Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Drought, The United States and Beyond
Obama: Climate Change is Bad for Your Health
What the media isn't telling you about Climate Change.
Weather is what happens in the sky. Weather includes wind, lightning, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, hail, snow, and lots more. Energy from the Sun affects the weather. Climate tells us what kinds of weather usually happen in an area at different times of the year.
Climate is the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. It is measured by assessing the patterns of variation in temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, precipitation, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological variables in a given region over long periods of time. Climate is different from weather, in that weather only describes the short-term conditions of these variables in a given region.
Drought is when an area gets less than its normal amount of rain over months or even years. Crops and other plants need water to grow, and land animals need it to live. It can become dangerous to people and other animals; causing famine and even creating deserts. Drought is a natural event, caused by other weather events like El Niño and high pressure systems. Drought can also be triggered by deforestation (people cutting down forests), by global warming, and by diverting rivers or emptying lakes.
Simple English Wikipedia
July was the planet's warmest month on record, smashing old marks, U.S. weather officials said.
July's average temperature was 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous global mark set in 1998 and 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree, according to figures released Thursday (8-20-15) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That's a large margin for weather records, with previous monthly heat records broken by a 20th of a degree or less.
"It just reaffirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming," said NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch. "The warming is accelerating and we're really seeing it this year."
NOAA records go back to 1880. Separate calculations by NASA and the Japanese weather agency also found July 2015 to be a record.
"In case we have forgotten, because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair, 'You know what this is?'" Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said, holding up a snowball. "It's a snowball, from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonable."
"Catch this," he said to the presiding officer, tossing the blob of snow on the Senate floor last February as part of his case for why global warming is a hoax.
Jim went on to list the recent cold temperatures across parts of the United States, which included 67 new record lows earlier in the week according to the National Weather Service, as evidence that global warming claims are overhyped. "We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record. But now the script has flipped."
Excerpt from “Depression 3, Joyce’s Take Thursday, July 31, 2014
“This Wednesday,” I continued, “ Senator Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma of course, blocked a Senate resolution that would have admitted that climate change is real. Just That! Not that is was caused by humans, or that we had to do something about it, but just that it was real, that the climate was changing, not for the better or worse, just that it was changing. Inhofe objected to the resolution because he claimed the planet had experienced, and I quote, “no warming for the last fifteen years;” and because nine thousand scientists had signed some petition expressing doubt that greenhouse gases caused global warming. I guess that would be a pretty good argument against human based climate change if any of it were true, which it isn’t. I don’t know what thermometer Big Jim has been looking at, but the one the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has tells us that all of the three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since eighteen eighty. Most of this has occurred since the seventies... nineteen seventies, with twenty of the hottest years occurring since nineteen eighty one! Ten of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last twelve...”
“Wait a second,” one of the guys interrupted. “You said “this Wednesday.” You mean last Wednesday, don’t you?”
“No. And this doesn’t even take into account that solar activity has decreased since two thousand, and that ninety percent of all of the heat generated from increased carbon emissions goes straight into the ocean instead of the atmosphere, which is what’s usually measured when attempting to detect the ambient temperature. Inhofe doesn’t get that when the ocean heats up it will eventually influence atmospheric temperature.”
“Mr. Joyce, Rick...”
“How does he explain melting glaciers, and the artic ice cap disappearing, stranding all of those poor polar bears. Now that’s really depressing. Makes me want to break down and cry.
