In their own words…

Aside

“I was sailing in Greenland 2 years ago, met a young native in a muddy village, well above Arctic Circle, he pointed to flowers blooming in the muddy street and explained his grandmother never had a word for flower for they did not exist.”

Peter Hero

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Iran’s water crisis reaches critical levels


An Iranian woman walks with her daughter past an abandoned boat in Sikh Sar village at the Hamoon wetland near Zabol town, in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, bordering Afghanistan, Feb. 2, 2015.  (photo by Getty Images/Behrouz Mehri)

Al-Monitor reported in May 2014 that Iran faced an unprecedented water shortage, and now, a year later, the crisis has deteriorated to the point of raising the alarm that a large number of Iranians might be forced to migrate, including externally, to access water if workable solutions are not found in the next few years. Addressing this critical issue will require Iranian authorities to make crucial strategic decisions.

Summary⎙ Print Iran’s political leadership must move quickly, and non-ideologically, to resolve the current water use crisis and avoid the possibility of mass migrations.
Author Bijan KhajehpourPosted May 1, 2015 

To appreciate the depth of the crisis, one can start with a closer look at statements by Issa Kalantari, adviser to Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former minister of agriculture and head of the task force addressing the Urmia Lake crisis. Kalantari addressed a group of experts and reporters April 25 to highlight the various aspects of the ongoing disaster. He charged the country’s politicians with being in denial of the true dimensions of the water crisis and outlined some of the key issues:

  • Iran’s self-inflicted water shortage stems from its exploiting 97% of its surface waters. The international benchmark for surface water use is 40%, which by comparison points to the magnitude of water mismanagement in Iran.
  • The push for agricultural self-sufficiency in the past led to over-consumption of water reserves, which in turn undermined development. According to Kalantari, a number of political stakeholders dismissed sustainable development as a Western concept lacking utility in Iran.
  • Dam building, once considered a sign of progress, dried up the nation’s rivers and other waterways through poorly conceived projects.
  • Iran must almost halve its annual water consumption, that is, reduce it from the current 96 billion cubic meters to 56 billion. Such an effort will require up to $8 billion in investments and include major rethinking about agriculture to halve consumption in that sector.
  • The government needs to aggressively promote a new attitude toward water to reduce consumption and replenish renewable resources.

Recent analyses reveal that seven of the country’s 32 provinces are classified as experiencing “water shortage” while 13 face a “critical water situation.” According to the same analyses, none of the provinces — including in the Caspian Sea region, which enjoys vast water resources — can be categorized as having sufficient water basins. As such, water management has become the top priority for the government.

In addition to establishing a special task force for Lake Urmia, the administration has initiated major campaigns to supply desalinated seawater to cities bordering the Caspian as well as to southern population centers. In tandem with these initiatives are a major push for higher efficiency water consumption and major investments in wastewater management and treatment. The objective is to use as much wastewater as possible for agricultural purposes so freshwater can be allocated for residential and industrial use.

The government organized a national conference, held in March in Shiraz, to help address the water issue. A number of proposed solutions were introduced that will not only require massive investments, but also different approaches to core strategies in the agricultural and food security sectors.

The key to managing Iran’s crisis is restructuring water use in the agricultural sector. Agriculture currently consumes 90% of the country’s water resources, compared to the international benchmark of 70%. The agricultural sector is significant for Iran on two levels: employment opportunities (it employs roughly 20% of the workforce while contributing to only about 9% of the country’s gross domestic product) and food security (the core objective of which has been self-sufficiency).

Last year President Hassan Rouhani instructed the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad to focus on achieving self-sufficiency in five strategic crops: wheat, rice, sugar, oil seeds and cotton. Experts agree that a change in agricultural strategy may not necessarily lead to decreased levels of employment in the sector. A revamped set of crops could reduce water consumption while also maintaining employment activity levels. Regardless, the reduction in water consumption will almost certainly compel Iran to reduce production of such key crops as wheat and barley, hence hampering the target of self-sufficiency.

