Commentary: Stop calling it an environmental issue

Climate change is an issue of health, wellness, public works, infrastructure and much more

Climate change is not an environmental issue.

It’s a real estate issue when people leave behind homes destroyed or at risk from fire and coastal erosion. It’s a public health issue when saltwater seeps into drinking water wells as seas rise. It’s a public health crisis when heat kills hundreds or thousands of people.

It’s a public works issue when major cities like Miami run pumps to deflood city streets and sidewalks.

It’s an infrastructure issue when roads collapse and railroads melt. It’s an agricultural issue when sustained flooding prevents crops from being planted. It’s a ranching issue when drought forces cattlemen to kill their herds. It’s a national security risk when military bases repeatedly flood leaving planes an equipment stranded.

It’s an immigration issue when crops fail, and farmers move seeking land or work. It’s a defense issue when water tables drop, disrupting livelihoods and driving conflict. It’s a food resources issue when warm ocean waters drive algal blooms that cause shellfish to be poisonous.

It’s a jobs and economic issue, a housing and infrastructure issue, a fish and wildlife issue, a health and safety issue, a national and international security issue. It not only exacerbates natural cycles; it is driving us into extremes humanity has never seen before. It’s an issue of how many species will be left in 20 years and how many individuals of the human species will remain in 50 years.

Stop calling it an environmental issue.

Kendra Zamzow, a resident of Chickaloonm Alaska, is an environmental geochemist and is the Alaska representative for the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2). She has a doctorate in environmental chemistry from the University of Nevada, Reno and a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology from Humboldt State University in California.