Inhofe went on to assert that federal government agencies, including the The Department of Defense, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, were colluding to promote the agendas of environmentalists. So a vast conspiracy is under way that Inhofe has double secret knowledge of, but no evidence to prove his assertion. In other words he’s pulling that assertion right of of his big, flabby, Oklahoman butt. Why would the government be doing this? What’s in it for them? What’s their motive? Senator Inhofe doesn’t answer this important point to his argument.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island made the point for him, and If I remember correctly, he said this, ‘Let me tell you some of the government agencies who are so-called colluding together. How about NASA? We trust them to send our astronauts into space. We trust them to deliver a rover the size of an S.U.V. to the surface of Mars safely and drive it around, sending data and pictures back from Mars to us. You think these people know what they’re talking about? … How about the United States Navy? The commander in chief of our Pacific Command? Is he colluding when he says that? …
If you want to ignore the federal government, if you live in a world in which you think the federal government colludes with itself to make up things that aren’t true, okay. But look at the property casualty insurance and reinsurance industry. They’re the people with the biggest bet on this. They have billions of dollars riding on getting it right, and they say climate change is real, carbon pollution is causing it, we’ve got to do something about it. So does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, because they care about the poor and the effect this will have on the people who have the least. So does every major U.S. scientific society. Every single one.’”
I looked around the room. Everybody seemed suitably stunned.
“And what about that petition, the one nine thousand scientists signed saying the science behind global warming was not well established. I happen to know about this petition. It even has a name. It’s called the Petition Project, or the Oregon Petition, which purports to be signed by thirty one thousand, four hundred and eighty seven American scientists, including nine thousand, and twenty nine with PhDs, mostly in engineering. Okay, number one, the signatories are listed without titles or affiliations that would permit an assessment of their credentials, which is rather odd, don’t you agree?”
Most of the vets continued to stupidly stare at me, or at Dr Newsome, I assume to watch her agree with my argument.
“Two, assuming that all the people that signed the petition reported their credentials accurately, credentialed climate experts on the list are very few, and the others really have no business signing a petition that has to do with something that is not in their field. It's like a psychologist, like Doctor Newsome here [everyone looked at Dr. Newsome now, who was looking at me] making an opinion about solar flares. You wouldn’t do that, would you doctor?”
She shook her head, “No,” she said.
“Of course you wouldn’t. Third, approved names on the list included fictional characters from the television show “M*A*S*H,” the movie “Star Wars," Geri Halliwell, from “The Spice Girls,” the father of evolution (which is another disputed theory), Charles Darwin, and prank names such as "I. C. Ewe, " “Fook Mi,” and “Fook Yu.” Duplicate entries, single names lacking any other initial, and corporate names. By golly, in two thousand one, the magazine Scientific American took a random sample "of thirty of the one thousand and four hundred signatories that claimed to hold a Ph.D. specifically in a climate-related science, and came to the conclusion, well, let me see if I can remember. Oh yeah, they said ‘Of the twenty six we were able to identify in various databases, eleven said they still agreed with the petition, one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.’
Well my fellow veterans, I think Senator Whitehouse said it best when he added ‘The fact you can’t find 9,000 people who think the earth is flat is a bit of a stretch, and the idea that we should base our policy on a petition that imaginary people are on rather than on what NASA and NOAA and the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and every major scientific society and the entire property casualty reinsurance industry are telling us, it’s just extraordinary.’
I would have to agree.
Not only that, but when you consider that ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are likely due to human activities, and that most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing that position, well it doesn’t really matter how many deniers come up out of the depths of the corporatocracy (and don’t fool yourselves for a minute that we live in a democracy, my friends, we haven’t lived in a democracy for decades), they are still only three percent of the scientific community, if they are indeed of the scientific community. Three percent compared to ninety seven. If you had a serious illness, which God forbid ever happens to anyone in this room, and ninety seven doctors told you that a difficult course of treatment lies ahead of you, with no guarantee of success, but it was your only chance of survival, and three doctors told you you were okay, and you didn’t need to do anything. who would you listen to? I’m afraid, and I hate to say this because I’m sure some of you might be members of a certain political party, that republicans would rather take the advice of the three, and that saddens, and depresses me.
Look, the Governor of the great state of Florida, and Skeletor impersonator, Rick Scott, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, were asked if climate change was real, they replied, “I’m not a scientist,” as if that answered anything. This attitude is representative of the entire republican party. “I’m not a scientist,” seems to indicate that they don’t have the information, or the means of gaining enough information on the subject to make a decision to take any kind of meaningful action, which leads to inaction, which itself is a policy position.