Adding environmental sustainability and the need for industrial development to Iran’s already conflicting strategic equation underlines the complexity of the strategic choices it must make. Nonetheless, the government will have to address this issue quickly and efficiently. In fact, the urgency of the challenge is as great as that needed in addressing energy consumption patterns in the past few years.

Of note, one proposed approach is for the government to implement the final phase of subsidy reforms and dedicate the freed up resources to making the investments needed in the water and agricultural sectors. This would make fuel price adjustments more palatable to the elite as well as the general public, lead to energy savings (as a result of higher fuel prices) and also provide funding for major investments in the water and agricultural sectors.

Once the financial resources are assembled, the government should elevate water management to the level of environmental protection, establishing a department headed by a vice president to prepare the ground for an integrated water management system. At the moment, water management is a subsection of the Ministry of Energy, which regulates power generation and thus water, including wastewater. A new department would produce the authority needed to more efficiently manage the complex set of stakeholders and interests and develop water strategy.

This self-inflicted water crisis is one of the main challenges Iran faces on its path to becoming a developed nation. It is an issue that can only be resolved through expert approaches free of ideological and political agendas. It is high time to make these strategic decisions.

Most Conservative Republicans Still Don’t Think Climate Change Is Happening, Poll Finds

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POLAR BEAR ON ICE

Gallup poll released Wednesday shows just how resistant some Republicans are to the science of climate change. In polling conducted over the past five years, 59 percent of self-identified conservative Republicans said they don’t believe that climate change is happening now, and 70 percent said they don’t believe humans are responsible for it.

Gallup asked about 6,000 Americans of diverse political ideologies whether the effects of global warming would be felt in their lifetimes, in future generations or not at all.

Forty percent of conservative Republicans deny that global warming will ever happen, while an additional 19 percent believe that will only affect future generations. However, a May 2014 governmental report found climate change is affecting all areas of the United States.

Although there’s a wide scientific consensus that climate change is caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, most conservative Republicans reject the idea that there is a link between pollution and rising temperatures. They are the only political group to have a majority not believe in the connection.

Leaders within the party have also voiced skepticism about climate change. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running for the 2016 Republican ticket, has said he does not believe in global warming. Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has said he doesn’t believe humans cause climate change. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a potential candidate, has said he isn’t convinced either.

Gallup used live telephone interviews to reach both landlines and cell phones of a random sample of 6,154 adults from across the country. These results represent the aggregated responses from 2010 to 2015.

Have We Passed the Point of No Return on Climate Change?

Greenhouse gas cuts must begin soon or it could be too late to halt global warming

 
If we don’t get our carbon emissions in check soon, it could be too late for the polar bear and many other species impacted by global warming.
Credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith, FlickrCC
While we may not yet have reached the “point of no return”—when no amount of cutbacks on greenhouse gas emissions will save us from potentially catastrophic global warming—climate scientists warn we may be getting awfully close. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution a century ago, the average global temperature has risen some 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Most climatologists agree that, while the warming to date is already causing environmental problems, another 0.4 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, representing a global average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) of 450 parts per million (ppm), could set in motion unprecedented changes in global climate and a significant increase in the severity of natural disasters—and as such could represent the dreaded point of no return.

Currently the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (the leading greenhouse gas) is approximately 398.55 parts per million (ppm). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal scientific agency tasked with monitoring the health of our oceans and atmosphere, the current average annual rate of increase of 1.92 ppm means we could reach the point of no return by 2042.

Environmental leaders point out that this doesn’t give us much time to turn the tide. Greenpeace, a leading environmental advocacy group, says we have until around 2020 to significantly cut back on greenhouse gas output around the world—to the tune of a five percent annual reduction in emissions overall—if we are to avoid so-called “runaway” climate change. “The world is fast approaching a ‘point of no return’ beyond which extremely dangerous climate change impacts can become unavoidable,” reports the group. “Within this time period, we will have to radically change our approach to energy production and consumption.”

