaming Doug LaMalfa for global warming; it’s not his fault. But it is sad that an elected leader, and a farmer no less, can continue to deny climate change, an issue that is almost irrefutable at this point and still get elected. It is perhaps no coincidence that LaMalfa accepted a campaign donation from a PAC financed by the Koch Brothers, who have also funded groups denying the existence of climate change. We need more visionary and responsible leadership to help protect the Central Valley from global warming, and ensure that its farmers and its people will be spared from such dire consequences. Perhaps LaMalfa’s constituents pressure him to support policies to slow down climate change, he can be that leader.