Charlie Crist, who is running against Scott, when asked the same question said this, ‘I’m not a scientist either but I can use my brain and I can talk to one.’
Now that’s the kind of attitude I want my politicians to have, not someone who sweeps difficult problems under the rug, and who would have our children deal with situations when it may be too late!”
I was a little tired now, and weepy.
“And let’s not forget our dear friends from the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”
“What?” I could hear several of my fellow veterans exclaim.
“Yes, I share your outrage. Because you know what happens when all of this extra heat and carbon dioxide winds up in the ocean, don’t you? It makes the ocean more acidic, and currently the oceans are more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of years. Yes, yes, I know! I’m not even going to mention what effect this has on the world’s reefs, oh no, I won’t mention that! And I certainly won’t mention the fact that ocean plankton provide fifty percent of the oxygen that you and I breathe, and due to global warming, that capacity to provide this oxygen and support the fundamental food chains of the ocean has decreased by six percent over the last thirty years. No gentleman and ladies, I won’t mention that.
“Good,” Dr. Newsome cut in, “now I think...”
“So why does ocean acidification matter? Anyone? I don’t want to monopolize the groups time here, but ocean acidification decreases the availability of carbonate, a material that thousands of species of sea creatures use to form calcium carbonate shells. Yeah, that’s right, shells. Without carbonate, we’ll see an epidemic of clams, oysters, lobsters and, yes, crabs suffering from osteoporosis, with shells that are thin and brittle, or that totally dissipate. And who relies on these animals other than humans? Seals, otters and walruses who eat shellfish, are also in danger of running out of food.
So my fellow vets, if something isn’t done soon, all we’ll ever see coming on board the decks of the Time Bandit and the Cornelia Marie are empty cages.”
My audience was suitable shocked. Some were looking at the wall clock.
“Thank you Rick, I think we can all...”
“But what saddens me the most, what I find depressing about this whole situation, doctor, and my fellow vets, is that the right question wasn’t asked. All that really had to be done to clear up this matter, in which the whole destiny of our race may depend...”
“Mr. Joyce,” Dr. Newsome exclaimed, “maybe we should keep the discussion on a personal basis...”
“Of course! I was just coming to that. Thank you. The right question to ask, as you so wisely point out doctor, is what is Senator Inhofe gaining by championing climate change denial in the United States Senate? Why would he be doing this in the face of insurmountable evidence which contradicts his position? Huummm?”
“Do you know?” I pointed to one man wearing a “U.S.S. Forrestal” ballcap.
“Do you?” I pointed to another.
“Of course you don’t! Because nobody asked. I’ll tell you why though. According to Oil Change International, Senator Inhofe has received more than one million, three hundred thousand dollars in contributions from the oil and gas industry since nineteen ninety nine. The largest donor on his list is Koch Industries, which has given him sixty seven thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars. Do you think that might have something to do with it?
Instead of the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the insurance industry maintaining this massive hoax for no particular reason, and James Inhofe having a very good reason to discount the problem of global warming, namely because he’s getting paid for it, now who would you believe? I ask you, who would you believe?”
“...thanks in part to climate change, drought-fueled infernos are incinerating forests at a record pace from Alaska to California, claiming the lives of at least 13 [now at least 21] firefighters, destroying more than 900 structures and requiring firefighting agencies to call in help from the U.S. Army and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
As of Aug. 20, more than 41,300 wildfires have scorched more than 7.2 million acres in 2015, mostly in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. That’s nearly three times the 2.6 million acres that burned nationwide in 2014 and more land area than has burned in any other year over the last decade.
The blazes have consumed so much land this year because of the drought, fueled by record high temperatures during the warmest January-to-July period in history for the region. Partly to blame for the heat is a giant area of warm water in the Pacific known as “the blob” and the rapidly growing El Niño, which could be one of the most extreme on record.
