Drought - Page 2

Driest year in California history sparks arid memories and previews the warmer world we're creating



California is on a collision course with reality. Whether or not it's this drought that wakes us up, at some point we'll awaken to the fact that a growing population can't survive on dwindling water resources without a major shift in how we operate.

"California does not today live within its means. We want more water than nature is naturally providing, even in normal years," said Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute and a world-renowned expert on water issues whose research has fueled United Nations studies as well as his own books. "Some of the most serious impacts of climate change are going to be on water."

That's particularly true for California, whose large population and huge agricultural and other water-dependent industries belie a Mediterranean climate that is actually quite fragile and susceptible to droughts and the impacts of climate change.

"You've got 30 million people perched on the edge of a physical impossibility, unless we act with huge speed," said Bill McKibben, an author and researcher who founded 350.org, one of the leading advocacy organizations for addressing climate change.

Gleick and McKibben are leading voices on the related issues of water policy and climate change, respectively, and they both told the Guardian that this drought should finally get people serious about conservation, efficiency, reducing our carbon output, and generally living in greater harmony with the natural world.

"The current drought ought to be a wake-up call to tell us we have to start thinking about our water resources differently," Gleick told us, calling for far greater efficiency in how we use water, particularly in cities and the agriculture industry. "California has made great progress over the last several decades, but we're nowhere near where we could be or should be."

From low-flow toilets and shower heads to smarter irrigation techniques and recycled wastewater, California has made tremendous advances in its water efficiency since the last big drought. But Gleick and McKibben both say California needs a seismic shift in its thinking to grapple how a growing population can function within a changing climate.

"The assumption has always been that as we get larger populations, we'll figure out their resource needs," Gleick said, pointing out that climate change challenges that assumption and calls for more proactive thinking. "We need to do a better job at planning for future resource needs."

Times of crisis can trigger that kind of shift in thinking. Gleick said Australia's "Millennium drought" from 1995 to 2009 began with basic conservation measures and eventually led to a complete overhaul of water rights, "policies that we haven't even contemplated" in California.

But Californians may soon be forced into such contemplations.

"It's physics in action. This is what happens when you start to change the way the world has worked throughout human history," McKibben told us. "Some people will be empowered to act, and some will have to go into denial. A truly interesting test will be Jerry Brown — he 'gets it' on climate, but he'd love to frack as well apparently. He's like a Rorschach for the state."

Brown's call to work with nature and one another is encouraging, but neither Gleick nor McKibben were willing to wager that Brown is ready to lead the big discussion Californians need to have about our long-term needs.

Yet Gleick says something will have to start that conversation before too long: "It's either going to take a more severe drought or better political leadership."



California is a tinderbox right now, with a high risk of wildfires that could get unimaginably worse by this summer.


had them in the past, like the one cited in 1976/77?

The hysteria over global warming has gotten so insane that it now gets blamed for any weather at all.

Not buying it, sorry.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 8:50 am

This drought is different, because we have broken the Jet Stream
that use to bring rain to Calif.
I believe this drought was caused by a quantum level shift of ppm of carbon in the air, when we reached 440 ppm that disrupted the Jet Stream.

The best way to stop this drought is to stop using all gas, coal & oil.
SF needs to pass a solar feed in tariff payment policy that pays $0.99 kwh to anyone who feeds solar onto the grid.
This policy shift will create 100,000 jobs and help stop global warming.

Look at all past droughts, and the Jet Stream patterns.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

That will solve everything. I do love a practical solution.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

Correction: when we passed 400 ppm in May 2013, that broke the Jet Stream pattern, causing this drought.
If 9% of us stopped driving cars, one day a week, and every city adopted a solar feed in tariff requiring PG&E to pay $0.49 kwh,
we could stop global warming
before the deniers even knew it happened.
Lancaster, Ca., now requires all new homes to be 100% solar powered.
Great work Mayor Rex Parris.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

wants, as another billion people get a car.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

But you're at least keeping an open mind, right?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

anecdotally hinted at, I will trade my V8 for a V6.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

climate change*

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 11:09 pm

Same dealio.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 7:49 am

Obviously, Global Warming also caused the 1923-24 drought!

