Still Calling

climate change

You Don’t Get to Be Shocked When You Did It To Yourself

Via Atrios we “learn” what scientists have been worrying about since the 1990s: that climate change is slowing the Gulf Stream that keeps the Northern Hemisphere temperate:

Scientists believe that the huge volumes of freshwater flowing into the North Atlantic from the rapidly melting ice cap of Greenland have slowed down the ocean “engine” that drives the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean towards north-west Europe, bringing heat equivalent to the output of a million power stations…

“There is more than a 99 per cent probability that this slowdown is unique over the period we looked at since 900 AD. We conclude that the slowdown many have described is in fact already underway and it is outside of any natural variation,” Professor Rahmstorf said.

The scientists calculated that some 8,000 cubic kilometres of freshwater has flowed from Greenland into the Atlantic between 1900 and 1970, and this rose significantly to 13,000 cubic kilometres between 1970 and 2000.

Weather Underground tells us what we might expect:

A shut down of the Meridional overturning circulation would suddenly decrease the amount of heat in the North Atlantic, leading to much colder temperatures in Europe and North America. A 2003 report prepared for the Department of Defense outlines what would happen if an abrupt climatic change similar to the 8200 years before present event were to recur today:

* Annual average temperatures would drop up to 5° F in North America, and up to 6° F in northern Europe. This is not sufficient to trigger an ice age, which requires about a 10° F drop in temperature world-wide, but could bring about conditions like experienced in 1816–the famed “year without a summer”. In that year, volcanic ash from the mighty Tambora volcanic eruption in Indonesia blocked the sun’s rays, significantly cooling the globe. Snow fell in New England in June, and killing frosts in July and August caused widespread crop failures and famine in New England and northern Europe.
* Annual average temperatures would warm up to 4° F in many areas of the Southern Hemisphere.
* Multi-year droughts in regions unaccustomed to drought would affect critical agricultural and water resource regions world-wide, greatly straining food and water supplies.
* Winter storms and winds would strengthen over North America and Europe.

You’ll notice use put the word “learn” in quotes up there. And that’s because this possibility has been part of the discussion for years, and instead of anyone doing anything about it, we’ll just wave our hands at the next round of Hurricane Sandies, ask who coulda predicted that Miami would go the way of Atlantis, and blame the Great Dust Bowl of 2017 the fault of immigrants, while wondering abjectly how this could have happened. You know, just like we do with Keurig pollution.

I really get annoyed with people -and with myself, for that matter- when easily predictable negative consequences come to pass as a result of behavior everyone knows is stupid or deleterious. Sex columnist Dan Savage has a whole archive of “How’d THAT Happen?” questions, which all have the same response: “You did it to yourself.” And ya know, color me unsympathetic or uncharitable, but in the 1990s I was going door-to-door for Greenpeace and telling people a weakened gulf stream was a likely consequence of all the carbon we were dumping into the atmosphere.

Glad to see people are noticing, but it’s a little late. Sorry to be a grump. Better get a coat, it’s gonna be chilly.

California Has One Year’s Worth of Water Left

Someone’s gonna have to re-work this song in reverse…

California was a garden of Eden
A paradise to live in and go
But believe it or not
You won’t find it so hot
When you ain’t got the H2O

because California has one year’s worth of water left:

Statewide, we’ve been dropping more than 12 million acre-feet of total water yearly since 2011. Roughly two-thirds of these losses are attributable to groundwater pumping for agricultural irrigation in the Central Valley. Farmers have little choice but to pump more groundwater during droughts, especially when their surface water allocations have been slashed 80% to 100%. But these pumping rates are excessive and unsustainable. Wells are running dry. In some areas of the Central Valley, the land is sinking by one foot or more per year.

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

It’s Oklahoma all over again, and that should scare the shit of you if you like fruits and vegetables:

If California were to disappear, what would the American diet be like?

Expensive and grainy. California produces a sizable majority of many American fruits, vegetables, and nuts: 99 percent of artichokes, 99 percent of walnuts, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, 95 percent of garlic, 89 percent of cauliflower, 71 percent of spinach, and 69 percent of carrots (and the list goes on and on). Some of this is due to climate and soil. No other state, or even a combination of states, can match California’s output per acre. Lemon yields in California, for example, are more than 50 percent higher than in Arizona. California spinach yield per acre is 60 percent higher than the national average. Without California, supply of all these products in the United States and abroad would dip, and in the first few years, a few might be nearly impossible to find. Orchard-based products in particular, such as nuts and some fruits, would take many years to spring back.

While author notes we’d find a way to cope, it will take about a decade to adjust. This has been a slow-motion disaster for years, and one that’s generally gone under the radar. I fear it’s too late, especially in a state as large as California, with such a cantankerous legislature. “You never miss the water ’til the well runs dry,” the old song goes.

Californians are learning that literally.

It’s All Coming True

Polar vortex to unleash record-breaking cold in eastern U.S. on Thursday, Friday

Thursday morning lows will dive below zero from the Midwest into the western Mid-Atlantic. Kentucky may wind up being the hardest hit by the Arctic blast, where temperatures will plummet to an astonishing 40 degrees below normal. Forecasts suggest that the entire state will be well below zero on Thursday morning, with some rural areas approaching minus 15 degrees.

