Utah and Beyond

Tuesday, June 29, 2021: The small town of Lytton, British Columbia, Canada recorded a high of 121 degrees Fahrenheit. This was the highest ever recorded in Lytton, in British Columbia, in Canada. Wednesday, June 30, 2021, the small town of Lytton burned to the ground.

On Monday, June 28, 2021, the temperature in Portland, Oregon reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest ever recorded. On that same day, Seattle recorded 108 degrees Fahrenheit; 3 degrees above the previous record high.

From NPR, June 24, 2021:

… Town in Utah has stopped issuing building permits because of the drought.

… Henceforth, Pinal County, Arizona is requiring developers seeking project approval prove that the proposed project has a 100-yr supply of water.

Those are some of the happenings in the west so far this year. For years now, large parts of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas have been in the grip of a multi-year (up to 20-year) drought.

California has 40-million people; water for maybe 30-million. These days, most years, California has less and less water. All the states listed above depend to some extent on snowpack for their water (30% of California’s water traditionally comes from the snowpack in the Sierras). About 4.4-million acre-feet of the some state’s total 90-million acre-feet consumption comes from the Colorado River which is fed from the Rocky Mountain snowpack.). During ‘normal’ years, 30% of California’s water came from ground water (meaning that some 35% of its water came from run off). The current drought in California is a result of lack of surface run-off due the lack of rain during the winter rainy season, and the diminishment of the Sierra and Rocky Mountain (Colorado) snowpacks.

Snowpacks are a major source of water for most of the drought-stricken states listed above. Climate Change is reducing snowpacks across the Rockies, the Sierras, the Olympic, and the Cascades ranges (and, all around the world). Climate change is also accountable for the diminished rainfall during the rainy season, and higher temperatures.

During drought years, up to 60% of California’s water comes from ground water. California’s ground water is pumped up from aquifers; aquifers being underground layers of water bearing/saturated rock, gravel, sand, silt, … . Some aquifers are regularly replenished by runoff from rain and snow melting. In others, the water therein may have been locked away for a billion years. For centuries, humans have used aquifers as a source of fresh, potable water, and for irrigation. In many areas around the world, the more easily accessible aquifers have been severely depleted by this usage. The rate of depletion has been accelerated in those areas experiencing reduced rainfall due to Climate Change, in those areas experiencing population growth, and in those areas of increased withdrawal for agriculture (70% of all extracted aquifer water is used for agriculture).

Beyond depletion from over extraction, today, many aquifers are threatened by salt water intrusion due to rising sea levels caused by Climate Change (think upon the Surf City condo collapse and its extensions a moment). Aquifers are a most important source of fresh water. Fresh water is one of our most essential resources. Far more essential than fossil fuels.

Aquifers, reservoirs and lakes, and snowpacks are the most significant means of storing water. In the main, aquifers hold long stored water from runoff from rain fall and melting snow. Climate Change models show severe impacts on the both. The models predict that some areas of the earth will get too much rain, some too little, and that the traditional seasonal patterns of rain and snow fall will be severely disrupted. Seasonal patterns that farmers have always depended on to plant and harvest have been changing in many areas of the world. Often, even the very choice of which crops to grow was premised on these patterns.

The increased temperatures and dry grasslands across the west have led to a doubling of the frequency and the size wildfires and forest fires. The fire season that once began in October now begins in June; never ends in some areas. Resultant these fires, large parts of states, of the west, have been repeatedly blanketed in the smoke. Smoke so thick that skies were turned orange for days; air so filled with smoke that staying indoors with doors and windows closed, and the wearing face masks when outdoors was required.

How is it that a significant portion of Americans (including many in positions of leadership, of stature) do not, or pretend to not, believe in Climate Change? That a significant portion of those who do believe in Climate Change think that we still have lots of time to act? How is it that so many are ill informed?

A significant portion of Americans believe that things will soon go back to normal after we take appropriate action. How can this be? Under the best of scenarios, things will continue to worsen for the next 30 years. None of us alive today, none of grandchildren, none our great grandchildren, none of great-great grand children will ever again see the ‘normal’ of 1980 again. Those green house gases already up there have long half-lives (methane, 10.5-years; CO2, 120-years and more; CFCs, up to 500-years. Why aren’t we better informed about Climate Change?

Why isn’t more being done to lower emissions of greenhouse gases?