The drought and high temperatures are stressing forests to the point where they can’t fend off the worst effects of wildfire, even in those forests that depend on occasional fires to survive.” - Bobby Magill / Climate Central
“In the Western United States some of the effects of climate change such as increasing temperatures, lower rainfall, and decreases in snowmelt have contributed to longer and more intense wildfire seasons: Fire seasons are now an average of 78 days longer than they were in 1970 and the U.S. now burns twice as many acres every year as it did 30 years ago.
Fighting fire and protecting the communities it threatens is expensive. As wildfire season has become increasingly severe, the costs of fighting wildfires has increased dramatically but federal funding has not kept up. The Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service—the agencies tasked with battling blazes—have long faced major budget shortfalls and the problem is only getting worse. Here are a few numbers to put the cost increase into perspective:
$100 million: The amount the Forest Service is spending each week to fight fires this year. It is expected to exceed its annual budget by September.
$3 billion: The amount of federal wildfire spending per year since 2002, more than doubling from less than $1 billion a year in the 1990s.
50 percent: The percentage of the Forest Service’s budget that will be dedicated to wildfires, up from just 16 percent 20 years ago.
30 percent: The percentage of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget that was spent fighting the worst 1 percent of American wildfires between 2008 and 2012.
Because the cost of suppressing wildfires has grown exponentially and funding has not kept pace, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior have been forced to borrow money from other pockets, including fire prevention, to cover costs, creating a vicious cycle where funding for other important programs is taken to cover the cost of wildfire suppression.” -CAP Action War Room
On March 12, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a professor at UC Irvine, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. Online it was given this headline: "California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?"
In an email Q&A with Mashable, Famiglietti explains what he really meant by that article, and why he is so concerned about the sustainability of current water use — not only in the West, but also in other parts of the world such as the Middle East.
Famiglietti: The online headline, written (and now corrected) by the LA Times, was misleading. It originally read "California has 1 year of water left," which I did not write nor did I intend to convey. My real point: at the time of writing, statewide, California's surface water reservoirs held about a year's worth of water supply, perhaps plus or minus a couple of months.
Of course, our surface water reservoirs are not designed to provide long-term water supply, and really cannot hold more than about 3 year's worth. So after 3 years of drought, it is understandable that our reservoirs are very low.
However, we are at no risk of running out of water any time soon, since we have decades worth of groundwater in our aquifers. One of the key points of the op-ed was that, since we will be relying more heavily on groundwater this year (perhaps an unprecedented 85% to 90% statewide), that we need to be extremely mindful to use it sparingly — all the more important as we consider the great potential for an even drier future in California with even more prolonged drought.
Groundwater is clearly our strategic reserve, yet the public does not really realize it, and may also not realize how rapidly it is being depleted. Collectively, we need to make sure that we sustain our groundwater supply for the long term.
New NASA satellite imagery shows that some areas of California are sinking more than 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) per month. Though the sinking, called subsidence, has long been a problem in the state, the rate is accelerating because the state's extreme drought is fueling voracious groundwater pumping.
"Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows — up to 100 feet (30 meters) lower than previous records," Mark Cowin, director of California's Department of Water Resources, said in a statement. "As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly, and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage."
If the land shrinks too much, and for too long, it can permanently lose its ability to store groundwater, the researchers said.
Certain areas are shrinking very quickly. Regions of the Tulare Basin, which includes Fresno, sank 13 inches (33 cm) in just eight months. The Sacramento Valley is sinking about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) per month. And the California Aqueduct, a complex network of pipes, canals and tunnels that funnels water from the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern and central California to Southern California, has sunk 12.5 inches (32 cm), and most of that was just in the past four months, according to the new study.
The need for groundwater in certain regions is largely a result of agriculture: Most of the state's agricultural production resides in the fast-sinking regions around some of the state's most endangered river systems, the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. As the heat and lack of rainfall have depleted surface-water supplies, farmers have turned to groundwater to keep their crops afloat.
