“A Crisis into a Catastrophe”: How to Frame the Economic Meltdown — and Global Warming

Tuesday Steven Chu, the newly-appointed Secretary of Energy, warned that if global warming is not slowed, California agriculture could be destroyed this century. He told the Los Angeles Times:

California's farms and vineyards could vanish by the end of the
century, and its major cities could be in jeopardy, if Americans do not
act to slow the advance of global warming [he said]. Chu warned of water shortages plaguing the West and Upper Midwest and
particularly dire consequences for California, his home state, the
nation's leading agricultural producer.

In a worst case, Chu said, up to 90% of the Sierra snowpack could
disappear, all but eliminating a natural storage system for water vital
to agriculture.

"I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what
could happen," he said. "We're looking at a scenario where there's no
more agriculture in California." And, he added, "I don't actually see
how they can keep their cities going" either.

Here's a link to a report (pdf) by Dan Cayans of Scripps (and many others, funded by the state's climate change center) on the implications of global warming this century for our state.

It's frightening, folks.

Here's a graph of estimated annual temps, according to various models and emission scenarios:Change in CA mean temperature

Maybe even more frightening is another study mentioned in Chu's interview,  from Science, saying that heat could reduce crop yields by 20-40 percent by the end of the century, potentially lead to mass starvation. To put the heat numbers in context, Prof. Battisti of the University of Washington said that the infamous heat wave of 2003 in Europe, which killed as many as 52,000 people, would become normal summer weather. [One cautionary note: as climatologist Kelly Redmond has pointed out, extending climate model projections to a century's length is sure to amplify any error, however small.]

Our new Prez hasn't been talking about climate change as of late, trying to pass his much-needed economic stimulus package. Nonetheless the rhetoric he used yesterday to explain the risk of inaction on the economy applies equally well to the climate:

"A
failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a
longer recession."

Simply substitute "global devastation" for "a longer recession."

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