In a recent lecture at Georgetown University, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim reported that whether we are able to cut emissions enough to prevent catastrophe likely depends on the policies of the world’s largest economies and the widespread adoption of so-called carbon pricing systems (such as emissions trading plans and carbon taxes). International negotiators meeting in Paris next December are already working to hammer out an agreement mandating that governments adopt these types of systems to facilitate emissions reductions. “A price on carbon is the single most important thing we have to get out of a Paris agreement,” Kim stated. “It will unleash market forces.”

While carbon pricing will be key to mitigating global warming, Greenpeace adds that stemming the tide of deforestation in the world’s tropical rainforests and beyond and adapting our food systems to changing climatic conditions and increasingly limited resources will also be crucial to the health of the planet.

“Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally,” reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international group of leading climate experts convened by the United Nations to review and assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information on global warming. Indeed, there’s no time like the present to start changing our ways.

Report: Majority Of Earth’s Potable Water Trapped In Coca-Cola Products

Experts estimate that the average can of Coca-Cola contains nearly 12 ounces of potable but entirely inaccessible freshwater.

CORVALLIS, OR—Fueling humanitarian concerns over the vital resource’s scarcity in many parts of the world, a report published Wednesday by researchers at Oregon State University has found that 68 percent of the earth’s supply of potable water is trapped in Coca-Cola products.

According to top experts, the new report marks the first comprehensive attempt to measure the planet’s freshwater reserves and determine exactly how much of it is currently locked inside sources such as Coke, Diet Coke, Caffeine-Free Coke, Dr. Pepper, Barq’s root beer, and other Coca-Cola beverages, making it impossible to use as drinking water, or for bathing or cooking.

“Less than 3 percent of the earth’s water is fresh, and of that, more than two-thirds exists in the form of Coke products incapable of serving any human need,” said the report’s lead author, Samer Ghosh, adding that the amount of freshwater that’s not trapped in the brand’s line of colas has been steadily declining for years. “There are vast, untapped quantities of potable water within these sodas, and they can be found in heavy concentrations throughout the world’s grocery stores, vending machines, and home refrigerators. Unfortunately, though, we have no way of extracting it.”

“Our own country has enough water in its Vanilla Coke Zero to fill Lake Michigan, but in its current state that water is useless to us,” he added.

Researchers confirmed the 7.2 million cubic kilometers of water confined within Coca-Cola beverages are unsuitable for most personal and household purposes because they are too compromised by various chemicals and acidic compounds. While scientists have attempted for years to distill quality drinking water from samples of Powerade and Full Throttle energy drinks, no one has successfully purified these or any other Coke products of the ingredients contaminating their valuable H20 molecules.

In a landmark 1995 study, a team of hydrologists at the University of Arizona is said to have successfully removed the carbonation from original-formula Coca-Cola Classic by opening a can of the beverage and leaving it out overnight, but experts confirmed that, since that time, little progress has been made in removing the visible impurities from the product.

“By harnessing the freshwater that exists inside these remarkably abundant beverages, we could more than double access to safe drinking sources worldwide,” said Ghosh, observing that soft drinks manufactured by Coca-Cola are present all across the globe, even in places where lakes, rivers, and aquifers have run dry. “We’re devoting all the resources we can toward developing an adequate filtration process that can turn Cherry Coke and Fresca into clean drinking water, but we have a long way to go.”

“So far, our best attempts at filtering Coca-Cola have only left us with the same brown, strong-smelling liquid that can under no circumstances be used to sustain life,” he continued.

The new report indicates that Coca-Cola reserves are especially plentiful in North America, where they exist in thousands of 64-ounce reservoirs that can be found at points along major roadways and within population centers. Additionally, researchers discovered that in South America, nearly 30 percent of freshwater is locked up in orange Fanta, while 26 percent of clean water in Japan has been rendered completely inaccessible inside green-tea-flavored Coke.