Subsidence isn't just an aesthetic problem; bridges and highways can sink and crack in dangerous ways, and flood-control structures can be compromised. In the San Joaquin Valley, the sinking Earth has destroyed the outer shell around thousands of privately drilled wells.
Source Tia Ghose of Love Science
Mashable: From space, you've collected data showing the dramatic drawdown in groundwater supplies from California's agricultural lands. This clearly is unsustainable, but can you put this into perspective for people regarding how much water has likely been taken, how much land has sunk, and what this means for another hot and dry season ahead?
Famiglietti: Data from the NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission has shown us that since 2011, water losses in California have been catastrophic. In each of the last 3 years, California has lost more than 8 trillion gallons of water, which is more than all 39 million Californians use each year in their homes, and for industrial and municipal use.
Our last couple of winters — our wet seasons — have been drier than our dry seasons, so our reservoirs and groundwater supplies are not getting replenished. The snowpack is nearly 90% below normal for this time of year. Groundwater is at an all-time low. Wells continue to run dry. In some regions, the land is sinking at rates as high as a foot per year in response to the heavy rates of groundwater pumping.
All of this means that as we move deeper into 2015, that we will be relying even more heavily on our limited groundwater supply ... which means that we all have to conserve as much water as we possibly can so that we don't drain our precious groundwater reserve and leave ourselves unprepared for future drought emergencies.
The California Water Commission, responding to a fourth year of drought, approved sharp new limits on the amount of water that can be used on landscapes surrounding newly constructed buildings, such as houses, businesses and schools.
The revised ordinance will limit grass to about 25% of a home's combined front, back and side yards in all new construction.
Owners of existing homes do not completely escape the restrictions: Those who launch significant renovations of outdoor areas with more than 2,500 square feet of landscaping also face cutbacks.
Additionally, grass will be all but banned in landscapes of new commercial, industrial and institutional buildings.
The ordinance is expected to reduce the water use of a new home by about 20% or about 12,000 gallons a year. Water use on new commercial landscapes will be cut by about 35%, Department of Water Resources officials said. The new rules take effect Dec. 1st.
When Gov. Jerry Brown stood in a snow-less meadow April 1st and ordered a historic 25% cut in urban water use, he also declared war on California's beloved lawns.
“The idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day — that's going to be a thing of the past,” Brown said.
Mashable: Climate change may be playing a role in this drought by amplifying its severity through increases in the average temperatures. How should people think of the link between the California drought and global warming, without falling into the "did x cause y" trap?
Famiglietti: People must begin to recognize that the steady march of climate change is forging ahead and is having a huge impact on water availability. Droughts like the one we are facing now will become more common in the future, and likely even more severe, especially later in the century. It is climate change that is making drought the new normal, and we need to adjust our personal thinking, and our statewide and national water management accordingly.
Lapping more than one thousand miles of coastline in drought-stricken California is a tantalizing, vast source of water: the Pacific Ocean.
Cost and environmental concerns have kept Californians from tapping the salty Pacific. But now, as the historic drought enters its fourth year with no end in sight, the state is taking the plunge with plans to turn the ocean into drinkable water.
"This is going to change the way we look at water in California for decades to come," said Peter MacLaggan, senior vice president of California project development at Poseidon Water, which manages large water infrastructure projects.
The desalination process itself is complicated and uses a technique called reverse osmosis, pushing seawater through filters to remove salt and other particles. The leftover, extra-salty seawater is pumped back into the ocean.
Poseidon's facility in Carlsbad in San Diego County is the largest desalination plant in the western hemisphere, and will start pumping 50 million gallons of fresh water into the community each day starting this fall.
It's not the state's first desalination plant. The tiny town of Sand City has operated a desalination facility for five years, serving as an example for larger-scale efforts to take a sip out of the Pacific. - Jacob Rascon and Elizabeth Chuck for NBC News
It might seem that with California having so much coastline, an obvious drought solution would be to transform some of that sea water into water fit for human use. Not so fast!
