Wolf displays leadership on climate change action

The Times-Tribune - Op-Ed

By Rabbi Daniel Swartz

June 14, 2015

Along with several other Jewish leaders, I recently returned from a trip to the Amazon. We saw many wonders: giant kapok trees soaring more than 200 feet and with cathedral-like buttresses at their roots; macaws resplendent in brilliant blues, yellows, reds and greens; monkeys leaping through the forest with acrobatic skill, and the waters of the Amazon itself, an unimaginably huge and complex waterway. But we also saw how climate change is affecting the forest, the river, and all the people and animals that live around and in it.

In subtle ways, climate is affecting caimans, relatives of alligators that can grow up to 20 feet in length. As temperatures rise, more and more eggs in caiman nests become males, a trend that bodes poorly for the survival of these ancient species. More dramatically, the yearly floods of the river have shifted into a new pattern. Normally — or, more accurately, what used to be normal — the Amazon in the region I visited rises about 30 feet annually. Once, in 1954, it rose about 36 feet, which swept away entire villages. In 2009, it crested even a bit higher than that, and again in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Such flooding takes place on a vast scale. Every day, for example, the Amazon discharges into the Atlantic Ocean as much drinking water as New York City uses in 10 years. Consequently, it might seem impossible for us here in Northeast Pennsylvania to affect it. But what we do in Pennsylvania, especially in the Marcellus Shale drilling region, can have global impacts.

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