In an examination of the ongoing drought in California, the report concludes that if it can one day be tapped, the potable water contained within the supply of Sprite in Los Angeles alone will meet the needs of the entire state for years to come.

The call for investment in Coke-filtration technologies is perhaps strongest in developing nations, where populations awash in the cola often face shortages of clean water. Yasinta Kusila, a Tanzania resident and mother of three, told reporters she walks 10 miles each day past numerous containers filled with Coke to obtain the water she needs for cooking and to ensure her family has enough to drink.

“Water here is scarce, but everywhere you look there’s Coca-Cola,” Kusila said. “It’s so demoralizing to know that there is good, clean water in there, but there’s no way to get it out. Do you have any idea what that’s like for a mother just trying to provide for her children?”

“It’s so close, and there’s so very much of it,” she added, “but what good does it do anyone?”

California drought goes from bad to worse as state grapples with heat wave

Experts say fix requires global effort going into an era of climate change in which ‘the temperature is essentially always conducive to drought’

california drought lake mcclure la grange
 A concrete block that was used to moor a boat sits in dry cracked earth that used to be the bottom of Lake McClure in La Grange, California. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Spring is starting to feel a lot like summer in California, as a record-setting heat wave punishes the parched state now in its fourth year of what is said to be the worst drought in a millennium.

Experts say the scorching spring days are part of a long-term warming pattern – driven largely by human activity – that is increasing the chances that future droughts will be as bad as this one. At fault is a warm and dry weather combination, which exacerbates the already dire drought conditions by drying soil, melting snow and driving up water usage.

“It’s like a one-two punch,” said Jeanine Jones, deputy drought manager for the state Department of Water Resources (DWR). “Not having enough water to fill our reservoirs and having the hot weather evaporate the little that we do have.”

According to the most recent US drought report, moderately below-average precipitation, coupled with extremely above-average temperatures, has maintained or worsened drought conditions in California. The consequences have been devastating, from shriveling reservoirs to vanishing groundwater, dying crops, thinning herds and raging wildfires.

California relies on a series of massive storms during the winter months to drop snow on the Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. During the spring and summer months the snowpack, acting like a natural reservoir, melts as water demand rises.

But the recent extremely warm weather has caused precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow. The effect is dramatically less snowpack melt from the state’s mountain ranges, which can provide as much as a third of California’s water supply.

This year, the mountain runoff will likely be just a trickle. Snow on the mountains has fallen to 12% of average levels, from 28% last year. In March, data collected from parts of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains indicated that some sites were for the first time snow-free by the first of the month. Jones said the 1 April snowpack measurements, which will be reported next week, are expected to be the lowest on record.

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“That does not at all bode well for our depleted reservoirs,” Jones said.

Hotter temperatures are predicted to be the new norm in California, the result of rising temperatures under climate change. This month, for the first time since record keeping began in the late 1880s, the temperature in Los Angeles peaked in the 90s fahrenheit for six consecutive days, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Based on the current warming trajectory, the likelihood that low rain years will coincide with high heat years is almost a certainty.

“California is in a climate regime where are much more likely to get this kind of drought event again because of the role of temperature rise,” said Stanford University professor Noah Diffenbaugh, who led a study examining the role of warm temperatures in California’s droughts.

That study, published earlier this month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that historically, California’s worst droughts occurred when conditions were both dry and warm, and that those conditions had occurred more frequently in the past two decades than in the last century.

Diffenbaugh said global warming was increasing the risk that dry and warm years would coincide to almost ensure a drought similar to the present one. The researchers also found that in the early and mid-20th century, the warm and dry conditions occurred more or less independently.

“We’re heading into a regime where the temperature is essentially always conducive to drought,” he said.

With no foreseeable end to the drought in sight, policy makers at every level are scrambling to conserve the little water the state does have and avert dire predictions that the state could run out of a water soon, possibly in one year.

“This is a struggle,” California governor Jerry Brown said at a press conference earlier this month. “Something we’re going to have to live with. For how long, we’re not sure.”

