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California, battered by global warming’s weather whiplash, is fighting to stop it

Posted on 14 May 2018 by dana1981

In 1988 – the same year Nasa’s James Hansen warned Congress about the threats posed by human-caused global warming – water expert Peter Gleick wrote about the wet and dry extremes that it would create for California:

California will get the worst of all possible worlds – more flooding in the winter, less available water in the summer.

Three decades later, California has been ravaged by just this sort of weather whiplash. The state experienced its worst drought in over a millennium from 2012 to 2016, followed immediately by its wettest year on record in 2017. The consequences have been similarly extreme, including hellish record wildfiresnarrowly-avoided catastrophic flooding at Oroville Dam, and deadly mudslides.

A study published last month in Nature Climate Change found that these wet and dry extremes will only worsen in California as temperatures continue to rise. As lead author Daniel Swain wrote:

most of California will likely experience a 100 – 200% increase in the frequency of very wet November-March “rainy seasons” … California will likely experience an increase of anywhere from 50% to 150% (highest in the south) in the frequency of very dry November-March periods … Since California is so dependent on precipitation during its relatively brief winter rainy season, even a single dry winter can quickly lead to adverse drought impacts upon agriculture and the environment.

Swain fig

Relative change (in percent) in extremely wet seasons and extremely dry seasons by 2070-2100 in Southern California. Illustration: Swain et al. 2018, Nature Climate Change

Last week, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment also published a report detailing the indicators and impacts of climate change on California.

The most dramatic impacts include wildfires that are larger and more frequent, and the most severe drought since recordkeeping began. Underlying these events is a long-term warming trend that has accelerated since the mid-1970s. In addition, spring snowmelt runoff is decreasing, sea levels are rising, glaciers are shrinking, lakes and ocean waters are warming, and plants and animals are migrating.

In short, climate change will continue to have severe consequences for California, whose economy recently surpassed that of the UK to become the fifth-largest in the world. But the state has also become a leader in trying to minimize those climate damages.

California’s global warming solutions

In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Global Warming Solutions Act into law, whose most significant component was a carbon cap and trade system. The bill required California to reduce its greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020, and the state is on track to meet that goal despite a growing population and thriving economy with an $8.8bn surplus. California has proved that an economy can thrive with a price on carbon pollution in place.

CA emissions

California greenhouse gas emissions, population, and GDP. Illustration: California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

In 2016, California passed an update to the California Global Warming Solutions Act requiring a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 on the way to the target 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050. California’s annual per capita emissions (11.5 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per person) are currently on par with those of Germany and Japan, and 40% lower than the US average.

per capita

Greenhouse gas emissions in California and various countries. Illustration: California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

California is investing in climate change solutions, like pilot projects using farms to sequester carbon. More than half of the state’s electricity is generated by carbon-free sources (21% hydroelectric, 12% solar, 9% nuclear, 6% wind, 6% geothermal), and another 43% comes from natural gas.

Click here to read the rest

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Printable Version  |  Link to this page


Comments 1 to 8:

  1. Your home page isn't working properly.

    It's interesting that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican and has promoted an effective cap and trade scheme, and top marks to him. Must have taken some courage. However it suggests a supportive and enlightened business sector.

    If only people elsewhere could put their vested interests, short term concerns and ideologies aside and look at the data for California. Really look, and understand it and how positive it all is.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "Your home page isn't working properly"

    In what way?

  2. "In what way?" It only shows the "tease" for one article, without even a link at the end to the whole post.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Working normally for me, in Chrome

  3. I'm having the same problem as ianw01, google chrome and also firefox on windows 10. 

    0 0
  4. Hmm. Working for me in FF and Chrome. Got a "Click here to read the rest" in green box at bottom of article. Do you not see green box, or is the link not working?

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  5. Scaddenp, it's the home page not working for me, as it only displays one article and half of next article, in chrome and firefox windows 10. Individual articles work fine. Other websites are fine.

    However the home page works ok on chrome and firefox on windows 8.1 (my old computer) and the android phone.

    It looks like a compatability issue that's developed between windows 10 and chrome / firefox,  and this website,  but I'm useless with tech  and I'm  just guessing. 

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  6. Works on WIn7 too. Odd.

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  7. Not working Win XP and latest Firefox.

    Only shows part of this article summary after the first on the home page.

    California, battered by global warming’s weather whiplash, is fighting to stop it
    Posted on 14 May 2018 by dana1981

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  8. Windows 10 and Chrome here.  Works fine.

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