Desalinization involves technology that is extremely expensive, so most water officials don’t see it as a major player in improving water supplies. Still, in the city of Carlsbad, close to San Diego, what will be the nation’s largest desalinization plant is expected to begin operating next year. Producing 50 million gallons of water per day, it will be the largest such plant in the Western Hemisphere. That sounds like a lot, but actually is just 7 percent of the county’s total water needs, and at a cost of $1 billion, it seems unlikely that desalinization will provide a primary solution to the drought. -Judy Molland for Care2
Mashable: As a journalist who covers climate change and extreme weather events, what should be on my horizon — and that of my readers — as we enter the fourth summer of drought in a row?
Famiglietti: A few things come to mind. A big one is the human response. What will it take for 80% or 90% or 100% of the population to accept the realities of the drought, and to expect and to use far less water?
Will agriculture voluntarily begin restricting groundwater use? Will the government be forced to impose mandatory restrictions across all sectors?
Another thing to watch out for is whether there will be a rush to plant more water-intensive crops, like nut trees and vineyard grapes, before the new groundwater legislation is implemented. That would be unfortunate. But as you drive up and down the Central Valley, you can see it happening.
Mashable: What's the number one lesson you take away from the GRACE data showing groundwater depletion around the world, much of it in potential hotspots for conflict?
Famiglietti: The number one lesson is that our global water future will consist of haves and have nots. Our data allow us to now clearly anticipate where those places will be, and many of them are trans-boundary. We need to begin taking action now to plan for a future where we need to peaceably move and share water across political boundaries.
Captain Kirk... I mean actor William Shatner (84) has a plan to help alleviate the drought in California. He floated the idea of starting a Kickstarter campaign to raise $30 billion (as in BILLION) for a water pipeline from Seattle to Lake Mead in Nevada, which feeds water to Arizona, Nevada and California. His proposal involves a 4 foot, above ground pipeline that would run alongside Interstate 5.
"California's in the midst of a four year old drought. They tell us there's a year's supply of water left. If it doesn't rain next year, what do 20 million people in the breadbasket of the world do?"
"No, it's simple. They did it in Alaska — why can't they do it along Highway 5?”
This if successful would be unprecedented. The most funded campaign in Kickstarter’s history was for $20,338,986 going towards a start up, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based smartwatch maker Pebble.
And the idea is feasible... if Seattle, or the state of Washington, was willing to part with some of it’s water to quench the thirst of Californians.
It seems that they are not.
While Washington state has received a normal amount of rainfall so far in 2015, the average snowpack is well below normal and Gov. Jay Inslee has issued an emergency drought declaration for watersheds that account for 44% of the state.
Snowmelt runoff for the summer of 2015 is projected to be the lowest on record in 64 years and the State Department of Ecology is asking legislators for $9 million in funding.
Seattle does not have a surplus of water, says Paul Faulds, water resources manager for Seattle Public Utilities.
"Our water goes to provide water for people, for businesses and for fish. We use our water wisely and manage it throughout the season," Faulds said.
Thanks to full reservoirs from winter rains and strict conservation, Faulds said Seattle will be able to survive a dry summer, but is in no position to help water wasteful California.
"We're not being greedy. We do sympathize with them for sure," Faulds said.
Kirk said even if he can't raise $30 billion, he hopes to at least raise awareness of the water issues California faces.
A noble Enterprise... indeed.
Scientists who study long-term climate patterns say California has been dry for much longer periods of time before it became a state. They’ve documented several droughts over the past 1,000 years in the state which lasted 10 or 20 years in a row. By studying tree rings, sediment and other natural evidence, researchers have discovered a 240-year-long drought that started in 850 and, 50 years after the conclusion of that one, another that stretched at least 180 years.
We’ve discussed drought before, specifically in California. From Drought, California 2-23-13:
As of last February (2-2012) the precipitation in the state had only hit 60 percent of the average. Our snowpack water supplies are low as well.
Drought conditions effect the number of wildfires that annually plague Southern California. The drier the conditions, the easier it is for fires to start and spread.