On Friday, Brown signed into law a more-than-$1bn plan to fast-track emergency relief to drought-stricken cities and communities, including food aid and drinking water. The proposal also includes hundreds of millions of dollars to fund long-term projects, involving water recycling, conservation awareness and flood control projects. At the signing, Brown said the plan was part of a wider effort to prepare California for an “uncertain future”.

The legislation followed action by the State Water Resources Control Board(SWRCB) this month to pass what has been described as the most restrictive water conservation measures in state history. The plan limits the number of days residents can water their yards, and requires bars and restaurants to ask customers if they would like a glass of water before serving it.

“We are not seeing the level of stepping up and ringing the alarm bells that the situation warrants,” Felicia Marcus, the chairwoman of the SWRCB, said during the meeting this month. She said the measure was a first step, and that the board may consider even more stringent measures this spring.

Amir AghaKouchak, an assistant professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, said the $1bn water spending plan included “forward looking” measures that would help the state prepare for future dry spells. For example, the plan aims to improve infrastructure such as the state’s levees, which could help replenish underground aquifers, which have been drained by farmers drilling for groundwater to irrigate crops.

But he warned that there is still a lot scientists don’t know about droughts.

“We still don’t know a lot about how droughts develop, how they form, why they form,” AghaKouchak said. “If California wants to stay at the front of this, we have to consider science, and the best science. But it requires support.”

AghaKouchak said investing in “basic research” around water technology, water management and water harvesting could in the long-run improve strategies for responding to extreme weather. He also called for funding research to create better risk-assessment models to improve the predictability of droughts.

While there are conservation and planning policies that lawmakers can take now to conserve water and prepare the state for the next extreme weather event, California’s best hope lies ultimately in the willingness of the global community to confront climate change.

“This drought is not a local California issue,” AghaKouchak said. “This is a global issue. A single policymaker, or even all policymakers in California, alone cannot really do much about global temperature. This requires unprecedented international efforts and a truly global will to address these issues.”

East Antarctica Ice Sheet Melting Could Mean Ocean Levels Rising By 11-Feet, NASA Study States

Posted in: Science Posted: March 17, 2015
East Antarctica melting
A new NASA study suggests the Totten Glacier in East Antarctica is melting at a faster pace that scientists already believed.

The worrisome conclusions were published on the journal Nature Geoscience on March 16 and states that if the Totten Glacier were to completely collapse, the sea levels could rise by 11 feet. However, the study also stresses the fact that the melting of this giant ice piece could take centuries.

Scientists and global warming supporters continue to closely monitor the thinning of Antarctica and it’s disastrous consequences. Co-author Dustin Schroeder — a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California — helped analyze data from a radar that penetrated the ice, to demonstrate that warm, ocean water could reach the glacier through newly discovered troughs.

“Totten Glacier and the East Antarctic Ice Sheet are a much more interesting and dynamic part of the sea level rise story than we’d previously thought.”

Additionally, the study says that in certain areas of Antarctica, including the Totten Glacier located in the East of the frozen continent, warm water can be found underneath the icy surface.

“In some areas of the ocean surrounding Antarctica, warm water can be found below cooler water because it is saltier, and therefore heavier, than the shallower water. Seafloor valleys that connect this deep warm water to the coast can especially compromise glaciers, but this process had previously been seen only under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Deep warm water had been observed seaward of Totten Glacier, but there was no evidence that it could compromise coastal ice.”

“The newly discovered troughs are deep enough to give the deep warm water access to the huge cavity under the glacier. The deeper of the two troughs extends from the ocean to the underside of Totten Glacier in an area not previously known to be floating.”

Totten Glacier,

Totten Glacier, Image via the Washington Post

According to another group of researchers — Glenn Clark and Amy Leventer — up until recently, the East Antarctica Glacier was “the single largest, least understood, and potentially unstable marine glacial system in the world. Despite intense scrutiny of marine-based systems in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, little is known about the Totten Glacier system.”