Back when I first got interested in politics and activism it was over environmental issues, and global warming/climate change in particular. Back then we called it the greenhouse effect, but the idea is still the same. Carbon dioxide (and methane, and several other emissions that are the result of our addiction to carbon-based fuel) trap heat in our atmosphere. That extra heat slowly builds up, melting the ice caps and warming the oceans, leading to stronger storms and eventually a permanently altered climate. And one of the big things we were worried about –back in 1992, nearly 25 years ago– was EXACTLY this change in the jet stream. If you want to get super-sciencey about it, Steven D at the Pond has more, but the long and short of it is this:

A new study from Francis and University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist Stephen Vavrus, published in IOPscience, backs up that theory, with evidence linking regional and seasonal conditions in the Arctic to deeper north-south jet stream waves which will lead to more extreme weather across the country.
“The real story is how persistent the pattern has been. It’s been this way nearly continually since December 2013…Warm in the west, cold in the east,” Francis said. “We think with the warming Arctic these types of very wavy patterns, although probably not in the same locations, will happen more often in the future.”
This research has been controversial since the Hurricane Sandy disaster, when the wavy jet stream steered the storm on its sharp left turn and smack into the Jersey Shore. Francis and other researchers say the jet stream’s configuration was a key ingredient in the monster storm.

So what to do now? Damned if I know. It’s nice that we’ve come so far with wind and solar, but our carbon emissions continue to increase. We are dependent on oil in our daily lives in ways we often don’t even recognize: your plastic sandwich bag and Tupperware are made from byproducts of oil production, as are the soles of your running shoes.The ships and trucks that bring us food that shouldn’t be available in winter run on petroleum. Our roads are paved with petroleum. In short, we have [oil] painted ourselves into one hell of a corner, and I for one don’t know the way out.

It’s one hell of a feeling when you wake up and find you’ve turned into Cassandra.

Lex Luthor to Visit PA in Job-Stealing Effort


Go away you odious little man:

Depending on whom you talk to, the Republican governor is either coming to woo companies to the sunnier, more tax-friendly South, or “poaching” Pennsylvania jobs.

Either way, the Keystone State’s new Democratic governor is not amused.

“It’s a political stunt,” said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Wolf. “The stagnant economy we inherited is not our doing, yet he didn’t come under our predecessor.”

Dear Rick:

It is not Pennsylvania’s fault that your economy sucks, although considering that our former governor was just like you, it’s not surprising that OUR economy sucks almost as badly. So don’t come carpetbagging into OUR state trying to steal the few jobs we have here, you crook. You should be in jail for defrauding Medicare.

Over there, you’ll see the door. Don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way back south.

Sao Paolo Water Crisis

This is unsurprising:

As southeast Brazil grapples with its worst drought in nearly a century, a problem worsened by polluted rivers, deforestation and population growth, the largest reservoir system serving São Paulo is near depletion. Many residents are already enduring sporadic water cutoffs, some going days without it. Officials say that drastic rationing may be needed, with water service provided only two days a week.

Behind closed doors, the views are grimmer. In a meeting recorded secretly and leaked to the local news media, Paulo Massato, a senior official at São Paulo’s water utility, said that residents might have to be warned to flee because “there’s not enough water, there won’t be water to bathe, to clean” homes.

“We’re witnessing an unprecedented water crisis in one of the world’s great industrial cities,” said Marússia Whately, a water specialist at Instituto Socioambiental, a Brazilian environmental group. “Because of environmental degradation and political cowardice, millions of people in São Paulo are now wondering when the water will run out.”

People are getting frightened and angry at their leaders, and that’s perfectly understandable given that Brazil’s leaders have been steadfastly ignoring the problem for years:

Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who is seeking re-election in October, has been minimizing the crisis for the region, which includes South America’s largest city. The reaction is a far cry from the response in drought-stricken California, where Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency and residents are being fined for watering their lawns.

Sao Paulo state is already rationing water for more than 2 million people in 18 cities. The capital city’s main reservoir is now at only 12 percent of capacity, according to the water utility Cia. de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo, known as Sabesp. While the utility received a warning at the end of July that it risks running out of drinking water in 100 days, officials vow the situation is under control.

“Sao Paulo is denying this crisis because we are in the middle of the political campaign,” said Joao Simanke, a hydrogeologist consultant who worked for Sabesp for more than two decades. “The crisis is already in place and it is getting worse, but until now it has been possible to mask it.”
Blaming unusual weather in a city traditionally known as “drizzly Sao Paulo,” Alckmin denied last week he was slow to respond to the drop in the city’s main reservoir, which began in May 2013, because of the political cost of rationing.

Now, residents of Sao Paolo go for as many as three days at a time without running water. People are hoarding water in buckets. Schools won’t let children brush their teeth due to rationing. It’s been a slow-moving disaster for years, and if the Times article can be taken at face value, then Sao Paolo may have arrived at its day of reckoning, as the city’s primary reservoir system may well run dry this year.

Not that any of this should be a surprise to anybody living in the United States, where reservoirs in California are running dry and Texans are drinking their own semi-purified pee. We are well down Sao Paolo’s road in many of our own drought-stricken states and we’re not really doing what’s necessary to conserve water either.