According to the analysis of the drought's impacts by the Pacific Institute, a Northern California think tank that focuses on water issues, in an average year hydropower produces 15% of the electricity for the state.
Citing data from the California Energy Commission, the authors found that figure dropped to 8%-10% with falling runoff levels during the 2007-09 drought. Utilities made up for the loss by burning more natural gas and buying more power from out of state, driving up production costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. The authors calculated that the switch to other power sources resulted in an additional 13 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (who keep sending me Emails all of the time... I don't know why):
“Warmer global temperatures are expected to cause an intensification of the hydrologic cycle, with increased evaporation over both land and water. The higher evaporation rates will lead to greater drying of soils and vegetation, especially during the warm season. Climate models also project changes in the distribution and timing of rainfall. The combination of a decrease in summer rainfall and increased evaporation will lead to more severe and longer-lasting droughts in some areas. Increasing drought frequency has the potential to affect land-based natural and managed ecosystems, coastal systems, and both freshwater quality and quantity. Increasing drought frequency also has the potential to increase the likelihood of wildfires.”
To sum up, California has experienced severe drought conditions on a periodic basis. Drought effects the amount of water available for use by humans for various purposes. For instance, the city of Los Angeles uses 200 billion gallons of water a year for personal, industrial, and agricultural use (including the production of livestock foods). Los Angeles depends on water to provide for the production of energy as well. The effect drought has on the available water supply is to lessen it, which means other sources of water needs to be utilized (the prospect of increased demand coupled with reduced supply from the Mono and Owens basins is causing the LADWP to look into a number of new water sources, including a new direct connection to the California Aqueduct, increased use of recycled water, use of stormwater capture and reuse, and increased conservation. Global warming, or climate change, whichever term you prefer, will increasingly tend to exacerbate the drought conditions we're already experiencing (as well as increase the amount of wildfires which are prevalent in the area. It will also effect insect propagation (A new study made at University of Washington suggests that global warming seems to lead in fact to more insects. Warmer climates seem to increase their reproductive rate and population growth, with widespread effects on agriculture, public health and conservation).
Some climatologists believe that the United States may be looking at a “megadrought.” All states west of the Mississippi are experiencing water shortages, and NOAA data indicates that California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho and Montana are all likely to experience an “intensification” of drought conditions. Arizona and New Mexico are also looking at low water supplies, though NOAA officials believe it’s possible drought conditions may be lifted in future climate projections.
Climatologists assessing the possible causes of the megadrought are also reluctant to blame it on global warming, as historic evidence suggests that it may be natural and part of a cyclical pattern. Native communities may have survived droughts via tactics like relocating and changing their practices — though some, like the Pueblo, appear to have been unable to cope with the change in climate — but Europeans stumbled upon North America when the continent was rich in water supplies, and colonized it accordingly, without consideration for future water conservation. Now, they’re dealing with the consequences.
This illustrates that shrinking water supplies and inadequate rainfall aren’t just a problem in the Golden State, and all states need to begin to think about reforming water policy to address the possibility of a long-term change in water availability. Water shortages across the West have already caused problems like mass livestock dieoffs in Texas, uncontrolled wildfires in Montana, and the deaths of acres of orchards in California. These problems are having a direct social and economic impact on affected states, cutting at the baseline of their economy and making financial survival difficult for those who rely on the land to make a living — farmers in particular are struggling across the West because they can’t irrigate crops and provide water for their livestock. That has a ripple effect along the economic chain, as reduced farm profits equate to reduced tax profits, export dollars and other benefits for the state economy as a whole, while fires necessitate substantial expenses for paying fire crews, evacuating affected communities, and providing financial aid and assistance for fire recovery.