Posted by racer さ on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 9:47 am

The article doesn't say global warming caused this or any drought, it says that droughts like this one -- as well as generally reduced Sierra snowpack -- will become more frequent and severe, particularly by the end of the century. You're free to disagree with 97 percent of the world's climate scientists, just as you're free to believe the world is flat, but you're just boasting of your ignorance. Climate change is real and we need to prepare for -- and ideally try to lessen -- its impacts.

Posted by Steven T. on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 10:17 am

phenomenon without producing any evidence of a relationship between the two.

Weather has always changed and always will. Isolating out which of those changes are caused by man-made factors is somewhere between hard and impossible.

We've had heatwaves and ice ages before and we'll have them again. That was happening long before man showed up.

There may be some effects but we will manage them through technology and migrations. I'm far more concerned that spreading hysteria and paranoia about this is purely for the purpose of achieving ideological results.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 10:26 am

Can Steven tell us on what page of the Climate Change bible we can find the prediction that global warming will cease for 16 straight years? And, what ever happened to the hockey stick prediction? Also, why have none of the calamities that were predicted 10 years ago come true? I'm curious as well as to why severe Gulf Coast hurricanes suddenly stopped 8 years ago, why fewer acres have been burned by wildfires, and why the North American tornado count was down so dramatically this year?

Actually, don't bother. Just put on your Nikes and lie quietly in your assigned dorm bed. The Rapture will be here soon.

Posted by Chromefields on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 10:39 am

become global weather. We always had weather and we always will. Worse case, Canada will start getting good weather.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 11:10 am

Perhaps you could support your arguments, Chromefields, because what you wrote is bullshit. Global warming has been well documented, despite efforts by industry-supported publications to cast doubts. Nine of the 10 warmest global temperatures on record have occurred since 2002, and the 10th was in 1998, according to both NASA and NOAA measurements (which have been misrepresented in climate denier outlets in hilariously flawed ways). The rest of your claims are equally laughable because the climate and weather changes predicted by global warming aren't immediate, they are long-term predictions based on upsetting the balance in the planet's distribution of heat and energy. That's why I wrote about climate predictions for the end of the century, which can be altered by our actions today. But by your logic, I'm sure you'll also dismiss concerns about this year's drought because the weather forecast calls for a half-inch of rain this week.

Posted by steven on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 12:34 pm

"The UN’s climate change chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises, confirmed recently by Britain’s Met Office, but said it would need to last “30 to 40 years at least” to break the long-term global warming trend."


Posted by racer さ on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 1:15 pm

The British weather bureau:

"The recent pause in warming

Climate projections over the globe
July 2013 - Global mean surface temperatures rose rapidly from the 1970s, but have been relatively flat over the most recent 15 years to 2013. This has prompted speculation that human induced global warming is no longer happening, or at least will be much smaller than predicted. Others maintain that this is a temporary pause and that temperatures will again rise at rates seen previously."


Now, global warming may restart next Thursday, but it seems churlish to deny that there has been an extended "pause" in the rise in global temperatures.


Posted by racer さ on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

First of all, global temperatures are still rising, here are the numbers: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/NOAA_NASA_2013_Global_Temp...
These references to a "pause" that you cite are a pause in the rapid rate of temperature increase since the '50s, not the start of a leveling off or cooling trend as you imply. Mother Jones has done some excellent work on this issue: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/08/global-warming-slowdown-ipcc
MoJo has also done some good work showing how you and others -- including many journalists -- have misunderstood this data and combined with industry-backed climate change deniers to create a false picture: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/09/global-warming-pause-ipcc
Finally, here's a link to the latest report from the IPCC summing up the body of current scientific research on climate change, which concludes that it is real, measurable, and attributable to human causes: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf

I'm under no illusions these facts will do much to shake your faith in your beliefs -- any more than I am in your ability to read what my article said, with its nuanced and qualified discussion of drought and climate change -- but I just didn't want to let your misleading points go unanswered, lest someone on the fence think that you've actually made a decent argument.

Posted by steven on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 4:48 pm

Thank you for letting the hot air out of their false arguments.
However, what more is needed is a solar strategy that can inspire solar home owners in California to catching up to foggy Germany.
Germany will harvest 50% of their total energy from solar & wind in May 2014!!!!
How? They build a million solar homes every year.
This has created 500,000 new jobs in Germany.
This has made the air in Germany the cleanest in Europe.
This has made Germany the richest nation in the EU.
Greece still refuses to install solar panels and a solar feed in tariff.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 12:14 pm

Too bad you aren't keeping up with the news about Germany and solar:

Germany eyes swift cuts in renewable energy subsidies
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Jan 19, 2014

Germany's new energy minister has outlined cuts in subsidies to producers of renewable energy as the country wrestles with soaring costs from its nuclear power exit, according to a document obtained by AFP Sunday.

