Saturday, May 24, 2008

It scares the hell ouf of me.

The "it" is a talk given by the University of Arizona's Dr. Jonathan Overpeck, Director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth concerning Climate Change, Sea Level, and Western Drought: Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference. You can download it (which I recommend) or watch it online from this page. The reason I suggest downloading it is that you may want to watch it more than once, or to rewind and make sure you got his point as you go along. It you live in the West, it is that important.

Here is a list of things the got my attention:

  • a visual picture of the effects of the current drought on juniper / pinon pine forests in New Mexico. The pines are all dead.
  • A specific chart showing the current drought conditions as projected for 2035-2060 where the normal pattern will be worse than the current drought conditions in the West.
  • A general statement that the pattern of drought corresponds to the temperature change in the West.
  • A reminder that from 1130 to 1300 AD the American Southwest went through a megadrought that was one cause for the abandonment of Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde and other sites by the Anasazi.
  • The projection of population increases:
    • Arizona: +5 million by 2030.
    • California: + 12 million by 2030.
    • Colorado: + 2.6 million by 2030.
It is clear that these population increases can not be sustained by anything resembling business as usual. In a yet to be published OpEd for the Morgan Hill Times (scheduled for 5/27) I suggested that we need to plan for water resources considering that this year represents the new "normal". Given the facts in Dr. Overpeck's talk, I was probably optimistic.

This past week (5/20) the California Department of Water Resources had the first meeting of a Climate Change Technical Advisory Group. I was not able to go to Sacramento to attend. I don't have a lot of confidence in the Department of Water Resources to do what truly needs to be done. Still from the presentations given (and available from this page) we know that they are expecting a 25 - 40% reduction in annual snowpack by 2050.

(Thought: if we have that reduction in snowpack, why would we add to the 1400 dams already in California?)

I find it highly suspect that DWR is using charts that project based on "No Change in Rainfall Pattern or Amount" (Chart 32 in Climate Change Science and the Department of Water Resources (pdf)
It would seem that the bureaucracy knows that answer that they want you to arrive at. It is not one that a responsible Green could conceive.

I am encouraged by the presence in the Technical Advisory Group of Kathy Jacobs from the Arizona Water Institute and previously a faculty member with Dr. Overpeck in the ISPE. She has a background of dealing with sustainability.

California law requires an update to the Water Plan every 5 years. The examination of climate change is part of that process. I am convinced that it should be most important factor under consideration.

The next meeting in this process is an "All Regions Forum" to be held in San Jose on June 2-3, 2008. Location:
Doubletree Hotel in San Jose
2050 Gateway Place
San Jose, CA 95110
(408) 453-4000

Announcement: (.pdf, 24 kb)

Handouts: Agenda (.pdf, 47 kb)

You may think that I have been giving too much credibility to one scientist. However, in all of the manufactured doubt surrounding climate change, there is one common thread. When the scientists have missed the mark in their projections, it is because they have underestimated the speed at which change in occurring. The Seattle Times carried a report that the sea water is becoming increasingly acid (due to CO2) about 100 years earlier than the scientists had predicted. (Tip of the hat to Aquafornia.)

It is the rate of change that concerns me the most. It takes time to re-shape public opinion. Then, we need to plan the necessary changes in infrastructure to accommodate what is going to occur. Many organisms, either on land or in the sea, do not have the capability to deal with those changes and so, will die out. Hopefully, we have the capacity to adapt, if we have the will.


Anonymous said...

Very nice blog. I hope you get a chance to report on the "Is California Really Broke" public hearing.

Anonymous said...

Wes, I thought you would be blogging about Wired's tired environmental advice.

Happy Memorial Day, btw.