In January 2015, Clark published initial findings of the surface research conducted in 2014.

“Ocean current temperatures have increased not only at the surface but far below it. This has a negative effect to the stability of the Ice sheet as warmer waters now infiltrate between the continent and the sheet.”

“Evidence of exiting water below the massive ice sheet was found from a series of seismic tests has shown large troughs or ravines indicative of drainage.”

The East Antarctic Ice Sheet is the largest mass of ice on Earth and covers 98 percent of the continent, according to Science Daily.

Climate Change Puts California Economy at Risk of Collapse

Climate Change Puts California Economy at Risk of Collapse

A man walks across the dry, cracked bed of Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo, California, last year.
A man walks across the dry, cracked bed of Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo, California, last year.

California faces one more year of water supply. The state is in the grip of a record drought tied to climate change. This water crisis holds the potential to collapse California’s economy if the state truly runs out of water. What an irony that the state most focused on global warming may be its first catastrophic economic collapse victim.

California anchors U.S. economy

This is not an article about California. It is about you, in whatever state you live. California’s economy is so large and impacts so many other businesses that its potential collapse due to a water crisis will impact the pocketbooks of most Americans.

California has a $2.2 trillion annual economy. That makes California the seventh largest economy in the world. For all the greatness of Texas, the California economy is approximately twice the size.

California’s companies are the world’s technology leaders. Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Cisco, Disney, Hewlett Packard, Tesla and Solar City all have their corporate headquarters in California. Little know Atomic General located in San Diego is a world leader in military drones. San Francisco and San Diego rank No. 1 and No. 3 among the top 10 biopharma clusters in the U.S.

California is also a global breadbasket: It is the world’s fifth largest supplier of food. The California agriculture industry is highly efficient, and the state is the largest food producer in the U.S., with only four percent of U.S. farms. California’s crop diversity is world class, with the state growing over 450 different crops. Crops exclusively grown by California in the U.S. include almonds, artichokes, dates, olives, raisins, pistachios and clover. The state also produces more than 86 percent of all lemons and 94 percent of all processed tomatoes in the U.S. You might want to drink to California’s agricultural success by having a glass of California wine, as the state is the world’s fourth largest wine producer.

Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, the state anchors your government spending plan as California is the largest federal tax payer among U.S. states. The state also pays more in federal taxes than it receives in federal spending.

Climate change driving California’s drought

Research by Stanford University points to climate change as a key driver in California’s historic drought level. It is not a question of whether California has ever before had droughts. The question of this research was how climate change impacts the severity of weather events like droughts. The findings were that “… extreme atmospheric high pressure in this region – which is strongly linked to unusually low precipitation in California – is much more likely to occur today than prior to the human emission of greenhouse gases that began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.”

This research can be yet another climate change deniers’ example of science getting in the way of their personal beliefs or economic incentives, except this time the consequences of denial will impact Americans who eat tomato-based products, use a lemon or search Google.

No water, no economy

Imagine the ramifications for your state if it were to run out of water. That is the immediate challenge facing California. January 2015 was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. This is not a recent weather event: NASA data shows that California’s water storage capacity — in the form of its lakes, snow levels, water table etc. — has been in decline since 2002. There is no contingency plan for this level of climate change for the world’s seventh largest economy.

The economic ramification will range from measurable to catastrophic. Two-thirds of the state’s water losses are tied to the agricultural community’s pumping the aquifer dry. A point of diminishing return is being reached with increased reports of dry wells. California’s agricultural industry is on the precipice of economic decline and may be heading toward collapse due to a lack of water.

Rationing is now a topic of discussion in California. Water conservation has been as much of California’s culture as energy conservation and renewable energy. But conservation cannot overcome this scale of drought and water shortage. Rationing appears the last option available, and it holds the potential of dramatically curtailing economic activity.

Rationing means that people and businesses will have to reduce their economic activities due to a lack of water. One obvious impact will be a lack of water to serve the approximately 227 million domestic person trips annually to California that generates over $100 billion in visitor spending. It has the potential to impact the operations of California’s tech companies that the rest of the U.S., and the world, depend on to run their economies. It will certainly mean less food sourced from California with higher prices at grocery stores across America.