Opposition MPs and the solar energy sector have already criticised the reforms due to be discussed by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's new "grand coalition" cabinet with the Social Democrats next week.

Merkel took the surprise decision in 2011 to scrap nuclear power for renewables in the wake of the Fukushima disaster but has faced pressure over how to pay for the clean energy drive.

Generous state incentives for solar, wind and biogas that have driven up prices, now among Europe's highest, would be trimmed from this year under Energy Minister Sigmar Gabriel's much-anticipated proposals.

Gabriel, a Social Democrat who is Merkel's vice chancellor and also economy minister, is mulling a new law encapsulating the energy changes that would take effect from August 1.

Speaking on ZDF public television, he sought to dampen any consumer hopes that the proposals would lead to a reduction in electricity prices, according to early excerpts of the interview to be broadcast Sunday.

"Falling electricity prices there will not be, but we will finally put the brakes on the increase," Gabriel told the "Berlin Direkt" programme.

Subsidies for new producers of wind energy would be reduced while those for biogas would practically disappear.

Producers would also gradually be forced to sell green energy competitively on the market from next year rather than enjoying priority treatment with guaranteed prices.

Europe's top economy aims to have 80 percent of its electricity consumption sourced by renewable forms of energy by 2050, compared with 25 percent currently.

But Greens party leader Simone Peter told Spiegel Online the proposals "endanger" Germany's transition from nuclear power, while the far-left Linke party's deputy chief Caren Lay said they rolled back the strategy.

And the association representing the solar energy sector expressed concern after being hit by an initial wave of subsidy cuts in 2012.


Posted by racer さ on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

I stopped reading. It was actually kinda interesting up to that point because I too remember the droughts from the 70s and the early 90s - which is why I understand that droughts in CA are CYCLICAL. We've even experienced worse droughts than this before Europeans arrived in CA - droughts which exceeded 40 years. So using a natural phenomenon to buttress a weak political argument is really lame cowardice.

Oh - and washing dishes by hand is one of the worst possible ways to waste water in the home. Dishwashers are FAR more water-efficient and use very little energy. Update your habits.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 11:07 am

misused to try and explain every variation in the weather.

Bias confirmation.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 11:18 am

when they hear his faucet running endlessly as he washes his dishes by hand.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

Yeah, the magic of the global warming hypotheses that that it is impossible to disprove - if the weather is very wet next year, Steven will be blaming that on global warming as well.

"We've even experienced worse droughts than this before Europeans arrived in CA - droughts which exceeded 40 years."

This is indeed the problem, which has nothing to do with alleged global warming. California was settled during a relatively wet period (looking at tree rings of sequoias and whatnot). If California reverts to a more normal historical water pattern, water is going to be a problem. Of course, none of the "global warming solutions" proffered by Steven and his ilk will do anything to fix the problem - all those measures will do will be to make people poorer.

Posted by racer さ on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

It just becomes more and more expensive to get it to the source. And it's really agriculture which is going to suffer the most - people can reduce their personal usage drastically without a lot of ill effects but big ag isn't going to be so lucky.

Nonetheless instead of a reasonable and mature discussion Steven, as usual, drifts into hyperbole and wastes no time attempting to use this "crisis" as a means of furthering his own political agenda.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

"Water can always be found somewhere
It just becomes more and more expensive to get it to the source"

I love Gleick's quote:

"You can't build a new dam in California, with their enormous political, economic, and environmental costs."

Note the "political" costs - translation: rich environmentalists have no intention of letting California increase its water supply (after all, they will always be able to afford water).

Sucks to be a farmworker, though.

"Gleick said Australia's "Millennium drought" from 1995 to 2009 began with basic conservation measures and eventually led to a complete overhaul of water rights, "policies that we haven't even contemplated" in California."

Environmentalists in Australia also forced the construction of incredibly expensive desalination plants in Australia, arguing that it was useless to build new dams, since global warming meant that the new dams would never have enough water to be useful, since the drought was permanent.