The drought is also permanently changing the landscape of the American West. Low rainfall paired with depletion of the region’s aquifers has resulted in desertification in some regions, and some authorities believe that so-called “desert bands” may be on their way North. Desert conditions currently seen in regions like Arizona and Southern California could work their way into some of the most fertile parts of the country, which could be potentially devastating for food security as well as economic health; California, for example, could go from an extremely wealthy state to one that needs considerable federal assistance to cope with changes in the landscape.
California’s famous changes to water policy — many of which unfortunately focus on individuals rather than big culprits like the agricultural industry — are capturing attention, but other Western states have been slow to enact water restrictions. Some, like Arizona, believe they have sufficient reserves to weather out, so to speak, conditions that they see as temporary. Others may not realize the extent of the problems they’re facing, an issue that could potentially have a devastating effect on residents and the natural environment. Water rights have historically been an extremely contentious issue in the West, with states battling for bigger shares of sources like the Rio Grande River, and the problem will escalate unless they can reach a uniform convention, not just on water rights, but water policy within individual states, as those with more radical conservation measures may come to resent those without such measures in place. -Source S.E. Smith for Care2
Desmond Tutu, Vivienne Westwood, Naomi Klein (“Confronting climate change, Klein argues, requires far more than putting a tax on carbon without rolling back total emissions and believing that scientists will find some magic bullet. It means humanity weaning itself off fossil fuels (Klein adamantly opposes opening the Keystone XL pipeline), governments spending trillions on renewable energy, corporations giving up the idea of endless economic growth, and consumers everywhere learning restraint. We all must learn to stop buying so much, which means learning to stop defining ourselves by what we buy.” ) and Noam Chomsky are among a group of high-profile figures who will issue a mass call to action on Thursday ahead of the UN’s crunch climate change conference in Paris in December.
They call for mass mobilization on the scale of the slavery abolition and anti-apartheid movements to trigger “a great historical shift”.
Their statement, published in the book Stop Climate Crimes, reads: “We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely liveable for us ... slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice.”
“It’s important for everyone to know that the players at Paris aren’t just government officials and their industry sidekicks. Civil society is going to have its say, and noisily if need be. This is a good first step,” Bill McKibben, founder of environmental movement 350.org, said.
Artists, journalists, scientists and academics are among the 100 signatories to the statement alongside activists Vandana Shiva, Nnimmo Bassey and Yeb Sano, the Filipino diplomat who lead a fast of hundreds at the 2013 UN climate change summit in Poland after typhoon Haiyan devastated his country.
The statement and book target corporations and international trade, calling for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuels and a freeze on extraction.
“Decades of liberalisation of trade and investments have undermined the capacity of states to confront the climate crisis. At every stage powerful forces – fossil fuel corporations, agro-business companies, financial institutions, dogmatic economists, sceptics and deniers, and governments in the thrall of these interests – stand in the way or promote false solutions. Ninety companies are responsible for two-thirds of recorded greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Genuine responses to climate change threatens their power and wealth, threatens free market ideology, and threatens the structures and subsidies that support and underwrite them,” they state.
I think these artists, journalists, scientists and academics are on to something, namely that the problem of climate change has to be taken seriously, and very soon. That those responsible for creating and exacerbating the problem should be held accountable and forced to finance whatever tactics and strategies are utilized to slow greenhouse gas emissions, and that a Manhattan Project multiplied by whatever it takes sized priority and expenditure be initiated to slow global warming.
Because as John Oliver quite rightly pointed out above, our attitude toward future generations, up until now concerning climate change has been akin to “Ah... fuck em.”
But as we can see now, in drought, fires, extreme weather, etc., future generations are not the only ones who will have to contend with the effects of a warming planet.
We’re doing it right now.
Addendum: 8-28-15: Extreme Drought Hits South Florida
Addendum: 8-28-15: Drought Not Going Away Soon
Addendum: 8-30-15: 10 ways to conserve water
Addendum 9-2-15: Worl'd Biggest Economies Devise Plan that could Doom the Planet
Addendum: 9-2-15: More than 8 million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires in 2015. 8,202,557 of them, to be precise.
Addendum: 9-14-15: Worst fire yet