The cost of climate change denial

California is unfortunately positioned to become the first case study on the cost of climate change denial. If California’s water crisis reduces its economic activity by 20 percent, that would equate to a $500 billion decline in our nation’s gross domestic production. This scale of economic decline would represent significant national job loss. It would represent significant food inflation from lost production. It would increase the national deficit from lost tax revenues from California. It would circumvent all the work by the Federal Reserve, Congress and the president to restore economic growth following the Great Recession.

My guess is that California will address this crisis through technology. Over the long term, the state will accelerate its adoption of zero net buildings. Creating economies of scale through state-wide adoption will drive the cost of smart water technology to affordability. New companies will be born, and California will become a global supplier of smart water technologies. But that is the future, after much economic pain tied to the consequences of climate change. The storm cloud on the immediate horizon is the potential first national economic crisis tied to global warming. The forecast is for a very hot political season over whether our country can deny climate change any longer.

THE DEATH OF A LAKE


Friday, March 6, 2015

When I am traveling up and down the Central Coast, I’ll often take Highway 154 through the Santa Ynez Mountains past beautiful Lake Cachuma, a source of drinking water for 220,000 people in southern Santa Barbara County.

But as the drought drags on, I — like many — am often struck by the sight of brush where once glistening lake water filled the cavernous space that is now much of Lake Cachuma. At full capacity just a few short years ago, Lake Cachuma is now just 28 percent full and depleting rapidly, despite significant conservation efforts. It’s not just a sight for sore eyes — despite best efforts we are running out of the drinking water that sustains our South Coast community. As many of you know, the water level is currently expected to drop below the gravity-fed intake tunnels by April or May this year. Once this happens, to ensure the remaining water gets to local residents, the Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board has had to build an emergency pumping system to get the water up into intake tunnels, a project that has already cost $4.3 million.

From increased asthma and disease rates to sea level rise to more frequent and severe droughts, climate change impacts virtually every aspect of our lives. Lake Cachuma is a stark reminder of the reality that droughts like this one will only become more common and costly in the future due to climate change, and we must act now to prepare for the inevitable impacts not only on our water but on all aspects of our society and economy. In addition to addressing the root causes of climate change, I believe that we must work together to build more sustainable and resilient infrastructure, prepare public health systems for new challenges and higher demand, and implement smarter community plans that take into account local climate change impacts, such as sea level rise.

While progress has been slower than we need it to be on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change, 2014 was still a big year of action in resilience and adaptation. President Obama led the way with his implementation of the Climate Action Plan and the State, Local and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. The Task Force issued its final recommendations last year, which focused on how the federal government can modernize programs and policies to incorporate climate change into community planning and incentivize community resilience projects. The administration also launched a web-based Climate Resilience Toolkit to provide easy access to dozens of federal tools that can directly help planners and decision makers across the nation conduct their work in the context of a changing climate.

Of course, Congress must take action as well, which is why I reintroduced three bills this week to help local communities increase their resiliency to the impacts of climate change.

The Climate Change Health Protection and Promotion Act would provide our public health officials with the tools and resources they need to effectively track and prepare for the significant public health challenges that will come with climate change, like increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, vector-borne diseases, life-threatening temperatures, and food shortages.

The Coastal State Climate Change Planning Act would help coastal states like California plan and implement climate change mitigation projects. This legislation would address the challenges faced by coastal communities — home to more than 50 percent of the U.S. population and providing 58 percent of the country’s GDP — by supporting their efforts to voluntarily modify their current coastal management plans to address climate change impacts. States could use grant funding to implement adaptation strategies, such as identifying areas with the greatest risk and developing performance measures for protecting infrastructure and coastal ecosystems.

