Thursday, August 6, 2009

Nope, The Climate Crisis Isn't Going Away

(Also at OC Progressive)

Now I know the corporate media haven't been talking about it lately, but just because they're not talking about it doesn't mean it's not happening. Rather, it's quite dangerous that it's falling under the radar. Believe it or not, the climate crisis is getting worse.

Global warming has melted glaciers in the United States at a rapid and accelerating rate over the last half-century, increasing drought risks and contributing to rising sea levels, the federal government will report today based on data from a 50-year study of glaciers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

Federal officials say the study includes the longest records of glacial melt recorded in North America.

The U.S. Geological Survey study focuses on three glaciers, the Wolverine and Gulkana in Alaska and the South Cascade Glacier in Washington, which are known as "benchmark glaciers" because their varying climates and elevations are representative of thousands of other glaciers across the continent.

The Gulkana and Wolverine glaciers have both lost about 15% of their mass since the mid-1950s, the data show. The South Cascade Glacier has lost nearly a quarter of its mass.

The shrinking glaciers clearly result from global warming, federal researchers say.

"There is no doubt that most mountain glaciers are shrinking worldwide in response to a warming climate," USGS scientist Edward Josberger said in a written statement. "Measuring changes in glacier mass provides direct insight to the link between glaciers and climate."

And if that isn't bad enough, there's worse news closer to home. As the San Joaquin Valley literally dries up and sinks lower, California's water crisis worsens.

How critical is this issue? Well, let's start with what we know:

• The Valley floor is sinking. Because we have taken too much water from the groundwater supply, the San Joaquin Valley has actually fallen several feet in some areas. The picture to the right is from Mendota back in 1977. It has gotten worse since. The USGS performed a study on subsidence back in 1999 showing some really bad side effects other than just the lowering valley floor. After the floor falls, the aquifer permanently loses storage capacity, making the provisioning of water to crops even more difficult.

• Crops are dying in the fields. In some places, farmers are simply leaving their feilds fallow as there is not enough water to bring them to maturity. However, where you have longstanding crops, like fruit trees, the consequences of a couple really bad water years last much longer.

• Endangered species are being slowly killed off in the Delta. The Delta was once home to a number of species found nowhere else. However, as we have increasingly relied on pumping, we have not only killed many of them as they went through our pumps, we have also changed the salinity of the Delta, creating a slight, but important, change in the environment.

• The decreasing water flows to our creeks and rivers threatens our fisheries.

• Climate change will bring increased flooding and droughts.

• Apparently people need water to survive in cities. [...]

But one thing that should be made clear to every Californian is that water is prescious [sic]. We should not waste a single drop. Despite the fact that consumer usage accounts for only around 20% of overall usage, we need to ensure that we aren't using more than we absolutely need. While water is a fundamental right of living, and should be kept cheap, we should understand just how much value it truly has. One of the bills in this package, AB 49 would require 20% conservation from all users. This is a laudable goal as we move forward into a changing climate.

Fortunately, we have some good people in Washington and at the state level proposing real climate solutions. Already in the California State Senate, Democrats are working on a package of legislation to take on the emerging water crisis. We've seen some progress here in Nevada, and hopefully we'll see more in the next two years. And of course, the US Senate will be taking on the Waxman-Markey climate bill this fall. It is quite critical that we take action at the local, state, and federal levels to address the climate crisis and how it is already affecting us.

Yes, believe it or not, we're already feeling it. Notice the more wild swings in temperature? The extremely hot days? The extremely cold nights? The continuing depletion of our water supply? The increasing frequency of major wildfires?

Yes, we're already seeing the climate crisis take hold. That's why it's crucial that we take action now to prevent the climate crisis from worsening much further. Hopefully, that's what we'll soon see.

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