Well, the drought in Australia is over - the new dams would have actually been useful, but what they have are the incredibly expensive desalination plants.

Posted by racer さ on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

This drought is different, because we have broken the Jet Stream
that use to bring rain to Calif.
I believe this drought was caused by a quantum level shift of ppm of carbon in the air, when we reached 400 ppm, that disrupted the Jet Stream.

The best way to stop this drought is to stop using all gas, coal & oil.
SF needs to pass a solar feed in tariff payment policy that pays $0.99 kwh to anyone who feeds solar onto the grid.
This policy shift will create 100,000 jobs and help stop global warming.

Look at all past droughts, and the Jet Stream patterns.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

and from 1976-1979 and from 850-1090 and 1140-1320 too. Because those were all drought periods as well.

Humans burning those campfires during the Middle Ages were evidently tremendously disruptive to the environment.

Get over yourself for once - you're nothing more than a gnat to mother nature. Nature, like anything, operates on cycles and our ability to predict, understand or influence that is negligible.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

Humans impact nature like never before in history, disrupting nearly 50 percent of the planet's surface area and rapidly burning up organic matter (such as fossil fuels) developed over thousands of years. Do you really think that doesn't have an impact? Are you really comparing modern industrial production and its measurable impact in the atmosphere to a campfire? I won't even address your dumb drought comment (read the article), but the fact is that humans are having an unprecedented impact on Mother Nature, and it will indeed lead the outcomes that will be difficult to predict (the one smart thing you said) or control. Frankly, that seems to be an argument for lessening our impact before things get really bad: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/06/06/scientists-uncover-evidence-of...

Posted by steven on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

and stop telling everyone else how to live their lives. Cyclical droughts, which have afflicted CA for eons, are not evidence of global warming. Stop politicizing the issue.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

Show me where I said droughts are evidence of global warming. It must be there somewhere in those 2,200 words I wrote, right? Um, no, that's because you're deliberately distorting the article. As for "telling everyone else how to live their lives," I'm just trying to inform the public and encourage people to take responsibility for their actions. I'll be doing my part to reduce my water consumption, even if the kitchen in my apartment is too small for a dishwasher. My impact on natural resources is already smaller than most people's.

Posted by steven on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

Why, if not because of global warming.

You didn't have to say it to imply it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 7:49 am

Yes, droughts will become more frequent and severe in California because of global warming, but I never said this drought is evidence that the climate is changing, a fact that is in little dispute among scientists. See my links above if you still have doubts, I'm done arguing with the deniers.


Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 9:24 am

become more common (something you claim is true) because of a major factor like global warming OR you have no credible basis for believing that they will become more common.

Which is it?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 10:10 am

There is no evidence in the jet stream history that the jet stream moved away from California to produce those other droughts.
This is the first time in history that the jet stream has moved away from California.
If 9% stop driving cars and we build a million solar powered homes every year, and adopt a solar feed in tariff policy, we can fix this climate crisis.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

You forgot the part about slaughtering goats to appease Goddess Gaia...

Posted by racer さ on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

If things go on like this, it'll be a very dusty year on the playa.

Posted by Greg on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

If we are to take global warming seriously, we should be banning all festivals that cause people to travel any significant distance.

Shutting down Burning Man is only the first step in appeasing Goddess Gaia!

Posted by racer さ on Jan. 29, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

The First Church of Global Warming, led by Pastor Steven T. Jones, will hold its third annual car-wash fundraiser this Sunday at the San Francisco State School of Journalism School. Suggested attire: Nikes and track suits.

Due to drought, this event has been canceled. In its place, Pastor Steven will wander the parking lot clutching his pearls, tilting at windmills, and proving that the earth is flat by handing out copies of a treatise he once wrote that proves the earth is flat.

Attendance is mandatory for all Global Warming Alarmists, Burning Man devotees, and colored people of color. Thank you. Have a warm, dry day.

Posted by Chromefields on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 10:18 am

I'm sure Steven will have a warm, wry, witty response.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 30, 2014 @ 10:51 am

Thirty years ago, scientists looking at redwood and sequoia tree rings warned that California had been settled during a relatively wet period, and that significantly drier weather was more usual in the historical record.

But yeah, sacrificing goats and coal plants to Goddess Gaia will definitely reverse California's reversion to more normal historical conditions.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 02, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

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