And finally, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act (WIRSA) would help drinking water, wastewater, and storm-water agencies prepare for the impacts of climate-related risks to our water supplies. Under this legislation, local agencies could receive matching funds for projects — like the pumping system at Lake Cachuma — that build resiliency to changing hydrological conditions. Other types of eligible projects include water conservation and efficiency measures, enhancing water management by protecting our water sources and green infrastructure, or facilitating the use of advanced technologies — such as water reuse and recycling — to increase available water supplies. Additionally, utilities could use funds to jumpstart local-level analyses to determine what future water resource challenges they will face.

Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme weather events — some of the most troubling, costly, and immediate impacts of climate change — pose very real threats to our public health, infrastructure, and economy. We must do more to help our local communities prepare for these inevitable impacts, and we need to do it now. The futures of our children and grandchildren depend on it.

Lois Capps serves California’s 24th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A February First: CO2 Levels Pass 400 PPM Milestone

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With only one day left in the month, it’s basically official: February’s average carbon dioxide level will be above 400 parts per million, a marker of how much of the greenhouse gas is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human emissions.

Last year, the monthly average didn’t go above the 400 parts per million (ppm) mark until April, which was the first month in human history with carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that high. Levels stayed that high for a full three months, and they are likely to stay that high for many more this year.

In just a few years, CO2 levels will be above this threshold permanently.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have been measured at the observatory atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano since 1958. That record — called the Keeling Curve, after the scientist who began the measurements, Charles Keeling — has shown the clear rise of CO2 over the decades.

The Keeling Curve first recorded a daily level of 400 ppm on May 9, 2013. The following year, CO2 passed that benchmark in March, and this year, on Jan. 1.

“I am not surprised that we are seeing daily means greater than 400 already popping up regularly. Next year that should start happening in November,” Pieter Tans, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in an email at the time.

CO2 measurements hovered around the 400 ppm line throughout January, but the monthly average was just below that threshold. While a few days in February had averages below 400 ppm, most have been at or above, as have weekly averages.

February heat wave sets more Alaska temperature records

Gusting winds batter a flagman warning sign and drive rain sideways along Turnagain Arm on Monday afternoon, February 16, 2015, on the Seward Highway. Erik Hill / ADN

Alaska broke warm weather records again this week, while southern states braced for cold weather and the Eastern Seaboard was buried under more snow.

From the Arctic to the Interior and into Southeast Alaska, several regions in the state were warmer than the U.S. East Coast and South. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the arrival of severe winter weather.

Meanwhile, Anchorage was experiencing much milder weather. On Monday, it was 37 degrees in Alaska’s largest city, while New York was 28 degrees and Boston was 19

The Interior was also experiencing weather — and temperatures — similar to locales much farther south.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District shut schools down Monday because of icy road conditions and freezing rain, while the University of Alaska Fairbanks canceled classes. Parts of Texas and Arkansas were also experiencing sleet and freezing rain, the Weather Channel reported.

Austin, Texas was 32 degrees Monday, while Fairbanks was only a bit colder at 30 degrees.

Temperatures above freezing — along with rain and fog — also forced a delay at the Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks.

The National Weather Service recorded a number of record-breaking high temperatures across the state Sunday, as noted in the agency’s public statements:

Broken records

• Kodiak reached 45 degrees, a new record despite a previous unofficial record of 46 degrees recorded in 1944.
• Anchorage reached 47 degrees, beating the previous record of 45 degrees set in 1978.
• Ketchikan reached 49 degrees, also beating its record by 1 degree.
• Juneau reported 43 degrees, which beat its old record set in 2010 by 1 degree.
• Kotzebue reached a new maximum high at 37 degrees and a new daily minimum of 33 degrees. The old maximum temperature record was set more than 100 years ago, in 1903, at 31 degrees. The previous daily minimum was set in 1942 at 22 degrees.
• King Salmon broke a record set in 1997 when it reached 49 degrees Sunday. The previous record was 46 degrees.
• Bettles reached a new record high at 33 degrees, which broke its old record set in 1977 at 25 degrees.

Tied records