With all that the consequences of Climate Change the west has been experiencing, why aren’t more Americans demanding more be done about Climate Change? How much more catastrophe will it take? After all that has been happening, how is it that so many are still in denial? What should be happening that isn’t? At this point, why aren’t alarms going off everywhere?

For one thing, the media is not, has not been, doing its job of keeping the public informed. In a July 2, 2021 interview with Rose Aguilar (Your Call, KALW), Mark Hertsgaard (executive director of Covering Climate Now) said the the major news outlets told him that their rational for their lack of coverage for Climate Change was because they didn’t wish to be labeled as activists. That would include some of the same outlets (Fred Hiatt and Leonard Downie of the Washington Post; Judith Miller et al of the New York times; CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, … ) who either advocated for, enabled, or both, the 2003 invasion of Iraq; who propagated the all false equivalencies over the past 15-years. Once again, the media has failed us.

For another, there has been a lack of leadership. Too little is being done because of a this lack of leadership. How can someone(s), such as Senator Inhofe, Oklahoma, stand on the floor or the US Senate and denounce Climate Change in the interest of fossil fuels? These are not stupid men and women. They are despicably corrupt. Recently a lobbyists for Exxon was recorded bragging about his ability to waylay legislation unfavorable to the interest of fossil fuel producers. He implies that he has influence with Senators Capito, Manchin, Tester, Hassan. Sinema, Daines, Cornyn, Sinema, Barrasso, Kelly, Rubio, and Coons. Are these senators s willing to trade their votes for power, for campaign funds? What about doing what is right for America? For the world?

A third thing that bears major responsibility for the inadequacy of our response to date, one that bears a major responsibility for the advent of Climate Change itself, is capitalism. Though capitalism may not have been sent down by angel, revealed to a prophet, or laid down in scripture; it does have many a devout, ardent, believer; believers who are willing to make almost any sacrifice its name. Many capitalists are willing to sacrifice the future of their, of all our, grandchildren and their grandchildren for the sake of (in the name of?) capitalism. It is capitalism’s demand for growth that is responsible for much of the CO2 and other greenhouse gases now in our atmosphere. Capitalist have always been too willing to sacrifice the environment, and lives, in the name of capitalism.

Americans have this penchant for wanting to find someone to blame after disasters. We heard that such and such forest/wild fire was started by a camper, a vagrant, PG&E, …, a lightning strike, Blaming the fires on a person, an event, doesn’t help, doesn’t make things any better. These fires were fueled by extremely dry grass, and dried out forest; occurred during spells of extreme high temperatures; are almost impossible to extinguish. The dried out grasslands and forest, the extremely high temperatures, the dried out earth, the drought that caused these conditions, all the things that caused the fires, the fires themselves, were all caused by, were consequences of, Climate Change. The burning of fossil fuels was the perpetrator of Climate Change, not the camper, the vagrant, the arsonist, PG&E. Cause, my dear Watson.

Darwin explained the role adaptation plays in the survival of a species. In re climate Change, the first order of adaptation needed is for humans to find ways to greatly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. For this to happen, the media, the government, and the economic model need to adapt, to change. In order to survive the changes of Climate Change already baked in, we humans must be able to adapt. Much as the migration of great plains refugees from the 1930s Dust-bowl was an adaptation, we are now seeing migrants adapt by moving away from drought-stricken areas of Africa and the Middle-East; from the disrupted weather patterns of Central America. It is only a matter of time before a migration begins from the drought stricken western United States to states with adequate water; from states with too high temperatures to those more habitable. The Dust-bowl lasted about 8-years. Climate Change will last at least one-hundred years; perhaps, hundreds.

To date, several law suits have been filed against fossil fuel producers for their role in Climate Change. This should be expanded to the scale of those brought against big tobacco in the 1990s. They need to be neutered, else they will continue to buy politicians, to prolong greenhouse emissions.

A way needs to be found to hold dirty politicians accountable for their role in enabling big oil, big coal, … None of the politicians who sold their souls to big tobacco ever paid the price for all the deaths caused. Tort law should be brought to bear on the media for their failure to inform. Finance and markets have taken significant steps meant to reign in big-oil, big-coal, … They need to do more.

Overpopulation is the biggest canary of all. A behemoth of years in the making, one that will take years to turn around. No doubt, Climate Change will take a huge toll (maybe even billions). But, population control is something humans must get a grip on; else, like rodent populations, go through cycles of over-population and die-off.